Home improvement TV shows typically compress several weeks of labor into a few minutes, allowing viewers a fast-forward glimpse of the transformation from dowdy fixer-upper to finished showplace. Fully grown plants are added to the landscaping, and sod magically appears where barren soil once ruled. The final look is very impressive, but often costly, and most homeowners can get similar results using hydroseeding.
Rather than a being a radical innovation, this process is the modern version of a tried-and-true natural approach. While it may be necessary or appropriate in some cases to install sod, there are hidden costs. It must first be planted and raised on a specialized farm, kept pest and weed-free, cut into strips at the last moment, and then moved and placed. The end cost is three to five times greater than growing grass on site.
Commercial uses of this process began over half a century ago in the United States with the construction of the Interstate Highway System. Prior to that era, it was difficult to contain hillsides that had been stripped of vegetation during construction, and the new method of spraying seed helped solve the erosion problem. The concept is fairly simple, mixing various seeds, mulch, additives and fertilizer with water, which is piped into a tanker truck.
On site, the truck sprays this soupy mixture wherever needed, and within two weeks new seedlings are sprouting. Coverage is improved, because many areas make comprehensive hand-seeding difficult or impossible. The mulch mixture helps retain natural moisture better than traditional straw, and has the additional advantage of containing no weeds that sometimes sprout along with the grass.
Even more practical for gardeners is the ability to control exactly which types of seed are needed as determined by local micro-climate and the predominant soils. Using a single variety of seed is not always successful in a landscape project due to differences in water retention, topography and sun exposure. Hydromulching can easily switch the type of seed being used when shady spots or heavy traffic demands it.
New shoots appears quickly. While seeding cannot provide immediate gratification like sod can, it has the advantage of already containing all elements necessary for optimal growth. These extras must be purchased and applied separately to hand-seeded areas, and in the end costs are similar. Coverage is often superior, and the spray contains a natural dye that prevents missed spots.
Mulch slurry may also contain special additives designed to help newly-sown seeds cling to hillsides more effectively by preventing excess evaporation. Other additives may include additional moisture-retaining chemicals, or specially formulated stimulants to encourage rapid growth. Most also mix in more traditional fertilizers such as phosphorus to encourage rapid development of root networks.
In most cases, the end product is a vibrantly green, attractive new lawn. While the process is slower than placing layers of sod, these new plants do not have to re-grow roots cut during transplantation, and usually remain healthier for a longer period of time. During the first new shoots require water daily, followed by normal lawn care procedures. For homeowners, this is a result worth the wait.
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