If you’re not yet top dressing your lawn, you’re missing out on a lot. Homes all over Australia are going green over eco-friendly lawn care, and you should, too.
Before rushing to your nearest lawn supply store, there are a few things you need to know so you can top dress your lawn the right way (because top dressing incorrectly can actually KILL your lawn).
Take your lawn from bare and brown to thick and thriving with the best top dressing tips, straight from the lawn experts.
What does top dressing a lawn mean?
When it comes to lawns, keeping them lush and plush usually means applying a heap of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. While this is an accepted practice, you can achieve just as great results by regularly top dressing and using a few core natural products to help improve the health of your soil.
The more natural way to ensure your lawn’s maximum growth is done by spreading a light layer of composted organic matter or sand on your turf. This process is called top dressing, and many homeowners use this method as a sustainable way to keep their lawns healthy and thriving.
As sand doesn’t offer many nutrients for soil improvement, adding a few key natural products to help feed the beneficial soil microbes and improve the soil will provide a great benefit. Plant Doctor’s Quantum H premium Humic Acid liquid or granular AgriPlus are options to help with this.
Why do we need to top dress a lawn?
Your lawn needs regular feeding so that the grass grows thick and evenly distributed. Top dressing, when combined with nutrient-rich organic based fertilisers, (such as Activ8mate or Power Pellets) can be a powerhouse booster for your turf. These are the many benefits that your lawn will get when it’s top dressed:
- Increases nutrient retention
- Strengthens the turf, reducing pest attacks and diseases
- Improves soil drainage
- Makes for greener turf
- Reduces thatch
- Promotes root growth
What is the best material to use when top dressing?
Top dressing doesn’t have to be a pain in the grass! To top dress your lawn successfully, use a lawn top dressing material that’s similar to the consistency of your planting soil. Depending on your turfgrass and the soil composition of your lawn, you can use sand, finely screened compost, topsoil, or a combination of these options.
Sand is a good antidote to thick clay soils, and is usually used to level uneven lawns. Top dressing your lawn with sand helps improve drainage and loosen soil density. This is the reason why you see sand used mostly in golf courses and other man-made terrains.
Lawn care providers recommend using yellow sand for top dressing because of its high porosity and good drainage potential.
Compost is the best soil for top dressing your lawn. It is rich in nutrients that your turf needs for growth. Your lawn will benefit a lot from the organic matter found in compost, provided it is finished and has fillers mixed in.
To know if your compost is completely finished, check that the colour, consistency, and smell are similar to soil. If it still resembles rotten fruits and vegetables, allow your compost to mature a little bit longer.
Composted soil will help improve a clay soil, but it also helps sandy soils retain more nutrients and attract additional beneficial microbes.
Topsoil has a similar composition and consistency as that of planting soil. While it is a safe enough option, your turf may be failing to benefit from proper nutrients needed for your grass to grow dense and green.
Your own top dressing mix
Customising your own lawn top dressing soil is another option. One reason why lawn owners create their own mix is because it is more economical. Combining different materials also ensures that your top dressing mix is well-balanced.
The most popular combination has compost as the base, which is then blended well with either sand or topsoil. A combination of sand and soil for top dressing is effective in preventing puddling on your lawn, which can lead to grass decay.
How to make your own lawn top dressing mix
If you’d rather not go with store-bought, you certainly can make your own lawn top dressing mix. Simply add 3 parts soil, 6 parts sand, and 1 part compost. Mix evenly and you have your own homemade top dressing material, ready for use. Consider adding Humic acid or AgriPlus granules to the mix for improved results.
How much top dressing material do you need for a lawn?
For a typical lawn, a fine layer of top dressing material measuring between .3cm and 1.2cm is enough. You may need to go on the thicker end if there’s a bulky patch of thatch on your lawn.
How do you top dress a lawn?
These are the tools and materials you’ll need to be able to top dress your lawn properly:
- Lawn mower
- Lawn aerator
- Steel rake
- Top dressing mix
Step 1: Prepare your soil
Before you start with top dressing, make sure you have the right soil type for your lawn. Sandy loam, for example, is a good choice for top dressing a buffalo lawn.
Give your soil a good prep by fertilising it a week or two prior with Champion Mineral Lawn & Fairway Fertiliser. This step will help coax new growth to come out faster once you’re done top dressing.
Another thing you should check is your soil’s pH. If your soil is too acidic or alkaline, adjust the pH accordingly. You can buy test kits from your local produce or hardware store. Ensure you read the test instructions properly before using in order to get the proper results.
Step 2: Aerate your lawn
Break up the thatch layer to allow the top dressing material to penetrate the surface. You can use a rake or hire an aerator to separate the thatch easily.
Step 3. Mow the grass
Mow your turf as short as possible, but not too short that it causes damage to your grass. Not sure what grass length you should aim for? Here’s a quick guide on how to mow your lawn the right way.
Step 4: Clear your lawn of thatch and other debris
Remove grass clippings, dried leaves, dirt, and other debris that can hamper your top dressing material from permeating the surface.
Step 5: Overseeding
While overseeding isn’t necessary, spreading a few grass seeds on your lawn can give you more grass yield.
Step 6: Fling the top dressing material
Much like how you would swing a cricket bat, fling the top dressing material onto your lawn. Aim for a depth of .3cm to 1.2cm, unless there are thick layers of thatch on your lawn. If this is the case, you will need a heavier amount of topdressing material to spread on your turf.
Step 7: Rake it in
Once you’re done, incorporate your top dressing material onto the surface by raking it in then watering your lawn well.
Step 8: Allow new growth to sprout
Of course you’re excited to see the results, but you will have to wait for a few weeks before you see any changes. If you’re successful, you’ll notice that there are new growths on your lawn, as well as improved soil drainage and water retention.
When should you top dress your lawn?
When it comes to top dressing your lawn, knowing when to do it is just as important as how. Top dress warm season grasses in the spring, and cool season grasses during autumn. The best interval for top dressing your entire lawn is every few years.
Pro tips when top dressing your lawn
As any lawn owner knows, lawn maintenance can be labour-intensive. If you’re in the mood to get down and dirty under the sun, top dressing may just be the thing for you. Here are some more lawn care tips for a successful top dressing:
- Start with spot treating bare patches in your lawn and build on them. The key here is to top dress lightly and gradually. Too much and too frequent top dressing can raise your yard grade and cause soil erosion and water pooling in different areas of your lawn.
- Give your grass’ growth a leg up by combining top dressing with other cultural practices, such as mowing, overseeding, and regular watering. You’ll be rewarded with healthier grass and a thicker lawn after.
- Go green all the way! Use natural fertilisers when enriching your lawn. Just be sure to pick the fertiliser specifically made for lawn’s grass types. A nitrogen-rich fertiliser (Champion Mineral Lawn & Fairway Fertiliser or Activ8EXTRA), for example, supports a top dressed couch lawn well.
Sounds like a big project? Not a problem!
If you want to have your lawn top dressed just right (and not stress about it), do it the way seasoned lawn owners do – hire lawn care professionals. With these experts on top of your lawn maintenance, you can say goodbye to a patchy and anemic-looking lawn, and say hi to brighter, greener days ahead.