When it comes to topdressing your lawn, there always seems to be some confusion (and controversy!) about what is best to use – and why and when you should do it.
But here at icanlawn.com, we like to keep things simple – so we’re putting the record straight! If you're wondering, "Should I top dress my lawn?" you've come to the right place for advice on growing grass seed!
What does it mean to top dress a lawn?
In short, topdressing is the application of an organic dressing (be it sand, topsoil, a mixture of both or compost) to your lawn to improve the soil composition and achieve an overall healthier lawn. You can do this by spreading the top dressing material across your grass with a brush or the back of a rake, ensuring it is level with the rest of your lawn.
Why should I top dress my lawn?
Top dressing your lawn can offer many benefits. If completed after aerating your lawn, which creates air pockets in your soil to allow it to breathe - top dressing can help rebuild/adjust your soil composition. This further improves the root system of your grass, allowing them to soak up more nutrients. And can also help promote thick, lush, green grass free of weeds and disease.
Top dressing also reduces thatch on your lawn. Thatch is a layer of dead grass and moss that suffocates your grass and can encourage disease, so with it gone, your grass can continue to thrive. When using a top dressing such as sand or containing sand, you can also aid the drainage capabilities of your lawn.
If you have a fine ornamental lawn, we recommend that you top dress it to keep it looking its very best. Likewise, if you have heavy clay soils or your lawn gets a lot of use - a once-a-year top dress could immensely improve the appearance and health of your lawn.
When should I top dress my lawn?
If you have a fine lawn that's just for show, we recommend that you top dress your lawn following an overseed (when the new lawn is established at the 6-8 week mark). We recommend you do this in late Spring or early Autumn.
It is best to top dress your lawn once it has been aerated, as this provides ample opportunity for the top dressing to make its way into the foundations of your lawn via the newly created slits in the soil. If you have a lawn that gets a lot of use, has clay soils and becomes easily compacted - a top dressing once a year in late Spring will suffice.
What should I use for top dressing?
Now here’s the tricky part! It is entirely up to you what you decide to top dress your lawn with, but here are the typical options you’ll come across;
Top soil is an all-rounder loam type soil that essentially offers your lawn the best of the various soil types. Typically this means a mixture of clay, silt, sand and organic matter.
Compost is nutrient-rich organic matter but doesn’t contain clay, silt or sand. It is particularly good at providing your lawn with plenty of nutrients, and if you compost at home, it beats going to the shops!
Sand helps to improve the drainage in your soils and can also help prevent thatch buildup, and you can apply it on its own. Greenkeepers use this practice, meaning it doesn’t have much use in home gardens. However, it is a good option worth considering, especially if you have clay soils.
Our topdressing material of choice would be topsoil – it provides your lawn with all of the above, so it isn’t missing out on anything. Compost also breaks down over time, so if you use it to help level out your lawn, you may be disappointed with the results later. Sand is great for aiding drainage, but if used in the wrong amounts can hinder your lawn rather than help it.
You can read our guide here if you’d like to learn more about caring for a fine lawn.