Topdressing Your Lawn

The process of applying a blend of sand with organic matter to the surface of your lawn is called topdressing. It’s been a go-to maintenance practice for golf courses since the sport was invented (in 1457!) but only recently has topdressing been adopted as a popular lawn care practice for homeowners, particularly when leveling an uneven lawn.  

THE BENEFITS OF TOPDRESSING

While you can use regular screened sand to level your lawn, it’s far better to add in some good organic matter to the mix along with topsoil in order to promote your lawn’s overall health, especially if you plan to overseed after leveling. A topdressing blend will be a more fertile mix for the seeds, promoting new grass growth, and will hold water better than using only sand. Topdressing your lawn offers many benefits and is a great alternative to using traditional chemical treatments. In the long run, topdressing your lawn during its growing season will reduce lawn stress, keep thatch under control and act as a natural fertilizer, most notably because of the organic matter that contains beneficial microorganisms your soil needs to grow strong, healthy roots.

2 FORMULAS FOR TOPDRESSING

Sand works great for when you just need to level your lawn, but it contains very little nutrients that your soil needs, which is why we recommend mixing it with organic matter in one of two ways:

  • SAND/PEAT BLEND – Mix 75% sand with 25% peat that contains organic matter.
  • SAND/COMPOST Mix – Combine 75% sand with 25% compost.

Selecting the right organic matter, or compost, is key since not all offer adequate nutrients for growing grass. Look for compost that contains organic humus. PRO TIP: If you are mixing organic matter with soil, be sure that the soil you use matches the soil in your yard because not all soils are compatible.

PREPARING YOUR LAWN FOR TOPDRESSING

Before you top dress your lawn, you’ll want to get it ready.

  • Dethatch your lawn if your yard has more than ½ inch of thatch.  
  • Mow the lawn shorter than normal, as if you were about to overseed it.
  • Remove all grass clippings and loose thatch if you haven’t already.

PRO TIP: If you have poor soil, like heavy clay soil, or find that areas of your lawn are compacted, consider aerating your lawn before topdressing it.

HOW TO TOPDRESS YOUR LAWN

Follow the following steps to ensure you get the best results.

  1. Using a shovel, distribute topdressing blend over your lawn in ¼- to ½-inch layers, filling in any holes or valleys if your lawn is uneven or if your have poor soil.
  2. Use the backside of a garden rake to lightly brush across the grass to spread the topdressing across the soil as much as possible.
  3. Keep working the mixture across your lawn until grass peaks through the topdressing and the depth of application is even.
  4. Overseeding too? Do it now after the topdressing is down. You’ll want to follow overseeding best practices to ensure the seeds germinate.
  5. Water the lawn or check your local forecast for rainfall, so the sand-compost mix is encouraged to mix with the existing soil and reach the root system.

PRO TIP: It’s a great lawn care practice to topdress along with aerating, dethatching and overseeding to get maximum results.

WHEN TO TOPDRESS YOUR LAWN

The answer depends on where you live, just like with overseeding. Cool season grasses can be top dressed in the fall before they go dormant for winter, whereas it’s best to apply topdressing to warm season grass in the springtime after they’ve gotten a chance to green up, likely around May or June if you live in the deep south (hi, Texas!). PRO TIP: Don’t topdress during the hot summer months as that’ll stress your grass out and it may not recover before the fall.   Be sure to check out our other lawn care basics to keep your lawn healthy, strong and beautiful.