What Is Hydroseeding and When Is it Beneficial?

Hydroseeding, also known as hydraulic mulch seeding, hydro-mulching, or hydraseeding, is the process of applying a slurry mixture of water, seeds, fertilizer, mulch and other amendments to bare soil surfaces for establishing vegetation and providing temporary erosion control. It involves spraying the slurry mixture onto the soil surface using high pressure pumps and hoses mounted on specialized hydroseeding trucks or trailers.

Hydroseeding is an effective, efficient and environmentally friendly way to quickly establish vegetation and prevent soil erosion on disturbed sites like newly graded road cuts and highway embankments, construction sites, mines and landfills. It allows seed and amendments to be distributed uniformly over steep, rocky or hard to reach areas. Hydroseeding provides numerous benefits over conventional seeding methods:

What is Hydroseeding?

Hydroseeding is the process of mixing and continuously agitating water, seeds, fertilizer, mulch and other amendments to form a homogeneous slurry that is hydraulically spray applied onto the soil surface using high pressure pumps and hoses. This slurry coats and adheres to the soil surface to create optimum conditions for germination and plant growth.

The hydroseeding slurry typically contains:

  • Water – The carrier fluid that allows pumping and distribution of the slurry.
  • Seed – Selected grass, legume, native plant, or cover crop seeds suitable for the site conditions and objectives. The seed varieties are selected for quick germination, soil stabilization and revegetation.
  • Fertilizer – Essential nutrients to support initial plant growth until the plants are established and can obtain nutrients on their own.
  • Mulch – Fibrous mulch materials that provide temporary surface protection from erosion while allowing sunlight, air and water to penetrate to the seeds. Common mulches include wood fiber, recycled paper or cotton.
  • Soil amendments – Organic matter, mycorrhizal inoculants or tackifiers that can help improve soil structure and fertility.
  • Dye – An optional coloring agent to help visualize area coverage and allow operators to avoid missed spots.

Hydroseeding slurries are specifically designed for the site’s soil type, topography, climate conditions and vegetation objectives. Customized hydroseeding mixtures allow targeting the right amendments to successfully establish sustainable plant communities.

How Does Hydroseeding Work?

The hydroseeding process consists of several key steps:

1. Site Evaluation: The site conditions are evaluated including soil types, slopes, sunlight, drainage and disturbed areas. The site analysis helps identify appropriate hydroseeding mixtures, application rates and schedules.

2. Mixing: The selected seed varieties, fertilizers, mulch and other amendments are mixed together with water in the hydroseeding machine’s tank to create the slurry. Thorough and continuous agitation prevents materials from separating or settling.

3. Spraying: The hydroseeding slurry is pumped through hoses to a spraying nozzle at high pressure, allowing the mixture to be broadcast and evenly applied across the soil surface, even on steep slopes.

4. Hydration: The slurry coated area is irrigated after application to hydrate the seeds, fertilizers and soil for germination and prevents the mulch from drying out.

5. Growth: The seeds germinate and plants establish over the next weeks and months. The mulch layer decomposes over time to provide organic matter.

6. Follow up: Additional irrigation, fertilization or reseeding may be required on some sites to fill in sparse areas and ensure full vegetation establishment.

Benefits of Hydroseeding

Hydroseeding provides numerous advantages over conventional mechanical seeding or manual broadcasting:

Rapid Revegetation

  • Hydroseeding quickly establishes vegetation on disturbed sites, preventing costly erosion and stabilization problems. The mulch layer retains moisture and moderates soil temperatures to accelerate seed germination and growth.

Improved Coverage

  • The liquid slurry can be sprayed across steep slopes, rocky areas and hard to reach sites. Consistent coverage and density is achieved even on rough terrain.

Increased Efficiency

  • Large areas can be hydroseeded rapidly with minimal labor. No soil preparation is needed prior to application.

Lower Costs

  • Hydroseeding eliminates the costs of mechanical seed bed preparation. It requires less seed, fertilizer and water since application is targeted and efficient.

Reduced Site Impacts

  • Slurry can be sprayed from access roads so heavy equipment traffic on vulnerable slopes is avoided. The process has minimal site disturbance.

Enhanced Establishment

  • Complete seed, nutrient and mulch application in one pass improves germination and plant establishment, especially in stressed environments.

Improved Erosion Control

  • The mulch layer provides immediate erosion protection on disturbed soils until vegetation establishes.

Flexible Applications

  • Specialized hydroseeding mixtures can match diverse environments from roadsides to wetlands to arid regions.

Environmental Benefits

  • Hydroseeding supports sustainable vegetation with less fertilizer, seed and water usage compared to conventional seeding.

When is Hydroseeding Beneficial?

Hydroseeding excels at quickly establishing vegetation cover and preventing erosion in locations where conventional seeding methods are impractical or ineffective. Key situations where hydroseeding should be considered include:

Steep Slopes

  • Slopes greater than 3:1 (H:V) are too steep for mechanical seeding equipment. Hydroseeding allows uniform application on steep slopes.

Rough Terrain

  • Rocky sites, uneven ground and obstructed areas prevent effective mechanical seeding. Hydroseeding can reach these sites.

Poor Soils

  • Shallow or infertile soils can hamper germination and establishment. Hydroseeding mixes can incorporate soil amendments.

Erosion Prone Areas

  • Hydroseeding establishes fast vegetation on erosion prone soils like sands, clays and glacial tills.

Remote Locations

  • Hydroseeding equipment can access backcountry sites far from roads or water resources.

Wildfire Rehabilitation

  • Rapidly stabilizing soils after wildfires is crucial. Hydroseeding can quickly protect landscapes.

Road Cuts and Embankments

  • Steep man-made slopes next to roads, railways and canals are ideal for hydroseeding.

Mines and Landfills

  • Reclaiming mines, borrow pits and landfills often requires stabilizing uneven terrain where hydroseeding excels.

Waterway Banks

  • Revegetating riparian areas near water prevents sediments from eroding into streams.

Construction Sites

  • Quickly establishing cover vegetation on disturbed soils at construction sites prevents erosion issues.

Sensitive Areas

  • Hydroseeding minimizes soil compaction associated with equipment access for ground seeding.

Revegetation Projects

  • Hydroseeding native species simplifies restoration of prairies, meadows, forests and wetlands.

Stormwater Control

  • Vegetation filters pollutants from stormwater runoff while reducing peak discharges.

Hydroseeding Process Explained

Understanding the detailed hydroseeding process helps identify how to maximize the benefits of this innovative erosion control and revegetation method.

Site Evaluation

A thorough site evaluation and testing program should be completed prior to hydroseeding to select appropriate mixtures. Key factors include:

  • Soils – Soil types, fertility, pH, organic matter, infiltration rates. Soil tests help determine required soil amendments.
  • Topography – Slope gradients and shape. Steeper terrain increases erosion potential.
  • Exposure – Amount of sunlight, shading, prevailing winds. Affects plants selected.
  • Hydrology – Natural drainage, wetness, flood potential. Critical for plant species adapted to the hydrology.
  • Disturbance – Compaction, vegetation clearing, mining waste, etc. Measures the degree of intervention required.
  • Climate – Temperature, rainfall patterns and growing season. Determines planting calendars.
  • Objectives – Temporary erosion control vs long-term revegetation with native species, aesthetics, or wildlife support.

This site information helps tailor hydroseeding mixtures for optimal regeneration. It identifies limiting factors that should be mitigated with soil amendments.

Hydroseeding Mixture Design

Hydroseeding mixtures are designed for rapid vegetation establishment and matched to local environmental conditions. Key composition factors include:


  • Fast growing annual grasses provide quick ground cover to hold soil.
  • Perennial grasses or native species are chosen for long-term revegetation.
  • Legumes add nitrogen to soils and break up compacted soils.
  • Nurse crops provide temporary cover while slower plants establish.
  • Seed rates range from 30-150 lbs/acre based on objectives.


  • Starter fertilizers supply essential N-P-K for initial plant growth.
  • Slow release organic fertilizers provide longer-term nutrients.
  • Mycorrhizal inoculants introduce beneficial symbiotic fungi.


  • Most contain 70% – 90% wood fiber to retain moisture and provide immediate surface cover.
  • Straw, paper fibers, or coconut fibers are sometimes added to vary texture and duration of mulch layer.
  • Rates range from 1500-4000 lbs/acre depending on level of erosion control needed.

Soil Amendments

  • Compost, biochar or tackifiers improve soil health and structure.
  • Cross-linked hydrogels increase water retention.
  • Gypsum, lime or sulfur adjust soil pH conditions if needed.


  • Biodegradable dye aids application by temporarily coloring areas, rates around 10-20 lbs/acre.

Hydroseeding Equipment

Specialized hydroseeding equipment mixes and continuously agitates the slurry to keep the mixture homogenous until applied onto the soil. Standard components include:

  • Tank – 500 to 3000 gallon tanks keeps all materials mixed. Larger tanks for fewer refills.
  • Pump – Heavy duty pumps generate up to 3000 psi spray pressure.
  • Agitation – Constant mechanical mixing prevents settling of solids.
  • Hoses – High pressure hoses run from the tank to spray nozzles.
  • Spray Nozzles – Fan nozzles uniformly broadcast slurry over wide areas.
  • Flow Meters – Monitor application rates and help guide operations.
  • Control Panel – Allows safe control of tank agitation and pumping.

Equipment can be mounted on trailers towed by trucks or directly onto trucks themselves, known as hydroseeding trucks. Trailer systems offer better maneuverability in confined sites. Truck mounts allow accessing steeper terrain.

Hydroseeding Process Steps

The standard process for completing hydroseeding work involves:

  1. Mobilization – Equipment is brought to the site and staging areas set up.
  2. Inspections – The site is inspected to identify any changes or access issues before starting work.
  3. Mixing – Proper quantities of seed, fertilizer, mulch and other specified amendments are combined in the hydroseeder tank with water.
  4. Spraying – The slurry is hydraulically applied onto designated treatment areas according to specifications.
  5. Refilling – Tanks are refilled and remixing completed between loads to maintain slurry uniformity.
  6. Irrigation – Seeded areas are irrigated after application to activate growth and prevent mulch drying.
  7. Inspection – Seeded areas are reviewed to confirm uniform establishment and identify any issues requiring reseeding.
  8. Growth – Germination and plant growth occurs, monitored over the weeks after seeding.
  9. Cleanup – Equipment and supplies are demobilized when the hydroseeding work is complete.

Timing Considerations

Proper timing is crucial when hydroseeding to ensure ideal growing conditions for plant establishment:

  • Site Preparation – Hydroseeding should occur immediately after final grade to maximize erosion control.
  • Weather Conditions – Hydroseed during seasons with sufficient rainfall and mild temperatures for germination and growth. Avoid overseeding before the winter months in cold climates.
  • Planting Seasons – Base timing on plant material being established – cool season grasses, native wildflowers, warm season species each have their ideal planting seasons.
  • Irrigation – Schedule hydroseeding when rainfall or supplemental irrigation is available for 4-6 weeks after seeding for optimum plant growth.
  • Windows – Account for potential work stoppages – hydroseeding is not possible during heavy rains or snowfall.
  • Coordination – Make sure disking, fertilizing or other ground prep work is completed before hydroseeding applications.

Application Considerations

Proper hydroseeding operations in the field are critical for achieving uniform vegetative establishment:

  • Maintain constant agitation when loading tank to keep slurry consistent.
  • Spray in opposing passes to ensure 100% coverage – no bare strips or gaps.
  • Optimally apply slurry from multiple angles on hill slopes rather than just hilltop down.
  • Apply dye agent to visually identify treated areas and avoid missed sections.
  • Confirm slurry components are spread uniformly after spraying, not settling out separately.
  • Account for weather conditions – wind can dissipate spray, requiring adjusted approaches.
  • Communicate with team members to safely direct hoses and reposition equipment as needed.
  • Confirm entire site was appropriately covered right after hydroseeding when rework is still possible.

Maintenance and Ongoing Care

Vegetation establishment requires proper maintenance and monitoring after the initial hydroseeding:

  • Inspect seeded areas regularly, especially after significant storms.
  • Spot reseed any areas with low germination or poor coverage.
  • Repair any erosion issues that develop using additional soil stabilization controls.
  • Water seeded areas during dry periods, providing up to 1″ of water per week.
  • Identify invasive plants or weeds and remove them before they spread.
  • Avoid equipment traffic or grazing on establishing vegetation.
  • Reapply fertilizer if plant growth looks deficient.
  • Monitor plant health and diversity – reseed if certain species underperform.
  • Confirm long-term cover meets objectives before retiring erosion control measures.

When to Avoid Hydroseeding

While hydroseeding is applicable on most sites requiring erosion control or revegetation, there are some situations where it is not the preferred approach:

Poor Drainage

  • Saturated or frequently flooded soils will hamper seed germination and plant growth. Drainage must be improved first.

Unstable Slopes

  • Steep unstable slopes prone to slides or slumping need physical stabilization before applying hydroseeding.

Compacted Soils

  • Heavily compacted soils restrict seedling root growth and infiltration. Loosen surface mechanically before hydroseeding.

Excessive Shade

  • Areas shaded over 50% of day will significantly limit vegetative growth. Trees may need removal or pruning.

Extreme Weather

  • Avoid hydroseeding right before major storms or during weather extremes that will reduce germination.

Weed Growth

  • Sites with established aggressive weeds need weed control before hydroseeding.

Poor Timing

  • Hydroseeding cool season grass in mid-summer or vice versa will limit success.

Equipment Access

  • Sites unreachable by hydroseeding trucks may require alternate methods if vegetation establishment is required immediately.


  • Small areas under an acre may be more cost effectively seeded using manual methods.

Short Duration

  • Just needing temporary 30-60 day vegetation may be better served by an erosion control blanket or mulch only.

Keys to Successful Hydroseeding

Following best practices helps ensure hydroseeding achieves rapid, uniform vegetation establishment:

  • Match seed mixes and amendments to local climate, soils and site conditions through testing.
  • Time hydroseeding to coincide with adequate moisture and favorable temperatures for germination.
  • Ensure constant agitation and mixing to prevent slurry separation.
  • Provide supplemental irrigation after seeding when rainfall is lacking.
  • Use mulches to protect seed and retain moisture.
  • Follow up with reseeding if initial results are spotty or poor performing.
  • Monitor site and actively maintain vegetation by addressing issues early.
  • Verify entire site was covered during hydroseeding operations.
  • Avoid equipment traffic on establishing vegetation.
  • Select hydroseeding specialists with proven experience in your area.

Alternatives to Hydroseeding

While hydroseeding is very versatile, other methods may be better suited to some sites or offer advantages in certain applications:

Broadcast Seeding

  • Using mechanical seed spreaders or manual broadcasting. Lower cost but less uniformity on slopes.

Drill Seeding

  • Mechanical seed drills place seeds at proper depths in rows. Better seed-soil contact.

Bonded Fiber Matrix (BFM)

  • Mechanically blended longer wood and paper fibers provide enhanced erosion control on steep slopes.

Soil Reinforcement Mats

  • Rolled natural or synthetic mats provide immediate erosion protection but higher material and labor costs.

Compost Blankets

  • Layer of compost or wood chips provides organic matter. Limited for steep slopes.


  • Seedlings or live stakes establish woody vegetation but higher costs and slower erosion control.


  • Installing live sod provides immediate surface stabilization but requires careful handling and irrigation.

The advantages and disadvantages compared to hydroseeding must be weighed for each application. Often combining multiple methods can be beneficial.

Frequently Asked Questions About Hydroseeding

When is the best time to hydroseed?

The optimal time to hydroseed is during seasons and months most favorable to plant germination and growth. In colder climates this is typically spring and fall, while warmer regions seed during late fall through early spring. Avoid overseeding right before winter.

How long does hydroseeding take to grow?