How, why and when to top dress your lawn

Posted on March 25, 2020 at 4:25 pm by

Top dressing your lawn doesn’t mean adding grass seed, but instead is about sprinkling on a layer of mixed materials high in nutrients, that help it to stay healthy and retain the right levels of moisture.

Some of the substances you might use to top dress your lawn include:

· Soil (for well-balanced lawns).

· Sand (for lawns that are often waterlogged).

· Peat (for lawns that need to retain more moisture).

It’s not only about drainage and moisture though, as the materials used in your top dressing can also physically stabilise the lawn after aeration, encouraging stronger, healthier roots and better blade growth.

Using the correct topdressing materials can also help to neutralise the soil ph if you have a high alkalinity or acidity soil which will help your other plants grow as well as keeping your lawn healthy .

How to test your soil type

All lawns get wet after rain and dry on hot days, so how do you test your soil type to know for sure if you have a moisture problem?

There are several methods you can try:

Ribbon Test

Take a small handful of soil and roll it into a ribbon or sausage shape between your hands. Then hold it vertically and see if it breaks.

If the soil sample holds together well, it’s more likely a clay soil; if it won’t hold together even in your palm, it’s more likely high in sand content.

Squeeze Test

Probably the easiest method – just rub some of the soil between your fingertips. A gritty texture indicates sandy soil, while a slick or slimy texture is a sign of clay.

Jar Test

Finally, the most complex method. Take several samples of soil from around your garden and remove any grass and other debris.

Dissolve the soil in a jar of water, give it a good shake, then leave it to settle. Sand settles fastest, with the silt layer following a few hours later and any clay settling out over the course of up to a few days. Otherwise specific soil particle test kits are available to be purchased online.

When to top dress a lawn

Once you’ve tested your soil type and bought or made a suitable lawn care top dressing, it’s a matter of timing.

If you aerate your lawn annually, it’s sensible to top-dress immediately afterwards, when the aerated soil is in the best condition to take in the new nutrients.

Clear your lawn, scarify and aerate it, then mow the grass. Sprinkle an even layer of lawn top dressing, but not so deep that the blades of grass don’t show through.

Water and rake it into the lawn gently, and finally add any grass seed if you wish, and your lawn should look great for a long time to come.