The beautification of the exterior of your home is just as important as the inside, if not more. First impressions matter, as they say.
If you have a lawn, your goal should be to maintain it and while some people do this on their own, others find that it is more convenient to employ professional services. Topdressing as a method may sound strange to the novice but it is a good way to keep your lawn in good shape.
Here, we will talk about topdressing a lawn, how to do it and the benefits involved.
What Is Topdressing?
Topdressing a lawn is the act of laying a thin layer of organic material over the lawn. Typically ¼ to ½ inch of compost or other soil amendment is spread over the lawn with shovels.
It is a bit strange to the layman because naturally, organic materials should be spread on the soil beneath the grass and not over the grass itself. You will soon be able to appreciate the purpose of this action.
Topdressing is an ancient practice that dates back to the old St. Andrews Golf Course when golf was first invented in Scotland.
Until recently, the instant satisfaction and comfort for homeowners and the profits made by lawn care companies meant that modern chemical processes succeeded over the ancient art of manually spreading compost on lawns.
Now, with the growing popularity of organic lawn care, a new interest in topdressing is developing among many homeowners. It also saves costs.
After application, the material should be worked into the soil layers with a rake, dissolved by rain or sprinklers, or settled on its own. Topdressing a lawn is an activity that involves using one’s energy and this may be the reason for its lack of popularity so far.
There are power spreaders and compost spreaders, but they are expensive machines, especially for a piece of equipment that is rarely used.
However, as more gardeners become aware of the issues associated with chemical lawn care, they are beginning to see the benefits of top dressing and enlisting the services of lawn care professionals while others do it by themselves.
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What Topdressing Material To Use
Choosing the wrong material can lead to serious problems so one of the first and most important steps is deciding what type of cover material to use. Experts say that one of the most important considerations in topdressing is the use of a material of comparable texture and composition to the soil below.
The use of topdressing mixes that contain drastically different textures of the underlying soil leads to the development of a distinct layer that greatly hampers air and water movement eventually resulting in an overall reduction in turf quality.
The most common options are:
2. topsoil similar to the soil underneath
3. high-quality compost, or
4. a custom mix of materials.
Sand is sometimes used as a mulching material on lawns with heavy, clayey soils or with drainage problems. Typically applied after aeration, the sand fills in the holes and over time can alter the soil structure to allow for better drainage and a larger, healthier lawn.
Sand is commonly used on golf courses, mainly on artificial greens. Avoid using fine sand on coarse soil.
2. Topsoil Similar To The Soil Underneath
Topsoil that is similar to the existing soil structure is satisfactory and will help soften the soil, but it does not contain much organic matter.
3. High-Quality Compost
High-quality finished compost is dark and rich and contains a variety of organic materials. Compost is the most recommended material as long as it is ready and low in fillers like sawdust.
4. A Custom Mix Of Materials
It is common for homeowners to use a mix of the above materials–sand, topsoil and compost to create an inexpensive mix that is comparable to their existing sand structure. In most cases, a mixture of compost and topsoil or sand is suggested.
You can get most of these materials from garden centres, landscaping or construction companies and local nurseries if you do not have them on standby.
Tips For Topdressing Your Lawn
Now you know what materials you can use for topdressing a lawn, here are some tips to help you do it:
1. It’s a good idea to do top dressing in conjunction with other cultural practices such as aeration, weeding and overseeding. Top dressing after aeration and overseeding is the ideal trio of lawn care practices to create a healthier lawn.
Aeration opens up the soil, allowing better air and water movement and reducing compaction. The ventilation holes, in turn, provide the perfect environment for reseeding, allowing new generations of grass to establish and thrive.
Composting helps fill in gaps, covering the seeds and creating ideal germination conditions and just the right amount of nutrients for grass seedlings as they develop.
2. Time the topdressing according to the type of grass you grow. Cover the lawn in spring for warm-season grasses and in fall for cool-season grasses.
This allows for three or four mowing sessions before intense heat or cold sets in.
3. Frequent application of topdressing improves straw decomposition and improves the soil. However, it will raise the level of your garden.
To ensure you don’t raise it too high, it’s best not to routinely top-dress the entire lawn. Treat bare areas as needed and the entire lawn every few years.
Covering your lawn with topdressing can be done on one’s own, but it’s quite stressful and time-consuming. Some home improvement stores offer power spreader machines for rent, which reduces labour but increases costs.
How Much Material Will I Need To Topdress A Lawn?
How much material do you need for topdressing? To amend most home lawns, ¼-inch is the recommended layer of topdressing.
That means you need 0.77 cubic yards of material to topdress 1,000 square feet.
To find the amount of material needed for your yard, multiply the square footage of your yard by 0.77, then divide by 1,000.
Example: If your yard is 800 square feet, the calculations would be as follows:
800 x 0.77 = 616
616 ÷ 1,000 = 0.62 cubic yards of topdressing material is needed.
If you have a particularly troublesome lawn, it may take multiple applications to put in enough material to achieve your expectation.
How to Topdress Your Lawn in 8 Steps
Before proceeding into how to topdress a lawn, let’s see the tools you’ll be needing:
1. Aerator or power rake
3. Rake, shovel, or garden fork
5. Grass seed (if overseeding)
In case you don’t have a power rake or an aerator to break up the thatch layer, it’s better to hire an expert to topdress your lawn for you. Now, for the steps, we have:
Use a rake or core aerator to break up the layer of straw to allow the topdressing material to penetrate the surface. Straw is the interwoven layer of living and dead materials between the blades of grass and the ground which can prevent topdressing elements along with water and other nutrients from reaching the soil.
Remove any grass clippings, loose thatch or clods from lawn aeration from the area you are going to cover.
Mow the grass as short as possible within the recommended range. Do this without stressing it to the point of damage.
Disperse grass seed when overseeding. This is a great opportunity to grow new grass as topdressing will help speed up seed germination.
Scoop a small amount of your chosen masking material a few square feet at a time. Throw the materials in one motion, to spread the material in a ¼ inch layer across the turf.
As a substitute, you can use a peat moss spreader for compost as long as the compost material is dry and filtered. The filtered compost has undergone a screening process to remove large particles.
Gently rake organic matter after spreading, then water the lawn well to bring the material to the surface
Beware of heavy foot traffic on the lawn for the next week and wait a week to 10 days before you mow the lawn again.
It takes time for microbes to start working and for organic matter to break down so you will have to wait. It may be a few seasons before you see the huge usefulness of topdressing, but you should see progress in drainage and water retention in a few weeks.
Benefits Of Topdressing A Lawn
Fertilizer is one way to add nutrients back into the soil, and this is very beneficial. Top dressing is another way to add nutrients back into the soil.
These are some benefits associated with topdressing a lawn:
1. Improves Soil Quality
Topdressing provides a variety of minerals to the soil, which includes nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. It additionally improves the soil’s cation trade capacity — it’s capacity to preserve vitamins and water. This offers you greener grass.
2. Improves Soil Aeration
Soil organisms wear down the compost and cause little air plugs to open up. This aerates the soil so grass roots get greater oxygen and water can penetrate the ground.
3. Adds Useful Soil Microbes
Compost incorporates useful soil microbes. Soil microbes break down organic matter through the chemical substances that they release.
Some part of that system fixes nitrogen, a crucial step before the plant can take in the nutrient. They additionally assist manage diseases and adjust carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus levels.
4. Aids Seed Germination
All the benefits of topdressing make it a valuable factor in seed germination, so it goes hand in hand with overseeding.
5. Smooths Out The Lawn
Poor lawn levelling can cause drainage problems, which can lead to fungal diseases and erosion. Topdressing smooths out unevenness in the lawn.
6. Trims Thatch
Straw or thatch is an interwoven layer of dead and dying grass leaves, shoots and roots that if too thick, can impede air and water movement. The microbes in the compost break down the straw, allowing water to flow freely and bring nutrients to the roots.
In addition, it reduces the need for fertilization and helps soil retain moisture.
FAQs About Topdressing
Should You Fertilize Before Topdressing?
It’s optional, but yes, you can fertilize before topdressing a lawn.
Do You Water Your Lawn After Topdressing?
You should water your lawn after topdressing as this helps boost the terrain.
When Can I Mow After Topdressing?
Do not mow directly after topdressing. It is best to leave the lawn alone for a week to 10 days before cutting the grass.
What’s The Difference Between Basal Dressing And Topdressing?
Basal dressing is an application of chemical fertilizer added in a topdressing manner.
Is Topsoil The Same As Topdressing?
No. Topsoil alone can help you even out your lawn, but it does not contain the beneficial nutrients, texture, and microbes of a compost mixture.
How Much Do The Materials For Topdressing Cost?
Topsoil costs $12 to $50 per cubic yard. Sand costs between $15 and $40 per cubic yard. You can purchase 1 cubic yard of screened compost for $30 to $80.
Should I Fertilize Before Or After Topdressing?
If your yard is due for fertilization, apply to top-dress a few weeks prior.
In the practice of topdressing a lawn, a thin layer of material is spread over the lawn using shovels in a throwing action. To be effective and beneficial, the material to use must have a texture similar to that of the soil below.
Topdressing can be a lot of work. But it provides a healthy and organic way to make your lawn look like the one in your dreams. All it takes is determination and a lot of concentration.
If you’ve learnt something new about topdressing a lawn and its benefits, do let us know. We would love to hear about your experiences.