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In my area I have never seen a lawn come in good that was hydroseeded. I know some will say that it is because the customers didn't water regularly, but I'm sure most were watered enough.
Spreading seed and laying straw down is much cheaper. The laying of the straw is the most labor intensive so be sure to charge accordingly.
Whether it is hydroseeded or broadcast and then strawed, the final results will depend on the amount of prep work done before seeding. Hydroseeding has the advantage of being faster because you are spaying seed, fertilizer and mulch all in one step. Hydroseeding will also give more even seed distribution than broadcasting. Hydroseeding , if done properly, will also provide better erosion control than straw. Straw is messy,, can be blown around by the wind but, will grow grass just as well as hydroseeding will. Straw will stick in place better if it is blown on with a straw blower than it will if just spread by hand and is more evenly applied this way. Cost wise, straw cost me $4.00 per bale because no one here grows it and it has to be trucked in. Takes me longer to apply which drives up labor cost so it isnt that much cheaper than using hydromulch. I can buy hay for $1.00 per bale and on jobs where I can use it the costs are a little better. Even then, unless it is on a job where the people wont pay for the hydromulch, I prefer to hydroseed. One reason would be that I have to go pick up the hay out of some farmers barn, which means more time, rent a straw blower, more money, and is more work.
If it's a regular lawn, we usually just do the prep work, broadcast seed it, then put down Penn Mulch or equivalent.
We are bidding on a job right now where we will need to seed a LOT of area, and have determined due to the site that it would actually be cheaper to BUY a small hydroseeder and hydroseed the area, versus drop seeding and blowing on straw... But this is a pretty unique job.
Just a thought, but a lot of the success or failure with either method may have a great deal to do with the grass type, time of instillation, grade, wind and follow up care. A 4 variety blend of KYBG with either method is going to struggle if planted April-July, while August & Sept will provide a good lawn the following year with either. The straw should give a greater degree of temperature modification when it is necessary to seed in those less than ideal months; however you are more likely to see bare spots from wash & wind than with hydroseeding. The use of straw will significantly increase the N requirement for the new lawn as it grows in and the straw breaks down and the N requirements are sometimes 25 to 50% higher than a standard maintenance program. IMHO it might be a good idea to consider site, grade and time of year to help select the best type of install method. Slit seeding KYBG in August- Sept. and custom follow up fert. program may may give ya the best results in the Ohio valley. But I don't know nothing and I can usually prove that with just a couple minutes of conversation.
when I put in yards I rent a straw blower for 50.00 a day mounted on a trailer stock with straw. The guy lets me use his truck and charges 3.00 bale of straw all delivered to my site.
I love it. Without a straw blower I would be out of business.
We have found that hydroseeded lawns often have problems, becuase the seed is not incorporated. In areas where the humidity is lower and/or the winds are stronger, hydroseeding suffers, because the seed drys out too fast. We like to seed with the brillion and then hydromulch afterwards. This is the best combination. Our state will not allow hydroseeding on any state project unless the slope is too steep for any other equipment.
Many state projects do call for hydromulch, especially inside city limits, due to the mess with straw.
As for erosion control and moisture holding, I'll put wood fiber hydroapplied up against straw any day. We do only use wood fiber here, as the state does not allow paper mulch either.
"We have found that hydroseeded lawns often have problems, becuase the seed is not incorporated."
Improper application is usually the biggest problem with hydroseeding. Anyone can purchase a hydroseeder but if they dont know the proper way to apply the slurry, or the proper materials to use, failure is almost guaranteed. I dont use 100%wood mulch nor will I use 100% paper mulch, but either type mulch or combination of the two types will grow grass if applied correctly and on properly prepared soil. Hydroseeding is probably a little more forgiving on unprepared soil than broadcasting and covering with straw. On hard ground that hasnt been prep-ed or tilled heaver mulch rates are usually needed to prevent the seed from drying and to insure that the seed is not eroded by wind or rain. Trying to seed on hard ground with out increasing the mulch rate will result in a thin coverage of mulch and leaving the seed exposed to the elements. Mulch rates and coverage can be deceiving, what looks like total coverage usually isnt. 2000 lbs of wood mulch per acre will result in a total coverage of only .009 of an inch thick but will look like it is 1/2 in thick. Incorporating the slurry into the soil will result in spotty looking coverage because of the soil mixing into the slurry but is nessecary for proper seed germination and will result in better seed to soil contact and a better stand of grass than just spraying the slurry on top of the ground. Incorporating the slurry into the ground also insures better erosion control because of the bonding of the mulch to the soil. Trying to incorporate the slurry into the soil can also result in the seed being driven to far into the soil, so far that the seed will not germinate or is slow about coming up. Uneven incorporation can also result in streaks of germinated and un-germinated grass. This is an area that takes practice and one reason that a lot of firstime hydroseeders experience poor results when hydroseeding.
Seeding with a Brillion Drill and then applying hydro mulch is an excellent way to get a good stand of grass. Probably better than hydroseeding alone. It insures proper seed depth and soil contact and provides a layer of mulch to prevent erosion and provide moisture holding properties. Broadcasting seed and then appling hydromulch is another good methods on large areas. Some hydroseeders I know broadcast 50% of their seed and then apply the other 50% in the hydroseeding slurry.
Russ's advice about seed types and planting times is right on the mark. And so is the statements about the follow up fertilizations. Successful seeding can be accomplished in the summer months, but it will require more care and proper watering. Again a heaver mulch rate is usually needed to protect the seed from drying out. Cool season grasses willnot germinate in 100 degree weather nor in 0 degree weather but the mulch will insure the seed is protected untill the weather cools down or warms up which ever the case may be.
I guess that question makes me sound naive, and I admit I am regarding this issue. Over the years I've seen lawns started with and without hay or straw applied as a temporary cover, and a lot of the ones started without it seem to have come up green, provided they were continually watered for the first few weeks. And I have also noticed that when the hay/straw was later removed from new lawns that had been started with it, there were bald spots. I had always presumed the reason is to keep moisture around the seedlings and also to make it harder for the birds to get a breakfast, but I've never heard an explanation of why from a real expert or seen statistical facts to support doing it. Can anyone help? As long as I'm on the topic, how long should one wait before raking up the hay/straw?