Top Dressing a Lawn

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 25 November 2020 

Top dressing a lawn is usually done to level up an uneven surface or to fill in holes however there are some other advantages that you may not be aware of. Find out more about the benefits and how it do it yourself.

On top of the obvious benefits of top dressing to level your lawn, the health benefits are amazing. With the addition of sand and compost on the surface of your lawn, you introduce organic matter back into the soil which both improves its water holding capacity and introduces beneficial micro organisms which in turn improves soil health. Heathy soils lead to healthy, less stressed lawns and that’s something that all lawn lovers are looking for. With the addition of sand, soil drainage can also be improved and thatch can be reduced.

What sort of material is best?

A top dressing mix can consist of a combination of sand, loam and compost. If you’re not looking to level up your lawn, then simply use compost. Make sure you buy one that has been properly made and highly composted.  If you’re looking to fill in low spots, then you’ll need to add some sand or loam to your topdressing. In this case, it’s important to make sure that the texture of the sand and loam you use matches the soil under the lawn as closely as possible as these new materials will eventually form part of the root zone  and will therefore need to blend well.  Sand or sandy loam is sometimes used as a topdressing material on lawns with heavy, clay soils or drainage problems. Usually applied after aerating, the sand fills in the holes and over time can alter the structure of the soil to allow for better drainage and a healthier grass. You can buy top dressing mix in bags from most hardware stores and garden centres. Check with your local landscape supply yard for bulk quantities.

How do you do it?

Start by mowing your lawn. This will help you spread the top dressing material across the lawn easier and will facilitate in you keeping the top dressing layer as thin as possible.

If you’re top dressing simply for the health benefits rather than to level your lawn, a light layer of around 3mm is what you are looking for. A 20kg bag of top dressing mix would be enough for about 5 square metres. If you’re topdressing to level your lawn up, it’s best to keep the depth of top dressing at no more than 10mm. If you have holes that are deeper than 10mm, you’ll have to top dress in stages, letting your lawn recover between applications.  

Spread the top dressing material in small piles around your lawn and rake them in evenly using the back edge of a rake or even better, get your hands on a levelling rake like the one pictured here. Once finished, you should see the tips of the lawn poking through the top dressing. Avoid completely burying the lawn as this will result in it taking longer to recover.  If you haven’t fertilised in a while, now is the time to do it. The last step is to water the top dressing into the lawn. This will help settle it down into the thatch layer

When do you top dress?

The best time of year to top dress is from October through to March. You need a good 4 - 6 weeks of warm weather for your lawn to recover.  When top dressing for levelling purposes, you only need to do that as required. Top dressing with compost can be done every year for good soil and turf health. 



Comments (1)

Top dress

By: on 6 October 2021
My Santa Ana lawn has dips low areas How to fill and level area Is this the same as top dressing What do I need

Paul Munns Instant Lawn Response
Hi Alan Thanks for your enquiry In the low spots top dress with an 80/20 sandy loam no more than 5mm at a time. Once turf has grown through, repeat process if required Thank you

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