Picking up Nickels

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Homeowner Savings: Growing grass on the cheap

My homeowners association recently hired a landscaping company to prep and seed about 12,000 square feet of the "dust bowl" common areas in our neighborhood. The contractor recommended hydroseeding the area, where grass is grown by spraying a mixture of grass seed, fertilizer, paper mulch, and water on the prepared soil (cost $3,600).

The 1,000 square foot area in front of my property was also a mess, but I wasn't prepared to pay a contractor a fortune to do the job. Being cheap, I decided to tackle the job myself. To minimize costs, I used a technique that I read about in an old copy of Jerry Baker's Lawn Book which I refer to as the "hayseed method":

  • I prepped the soil by removing all weeds and rocks.
  • I seeded the area with a bag of drought tolerant Fescue grass seed that cost about $8 at Walmart.
  • I applied some granular Vigoro fertilizer (left over from a prior application) to the newly seeded area.
  • I mulched the area with a couple of bales of straw that I bought for $5 each at a local farm stand. The mulch helps keeps the seed moist, cool, and in place (like the paper used in the hydroseeding method).
  • I water the newly planted seed on a daily basis.

The common areas were hydroseeded two days before I seeded the area in front of my property, but my grass sprouted before the professionally done job:

So far, my "hayseed" method (right) is outperforming the hydroseed method (left). On the downside, I did have one neighbor ask me if a truck carrying hay tipped over in front of my house. I thought that was hysterical, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the comment since most of my neighbors don't even cut their own grass. Either way, the frugal homeowner in me would love it if my $20 job could continue to outperform the professional $3,600 job.


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