Top dressing - all you need to know
Top dressing is the process of applying organic material on top of your lawn to amend the soil. It requires only a thin layer, and you can apply top dressing to your whole lawn.
It is a great way to rejuvenate your lawn without taking all the grass up and starting again. Once the grass starts growing through the top dressing, the organic material adds nutrients into the soil and improves the quality.
What top dressing materials can you use?
There are three main materials for top dressing:
Sand is a popular choice for sports surfaces and golf courses because it helps keep the surface firm and improves the performance of the ball. It will also help with drainage.
Sand/Soil will help smooth out the ground.
Sand/Organic is recommended for all soil types.
Many come pre-mixed for convenience.
The best way to decide which material to use is to go with a top dressing material which is comparable to your soil. Avoid using a product which is significantly different because it will not be as effective and could limit air and water movement. Always choose a mix that encourages incremental changes.
How much top dressing do you need?
This will vary depending on the size and condition of the lawn. As a rule of thumb, allow approximately 4kg to 6kg/m2 of top dressing for every 100 square metres.
How to apply top dressing to your lawn
Top dressing can take a lot of time, but rest assured, it isn’t overly complex. Arguably, the hardest part is preparing the lawn prior to top dressing. Ideally the lawn should be aerated and scarified to help break up the thatch layer which sits at the surface of the soil and to alleviate any compaction in the soil. Scarifying and aerating the lawn will allow the top dressing to be worked deeper into the sward.
You can hire some equipment for the aerating and scarifying or alternatively, depending on budget, you could hire a professional in to do the job.
Once this process has taken place, you need to load your wheelbarrow with your top dressing mixture. Start at one end of the garden and distribute equal amounts at regular intervals across the lawn.
When the piles of top dressing have been formed, use the back of a rake to gently push it over the lawn to create a smoother surface. Pay close attention and take care while spreading the top dressing. If you rush you may create a bumpy surface. Once the top dressing has been evenly distributed, use a stiff brush to brush the dressing into the dips of the lawn to create a new even surface.
After the top dressing has been brushed in, be sure to water the lawn daily during dry spells. You should also wait until the grass has grown to approximately 2-3 inches before mowing it. This helps it to recover.
When is the best time to top dress?
It is always best to top dress your lawn when the grass is actively growing – normally in autumn with rain and warm soil. It can also be carried out in spring.
Top dressing will benefit any lawn but if you notice any of the following signs then top dressing is imperative.
- Uneven lawns
- Poor growth or bare patches
- Consistent signs of disease
- Yellow grass leaves
- Poor drainage or moss
- Lots of weeds
What is the difference between top dressing and fertiliser?
Top dressing evens out the lawn surface, works new soil into existing soil and provides good soil contact for new grass seed. Fertiliser, on the other hand, gives grass the nutrients it needs to grow strong and healthy.
What are the benefits of top dressing?
- Improves soil aeration
- Improves soil quality
- Breaks down thatch
- Adds organic matter back into your lawn
- Helps soil retain moisture
- Can amend or modify the soil
- Can reduce the stress on your lawn from foot or vehicle traffic
- Can even out dips or hollow spots
What is the best top dressing to buy?
We would recommend this 70/30 Fine Turf Top Dressing to help produce a smooth, free draining turf surface and to open soil structure.
You can also use Sand & Organic Mixed Rootzone which is good for light soils to help hold moisture.
Take a look at our range of sand to help with drainage.