At VSI we believe that Hydroseeding should be an affordable business endeavor. Our units make that possible! From landscapers, to erosion control contractors, we offer basic, simple and affordable units that will perform and last for many years.
See some information below on our process, recommended materials and analysis of hydroseeding as a business.
Jet vs Mechanical Agitation
Both jet and mechanical agitated hydroseeders have their advantages and disadvantages.
The biggest advantage to mechanical agitation is that you can mix varieties of mulch that simply cannot be mixed in a jet agitated machine. While we successfully mixed 70/30 wood/paper blend mulch in our jet agitated units but, we strongly urge our customers to stick with paper mulch, whereas mechanically agitated machines have almost no limits on mulch types that can be used. Mechanically agitated machines are much more expensive than jet machines, so much so that the up front investment for a mechanically agitated machine may take years to repay.
Our jet machines are virtually maintenance free. Poly tanks don’t rust or require expensive re-coating. No moving parts besides the pump impeller means little or nothing to go wrong versus a mechanically agitated machine that is often made of steel and has lots of moving parts, seals, and bearings to maintain.
VSI Hydroseeders do not clog (when following provided mixing instructions) and don’t require thorough cleanouts after each use. In fact, while we do not recommend it, one of our hydroseeding crews went an entire spring, summer, and fall without once cleaning out their 1,000 gallon jet agitated hydroseeder and they never had any issues. Mechanical units, and the type of mulches often used in them, must be cleaned out promptly to avoid massive plugging of the spray lines and the pump. Even trips between jobsites can prompt lines to plug in a mechanically agitated machine.
Smith Lawn and Landscape, our sister company, owns 3 VSI hydroseeders and one of our leading competitors mechanically agitated machines. While some jobs do require BFMs that must use the mechanically agitated machine, on all other jobs the chrews go for the jet machines due to the ease of startup and cleanup. When a proper quality tackifier is used in a jet machine, only 1,200-1,500 lbs per acre of paper mulch needs to be applied. With this proper mix, plus quality seed and starter fertilizer, the results of wood mulch or wood/paper mulch blends can be easily matched without the hassle.
Hydroseeding as a Business
Hydroseeding is a very profitable business. The simplicity of the process which only requires a single machine and one, or in some cases two employees, is one of the great appeals. In Southern Minnesota, one employee with only a couple days of proper testing and training, and a month of field experience, can conservatively generate $10,000 in revenue at 35-45% margin. This is after labor, materials, and overhead are accounted for. Our best day on a commercial job yielded $22,500 at a 60% margin with 2 experienced employees.
While your mileage may vary with what you can charge per sq ft and how much you pay for materials, I do believe it is fair to say that the income potential compared to the equipment investment required in hydroseeding is difficult to match by most other green industry activities.
The Benefits of Hydroseeding
Hydroseeding vs Broadcast or Drill Seeding
- Better moisture retention equals faster germination
- -Mulch and tackifier protects from soil erosion during the seed germination and establishment process
- Easier labor in areas that don’t have easy access or are not easily walkable
- Seed germinates in the hydro mulch and then roots take to soil, so often topsoil prep and quality is not as vital for establishment, especially for temporary cover crops
Hydroseeding vs Sod
- Lower initial cost for you and your customers
- Better quality results in a single season of growth and establishment, often for 1/3rd of the cost or less
- Less watering required for establishment
- Hydroseed adapts and grows to your soil and growing conditions, sod is used to growing in different soil and growing conditions and must then adapt to the environment in which it is installed, often resulting in less ideal results long term.
- Seed germinates in the hydro mulch and then roots take to soil, so often topsoil prep and quality is not as vital for establishment, especially for temporary cover crops.
We often are asked what mulch, tackifier, fertilizer and seed we recommend. We have tested most types of products and narrowed down what has worked best for us and our customers. In most cases we are able to supply and ship these products to you at competitive prices if you are not able to source them locally.
We always recommend a high quality seed from a seed supplier, not from a big box store. Good seed in the Midwest will contain Rye, Kentucky Blue Grass, and Fescue varieties or any combination of these. We always recommend adding annual rye to your seed mix for spring or summer seeding, as this will germinate quickly and provide quick cover and additional erosion control.
By far the best and easiest to use mulch product we have used is granular mulch (mulch pellets.) This pourable mulch loads quickly and easily, mixes more quickly, and often contains corn fiber, which gives a slightly more porous finish to the mulch than pure paper mulch. This granular mulch can be found branded as “Jet Spray” “Seed Aide” “EZ MULCH-AF” “Cover Grow” “Lesco Seed Starter 3” etc. This can be purchased from national and regional chains such as Site One, AM Leonard, Ramy Turf, hydroseedsupply.com, or direct from us. Most of these suppliers also sell standard bales of paper mulch, which also work very well and do cost less on the front end, but the labor involved in breaking them up and extra mixing time, more than negates the material cost savings in most cases.
Fertilizer should be a high potency water soluble fertilizer made for hydroseeding. The brand is not terribly important here, but the product is. We do not recommend standard granular fertilizer for our hydroseeders. It does not mix evenly and thus will not apply evenly. A product such as Generate XR by Ramy Turf works fantastic, and only requires a small hand scoop or two per tank load. For example, a 25lb pail of Generate XR is enough for three acres of hydroseeding.
Tackifier should be a high quality, high potency water soluble powder or liquid. We use Hyper Tack from Ramy Turf. A 25lb pail is enough for about 4 acres of hydroseeding. This is a soil bonding polymer type tackifier and is what we recommend.
These mixing instructions are assuming 5-7lbs of seed per 1000 sq ft, our own fertilizer and tackifier blend, 1-2 PUNCH, and a standard pourable paper, pellet mulch.
- Fill tank ¾ full of water and start engine
- Start agitation and run engine to max RPM
- Gradually add half of total mulch
- Add seed (5-7lbs per 1000 sq ft)
- Slowly add 1-2 PUNCH (1 scoop per 100 gallons of water)
- Gradually add the rest of the mulch and continue mixing until the products are fully absorbed
Cost per 100 gallons is approximately $2.70 for fertilizer and tackifier, $14 for seed, and $22 for mulch. This comes to a total cost of $38.70 or about 4 cents per sq ft. This pricing is based on sourcing materials through VSI and does not include freight.
Sourcing mulch and seed locally will help a fair amount on your bottom line, as these items are heavy to ship and freight gets expensive. Most of our customers report costs just under 3 cents per sq ft. They are also charging a minimum of 12 cents per sq ft on jobs one acre and larger. For smaller jobs, 30 cents per sq ft is not uncommon.