As the last of the snow melts away and your grass enters the growing season, you may discover bald or dead patches that didn’t make it through the winter. You have a few options for achieving a greener, fuller lawn, but what’s ultimately right for you will depend on the specific needs of your yard. In this article, we’ll walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of three popular ways to improve your lawn’s appearance: sod, grass seed, and hydroseeding.
Sod Pros and Cons
Sod, also called turf, is a sheet of pre-grown grass held together by roots and dirt. Sod provides instant aesthetic results—as soon as the sheets are unrolled, your lawn immediately looks greener, fuller, and healthier. It also takes root quickly; within two or three weeks, the sod should be fully established and will be able to support foot traffic. Sod offers a versatile timeline, as it can be installed pretty much whenever the ground isn’t frozen. It also provides erosion control for exposed soil and does well on slopes where grass seed could be washed away by runoff.
Unfortunately, the impressive appearance of sod comes at a high price—it’s by far the most expensive option on this list. As DIY installation can lead to poor establishment and weed-ridden gaps, sod should only be installed by a professional, so you also need to factor in labor costs as well. In addition, it takes quite a bit of maintenance to get the sod fully established.
Grass Seed Pros and Cons
Much cheaper than sod, grass seed can be used to plant a new lawn or overseed a patchy existing lawn, and both of these tasks can be handled by even inexperienced DIYers. Unlike sod, which is only grown in a few varieties of grass, your options for grass seed are nearly endless, allowing you to select a variety that is well-suited to your lawn’s level of shade and sun.
Since it doesn’t have an already-established root system like sod, the results of grass seed take much longer. Until then, the seed and dirt remain at risk of erosion and need to be protected from foot traffic, birds, pests, weeds, and runoff. Grass seed also needs to be planted at the right time of year for the best results; in Minnesota, this is usually around late summer to early fall.
Hydroseed Pros and Cons
Hydroseed is a slurry mixture made of seed, fertilizer, water, mulch, and other nutrients that improve soil health and water retention. It’s applied using a hose and spray nozzle, ideally done when the weather is wet and cool but not freezing.
Hydroseeding is relatively inexpensive, averaging around $0.18 per square foot—it’s more spendy than grass seed and less so than sod. You’ll see results faster than grass seed, too. Hydroseeded grass usually starts to grow in about a week and continues quickly from there.
This method of planting is especially useful for large areas, hills, newly constructed homes, or other areas where seed is hard to plant and establish, especially if price is a factor and sod isn’t an option. Certain mixtures of hydroseed slurry can be used to slow or prevent soil erosion, and the application eliminates the dust pollution associated with traditional dry seeding, as the slurry is wet when sprayed.
Like grass seed, hydroseed installation is dependent on the weather and should also be done in the late summer to early fall. While it establishes quickly, hydroseeded grass requires a lot of water during germination, and it doesn’t allow foot traffic as fast as sod does. It also needs to be applied to bare dirt—already-present weeds or grass need to be removed before the slurry is sprayed.