Turftime Equipment Blog

How to Top Dress a Lawn

Heavy Duty top dresser

You may have heard your neighbors discussing how to top dress a lawn, and wondered if it was something you should be doing to prevent some kind of catastrophic overnight die-off of all your grass. This article will discuss what’s involved with top dressing, how to do it, when to do it, and a few of the best practices associated with top dressing. By the time you reach the last line, you will know almost everything there is to know about how to top dress a lawn. Top dressing soil or whatever mixture is used during the process, should be fairly close to the same composition of the underlying soil, otherwise there can be problems like having the top dressing just lay there and create a barrier for roots trying to grow and become better established.

What is Top Dressing?

Top dressing is a prepared mixture of soil and or sand which gets applied directly to the surface of a lawn in a thin layer, generally between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch. The reason a top dressing is applied is that it can help to reduce the buildup of thatch by promoting decomposition. Another reason for top dressing would be to protect grass seedlings which have just been put into the ground, so they don’t dry out while they’re trying to get established. Sometimes top dressing is conducted on open turfgrass fields which are routinely swept by strong winds, so as to avoid the desiccation which normally occurs during winter. One last good use of top dressing is to act as a recovery agent for turfgrass which has been aerated.

If you have a small area to top dress, you’ll probably want to do it by hand, and after you’ve prepared a top dressing mix including some combination of compost, peat moss, sand, and top soil, you should follow this procedure:

  • Distribute the top dressing– with the help of a shovel, you should distribute your top dressing blend over the lawn in a layer that is between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch thick. If you make it any thicker than this, make sure to spread it out carefully or else it will smother the grass underneath.
  • Rake lightly– using the backside of a garden rake, brush lightly across the grass which has been top dressed so add to spread out the top dressing mixture is much as possible.
  • Keep working– continue to work them mixture into your lawn until you see individual grass blades peeking out through the top dressing, and you can also see that the depth of your mixture is even across the entire lawn.
  • Overseed now– if you are also over seed in on this project, this is the time to do it. Once you have your top dressing in place, you can follow up with over seating so you can be sure that the grass seeds will all germinate.
  • Keep the grass watered– make sure to occasionally water your lawn, or at least check the forecast to see that rain is coming, so you can be sure that your compost mixes in with the existing soil, and manages to reach all the roots.

When to Top Dress

Your lawn can be top dressed in the fall, before it goes dormant for winter, but most people who are planning to top dress will do it in the spring time, after your lawn has had a chance to get green again. May or June are good months to do your top dressing, unless those months are extremely warm in the area of the country where you live. If you were to top dress during the hot months of summer, that might well stress out your lawn so badly that it doesn’t recover in time for the autumn.

Best Practices for Top Dressing Soil

It’s always a good idea to match your top dressing soil to the soil which your lawn is composed of, otherwise you’ll be creating a layer effect which is not good for the lawn. Another best practice is to keep top dressing each year after you do it the first year, rather than starting and stopping, because that can also be harmful to the soil.

Now that you’ve learned all this, you can join in that neighborhood conversation in the spring about your top dressing plans for the year. Remember the essential elements of preparing a good mix which matches the underlying soil, avoiding the heat of summer, spreading your mixture into the lawn well, and keeping the area watered so the top dressing soil can leech down into the ground and benefit your lawn. Check out our wide range of top dressers for sale here at TurfTime Equipment. Give us a call at 800-201-1031 or fill out a contact form to learn more!

Contact Us