Top dressing the lawn
Why top dress the lawn
This is an important operation that should be carried out at least once a year on
the lawn. Top dressing is the process of applying a fine layer of high quality soil to the surface
of the lawn.
Materials commonly used for this task are loam, sand and peat, depending on the chemical and
physical make up of your soil or rootzone. The reasons for dressing lawns include.
Create a Level Surface: If you have a lawn with minor undulations and
hollows, regular applications will gradually level the lawn up by filling the hollows.
Improve the drainage: This task will improve the drainage on a garden
lawn especially after aeration has been carried out. E.g. If
you have a heavy poor draining soil (clay), by aerating you create channels into the soil
profile. Then by following up afterwards by applying a suitable sandy mixture and working
it down the holes you will improve the drainage of the lawn. This is because sand drains
better than clay due to the larger particle size that encourages quicker water
Improve drought resistance: This is similar to improving the drainage
on a lawn but you would use a peat and loam based top dressing. Peat and loam have greater
water retention properties than sand, therefore they would improve the drought resistance of your lawn.
Thatch Breakdown: A good dressing program can help with the
decomposition of thatch. Regular applications help
dilute the thatch layer and encourages natural breakdown.
Encourage a Thicker Lawn: It encourages the grass to produce new
shoots resulting in a thicker, tight knit sward, therefore reducing the invasion of
weeds and moss.
As we have previously noted top dressing is made from 3 different materials, these materials
Sand: The sand used should be lime free and should be of medium
particle size (not too fine or coarse).
Peat: Go for a quality sphagnum or sedge peat.
Loam: Choose a loam that does not have a large clay content.
How and when to apply
Top dressing can be applied any time during the growing season, but the best time is late summer
especially after any aeration, scarification or overseeding work has
The top dressing needs to be applied as evenly as possible. There are mechanical spreaders
available for hire but unless you have a large area, a shovel will be fine for applying your top
dressing. The application rate should be about 3lbs per sq/yd.
The most effective way to top dress is to tip the material in equal size heaps on your lawn,
then spread them evenly over your lawn with a shovel. After it has been applied and has dried, it
can be rubbed into the sward and aeration holes, for the best results use a true lute or a drag
mat. Alternatively a brush or the back of a rake can be used.