Top Dressing – Give Your Lawn a Boost

What is Top Soil?

Top soil is the soil that sustains life. It is nature’s intricately balanced combination of living organisms,  organic matter, inorganic minerals, water, and air.  Organic matter is present to varying degrees in different soils but healthy soil is sustained and made more friable by living matter. The crumbly texture of friable soil is important for the root growth of plants.


Compost combines organic matter with a healthy balance of nitrogen and carbon that strengthens the soil and encourages plant growth.  Good compost is an excellent breeding ground for micro-organisms.


Which brings us to top-dressing. If your winter lawn needs a boost, compost alone is insufficient.  Top-dressing is made up of very fine sand and composted material mixed in the correct ratio to bring new, vital growth, and colour back into your grass.

Tools for the Job

Simplicity is the answer.  It can be done using your wheelbarrow, spade, and metal rake.  And a plastic rake will help to rattle the soil down to where is it needed if you don’t have a soil leveler. 

Getting to Work

Primarily, top dressing is intended to feed your lawn and to encourage new growth.  The best time is in spring before the weather gets too hot, or in autumn if you don’t live in areas that receive frost.

Lawn dressing is a great opportunity to level out those little undulations, lumps and general imperfections.  Where there are sparse patches, a fine sprinkling of seed mixed with the top dressing will encourage new growth. 

Mow your lawn lightly removing just the tips of the new growth to leave some depth for the soil to drop through.  In some instances, aerating the lawn might be necessary to allow the water to penetrate more deeply.  

If you use the wheelbarrow and spade option, the soil can be spread by loading the spade and, with a good swing of hips and arms, broadcasting it in  wide sweeps across the grass.  If you find that is a bit tricky, try the optional method of sprinkling it gently off the end of the spade, a little at a time, as you walk backwards – from one end of the lawn to the other.

Your third option is to use the wheelbarrow to tip small piles about a meter and a half apart over the surface of the lawn and then, using the back of the metal rake, spreading them evenly over the surface of the grass.  In this case, it is better not to initially place the top-soil piles over the whole area that you wish to cover.  Once the piles have been spread out it will be easier to add more where it is needed rather than trying to remove the excess.

Your soil cover needs to be only about 1cm thick and it should never smother the blades of grass completely.  Grass, as with all plants, needs sunlight to grow and covering it too deeply may result in setting back the growth rather than encouraging it.

Use your soil leveler, if you have one, to go over the surface again.  This will allow the soil to rattle down to the base of the grass.  A plastic garden rake is a good aid in bringing the soil in against any paving stones and steps, while a light raking will also allow the soil to penetrate.

How much soil would I need to top dress my lawn? 

Calculate your lawn area as closely as possible then allow 1 cubic meter of soil per 100 square meters of grass – bearing in mind, as I have said before, that the coverage should only be around 1cm deep.

Again – it is very important to remember not the cover the grass completely, the blades must protrude through the soil.

Water in thoroughly with sprinklers if you have them, or with the hose.  An eco, or organic fertilizer can be applied either before or after top-dressing.  Soils naturally contain a number of nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorous.  When there is an insufficient supply of these nutrients, an organic fertilizer replenishes and feeds the soil renewing balance where there are deficiencies.

Enjoy your Grass

Patchy grass can become a showpiece with a once or twice a year top dressing.  It is well-worth the effort! 






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