Common Hydroseeding Mistakes to Avoid

common hydroseeding mistakes to avoid. A worker stands on top of a large hydroseeder, spraying hydroseed overe a bare portion of land.

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Hydroseeding has quickly become a popular method to establish a lush, vibrant lawn or landscape since it offers a cost-effective and efficient way to achieve great-looking grass. However, as with any landscaping project, there are some common mistakes that can lead to hydroseeding failure if not addressed.

In this article, we outline the common hydroseeding mistakes everyone from DIY-ers to professional landscapers make, and how to avoid them, as well as some troubleshooting tips for these common hydroseeding issues.

So whether you’re a new homeowner looking to improve your yard, a seasoned landscaper looking to improve your ROI, or somewhere in between, understanding hydroseeding mistakes and how to navigate them will help your hydroseeding projects succeed. 

Hydroseeding Mistakes to Avoid Before You Start

There are mistakes almost everyone who’s new, or new-ish, to hydroseeding has made, and with a little research and preparation, you can set your next hydroseeding project up to avoid them. 

Mistake #1: Not Testing the Soil

Like growing any type of seed, the right balance of soil nutrients is key to establishing a thriving plant. Many people new to hydroseeding rush into the process and skip this, but it’s a crucial misstep that can easily lead to project failure. 

Everything from the nutrient balance, pH level, soil texture, moisture retention, and more can be determined from a soil test. And with this information, you can determine which mix of seeds will have the best chance of success in the environment, as well as which type of fertilizer(s) and soil additives to use. For example, if you determine the soil is low in nitrogen, you can select a fertilizer to hydroseed with that will provide added nitrogen. Similarly with other key nutrients like phosphorus and potassium, you can match the seeds and the soil type to ensure a healthy, thriving start for your seeds. 

Mistake #2: Skimping on Ground Preparation

Ground preparation is quite literally the foundation of any hydroseeding project, so it’s crucial to make sure the ground is ready to accommodate the type of seeds you’ve chosen before you start the process. 

There are a number of ways skipping or skimping on ground preparation can prevent hydroseeding success:

i) Allowing competing weeds to remain at the site — any seeds you choose will have a hard time establishing well in an area that hasn’t been cleared of weeds and debris. Without this step, seeds will be competing for space and nutrients, which will prevent anything from thriving. 

ii) Uneven seed coverage — Without properly grading and preparing the soil, some seeds may have great seed-to-soil contact and germinate quickly, while others may land on weeds, leaves, or debris, and have a harder time establishing strong root systems. This leads to uneven distribution and patchiness when the plants begin to grow in. 

iii) Soil density and composition — Compacted, dense soil can also prevent seeds from establishing, and if the soil lacks key nutrients to sustain certain plant types, the plants will struggle to grow well. Aerating the soil and adding any necessary soil boosters or amendments helps ensure a hospitable foundation for all kinds of seeds.

iv) Irrigation and erosion control — Without proper attention to drainage and runoff, seeds can be swept off downstream or risk drowning in low areas or anywhere water might pool. Making sure the site is properly irrigated and well-draining helps increase the chances of both even coverage and long-term plant health. 

Because ground preparation creates the ideal conditions for seed germination, root development, and long-term plant health, attentive ground preparation for hydroseeding is critical for success. Skipping or cutting corners with ground prep often leads to uneven growth, poor germination rates, and increased maintenance challenges down the line. 

Mistake #3: Improper Seed Selection

A classic mistake, and a common one: choosing plants for aesthetics rather than climate or environment. 

Many people have visions of what they want their lawn to look like, right down to the color or texture of the grass. This kind of clarity can be helpful when selecting seeds, but it can also be a problem if those seed types don’t match the area’s environment and climate.

To avoid this, find out what climate zone you’re in, and what seeds tend to grow well in those zones.

Also evaluate the environment itself: Is it shady? Sunny? Somewhere in between? Find a seed type that likes those specific conditions so it can establish well and thrive in the long run, and so you have less maintenance to do for a great-looking lawn. 

Mistake # 4: Inappropriate Additive Selection for the Hydroseeding Area

Just as seed selection matching the environment is key, so is matching the additives to both the seeds and the soil and environmental characteristics. Taking the time to run a soil test on the area is one of the best steps you can take to give you important information about the additives you may need. For example, if your soil test determines your soil’s pH is low or high, you can choose an additive to help correct that, and the soil test just might be the best investment you can make to help your seeds grow well for years to come. 

If your hydroseeding project will be on embankments, slopes, or steep areas, adding tackifiers to the hydroseeding mixture can be a game changer. The tackifier will help seeds stay in place long enough to get down a root system which in turn helps stabilize the area overall.

Additionally, choosing the right mulch goes a long way toward helping your seeds succeed. Make sure the mulch matches both the seeds, the area, and the machine you’ll be using to hydroseed. Some mulches are too heavy for certain hydroseeders (more on this later) and some can risk suffocating certain types of seeds. 

Mistake #5: Not Flushing Hydroseeder Tank Before Use

Proper hydroseeder maintenance plays an important role in how well the hydroseed projects turns out, and is often overlooked. Crucially, properly flushing the hydroseeder tank helps ensure new seeds aren’t mixed with any other undesired seeds from previous projects. This step can help ensure complete, uniform coverage with the desired seeds and help lead to a lush, consistent result. 

Mistake #6: Hydroseeding Too Early or Too Late in the Season

Hydroseeding too early in the season can bring an added risk of seeds encountering challenging weather conditions, like extreme cold or frost, which can prevent germination and even kill seedlings. Additionally, planting too soon can result in seeds not taking root as well if the soil hasn’t had a chance to warm up enough to be hospitable for seed germination. 

On the flip side, planting too late in the season can also impact the success of your hydroseeding project. Temperature swings late in the season can mean extreme heat and added drying, which can be hard on new seeds. Extreme rainfall and too much moisture can also be an issue too late in the season, which can drown seeds and redistribute them after planting. 

Proper timing gives seeds the best chance for successful germination and healthy long-term growth, and can take advantage of natural advantages such as increased rainfall and warming temperatures. For most parts of the country, hydroseeding in the early spring or fall tends to be the best times of year to take advantage of the natural changes in climate and temperature. 

Hydroseeding Mistakes to Avoid During the Hydroseeding Process

Paying special attention to the hydroseeding process can help avoid costly mistakes in the long run. 

Mistake #1: Hydroseed Mixing Issues

The mixing process can be an easy place to make mistakes, and some of the most common ones include: 

  • Choosing the wrong machine for the mix itself — Hydroseeders come in two basic varieties: paddle or mechanically-agitated, and jet-agitated. As we touched on in the additive selection section, each machine is suited to a particular kind of mulch. Jet-agitated hydroseeders are great for certain types of paper-based mulches, but can’t handle some of the denser materials used in hydroseeding like wood blends. Make sure to choose materials that are suited for the machine you have available. 
  • Adding materials in the wrong order — It’s generally recommended to combine the slurry ingredients in a specific order, and failing to do so can impact the consistency and coverage of the slurry when it’s applied.  Be sure to read the instructions that come with all your materials, so you know how, and in what order, they should be mixed. This is also an important note that rushing the slurry mixing process can also result in similar issues. 
  • Disengaging agitation during application — For the best coverage, it’s recommended to maintain agitation in the tank so slurry is uniform and consistent. Without continuous agitation, slurry can settle and be applied unevenly. 

Mistake #2: Hydroseeding Coverage Issues

Hydroseed coverage is another aspect of hydroseeding where it’s easy to either under or over do it. Applying hydroseed slurry mix too thickly can suffocate seeds, preventing them from germinating. Applying too thinly can make it challenging for seeds to establish as well and with good coverage. 

A great way to approach it is to plan on applying layers of hydroseed slurry, starting with thin layers so you can add on as you go. 

Mistake #3: Hydroseed Spray Pattern Problems

How you apply hydroseed is equally important as when you apply. For many new hydroseeders, the impulse is to spray seed out from the hose to cover as much area as possible, however this method can lead to uneven coverage and patchiness because often the slurry won’t adhere to the soil well, or the spray pattern strength varies depending on where the slurry hits the ground. For best results, aim slightly down towards the ground to give the slurry, and the seeds in it, good seed-to-soil contact. 

Hydroseeding Mistakes After Application

You might think once you’ve got the seed applied, you can rest easy but sometimes issues come up after you’ve done the heavy lifting. 

Mistake #1: Foot Traffic Too Early

Allowing access to the hydroseeded area too soon after application can cause a lot of damage, even preventing the seeds from establishing altogether. A good rule of thumb is to keep the area as undisturbed as possible for 5 weeks. Fence it off, if possible, to keep pets and pests away as well.

Mistake #2: Pets Peeing on Your Freshly Hydroseeded Area

In general, the biggest threat pets pose to newly-hydroseeded lawns is their paws, as they can easily disturb establishing seeds and redistribute them, slowing down or impeding growth. While pet urine typically won’t harm the seeds, it’s best to keep them away from the area as long as possible to give the seeds some time to establish before weathering the whims of our four-legged friends. 

Mistake #3: Under Watering Hydroseed

The timing of hydroseeding is important because you want the seeds to be generally moist so that germination and establishment can happen. This is why it’s recommended to hydroseed at times of the year where the temperatures are moderate and rain is likely – early spring or fall, typically allows you to take advantage of mother nature’s watering schedule. 

The key is to not let the area dry out between rainfall or waterings, so keep an eye on the weather and monitor the site for any drying so you can keep the area moist until the seeds have had time to establish. 

Mistake #4: Overwatering Hydroseed

On the other end of the watering spectrum, it’s important to know that you can overwater hydroseed, and this is something to be mindful of. Overwatering — adding too much water so that it pools or doesn’t drain well — can lead to a host of issues from pests and mold to simply drowning the seeds. 

Mistake #5: Applying Herbicide or Fertilizer or Other Chemicals Too Early After Hydroseed Application

It’s easy to want to spur your hydroseeded lawn to grow by adding fertilizer, however it’s important not to take this step too early. Especially if you’ve included fertilizer in your slurry, adding additional fertilizer too soon could hurt the seeds.

Make sure to read the instructions on your fertilizer and in general, plan to wait between 2 to 4 weeks from initial hydroseeding application to put more fertilizer down. 

Mistake #6: Undesired Plant Growth

The best way to keep weeds and plants out of your hydroseed is by doing the proper preparation — this includes making sure the proper ground prep has been done. Especially if you’re seeding an area that has seen many different kinds of plants, preparation may include using a herbicide to control any undesired plants. Not taking this step, along with not properly maintaining your hydroseeder, can lead to weeds sneaking into your lawn. And while it’s impossible to completely prevent weeds, taking these steps will help minimize the work you might have to do later on to control them. 

Mistake #7: Not Performing Proper Maintenance

Taking care of the hydroseeded lawn once it comes in is another step those new to hydroseeding often forget. It’s important to mow the lawn when the grass has grown about 3-4 inches high, which should be around 3-4 weeks after application depending on the grass type. Skipping this step can stunt grass growth, and lead to a more lackluster lawn overall. Mowing at the proper times facilitates new growth and helps keep the lawn vibrant.  

Avoid These Common Hydroseeding Mistakes

We hope you’ve been able to learn from these mistakes so you can set your next hydroseeding project up for success. Can you think of any major mistakes we’ve left out? Let us know by contacting us or drop us a line with your questions about common hydroseeding mistakes. 

Doug Wysong

Doug has been designing innovative equipment for the erosion control industry for almost 40 years. With a degree in Agricultural Engineering, Doug specializes in power and energy systems, vehicle dynamics, and slurry pump technology to keep the Apex brand at the forefront of the landscaping industry. Doug has learned much from customers over the years and feels their input is vital in making the equipment he designs special. The best days are spent hydroseeding with customers and seeing what they can do with the product!

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