How To Use Lawn Top Dressing To Improve Your Lawn

A pristine lawn is the pride of every gardener. Its lush green will help to highlight other plants and gives your garden this luxury feel.

So, when your lawn is not looking too good, it can spoil your garden. That’s why, in this article, we will explain how to use lawn top dressing to improve your lawn.

What Is Lawn Top Dressing?

Before we go into the nitty-gritty of how to use lawn top dressing, let’s first talk about what it actually is.

Top dressing is a natural method of feeding your lawn to keep it healthy and looking good. 

This method works by spreading a thin layer of organic material over your lawn. 

Benefits Of Using Top Dressing

lush green lawn

Using top dressing has many advantages:

  • improves the soil structure and keeps the grass healthy and looking good
  • when used regularly, it will improve drainage
  • makes the grass stronger, so it can cope better with dry conditions
  • protects your grass over winter so that it will look great when spring comes along
  • makes your lawn surface smoother so that it is easier to cut your grass
  • prevents the occurrence of a thatch layer (layer of dead turf material under the grass)

Making Your Own Lawn Top Dressing

In this guide on how to use lawn top dressing to improve your lawn, we will show you how you can make your own top dressing mix.

All you need to know is what materials to use. Normally, you have a mix of these components:

  • sand: helps to level and smooth your lawn, and it will also help to improve the soil composition.
  • peat: can make the soil more acidic, which will discourage worms. However, it is important that the peat is sourced responsibly.
  • loam: this is mostly used for cricket pitches and the like, as it is hard but still lets grass grow.

You should keep in mind that whatever you dress your lawn with, it will work its way down to the existing soil and become part of it.

So it is important that you use a mix that is suitable for your lawn’s soil structure. 

Generally, there are three lawn types: sand-based, clay-based and loam-based. Depending on which category your soil falls under, you choose the ratio of your top dressing accordingly.

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Sand-based Lawns

Sand-based lawns have the main characteristic of being free-draining, which is good. However, they also dry out quickly and can suffer from drought. 

Sandy soils also tend to be poor in nutrients.

To find out if you have sandy soil, just pick some up and rub it between your fingers. It should feel gritty and crumble away easily.

If you have a sand-based lawn, your top dressing mixture should contain four parts loam, three parts peat and one part sand.

Clay-based Lawns

clay soil

Clay-based lawns will have poor drainage and the soil will go hard and crack in dry conditions. It does have lots of nutrients though.

To check if you have clay soil, pick some up when it’s wet and roll it into a ball. It should feel lumpy, slimy and sticky and stay in shape.

If you have clay-based soil, then use a top dressing mixture that contains two parts loam, one part peat and four parts sand.

Loam-based Lawns

Loam-based soil is said to be the perfect soil as it will retain moisture, but not get waterlogged. And it contains lots of nutrients.

Take a handful of your soil and look at it. As it consists of a mix of sand, clay and silt, you should see different sized particles. If you roll it into a ball, it will keep its shape, although not as well as clay-based soils.

If you have loamy soil, then use a mixture that contains three parts loam, one part peat and three parts sand.

If you want to go peat free, which is something we would always recommend, then you can substitute peat with well-rotted animal manures or composted plant remains.

You can also use commercially bought compost as lawn top dressing. Later in this guide about how to use lawn top dressing to improve your lawn, we will give you recommendations on the best lawn top dressing mixes available on Amazon.

How To Use Lawn Top Dressing

No matter why you want to use top dressing to improve your lawn, it will definitely help to get a healthier lawn.

When To Top Dress Your Lawn

wheelbarrow

Before we show you how to use lawn top dressing, we need to talk about when to do it.

The best time to apply top dressing to your lawn is when the grass is growing. In the UK, this is in spring, summer or autumn, anytime between April and October.

Most commonly, top dressing a lawn is done either in late spring or early autumn. However, it can also be done in summer, if your lawn looks worn out in places.

Choose a day when the grass is dry, as this will make it much easier to work the top dressing into the lawn.

Preparation

If you want to know how to use lawn top dressing, you have to prepare your lawn first to get the best out of the procedure. First, mow your lawn. Cut your grass as short as possible, and mow it in two directions.

You can do this by mowing in one direction first, then lowering the grass cutter and mowing your lawn again in a different direction.

Then you should consider scarifying and aerating your lawn. 

Scarification is a process where you remove any excess thatch from your lawn. You will need a scarifier for this process. You can either buy one, hire one or get a lawn care company to do it for you.

Aeration is a process, where you make small aeration holes in your lawn, to allow water, air and nutrients to get into the soil and reach the roots of your grass.

There are special tools, such as manual core or spike aerators. But you can also use a garden fork. Or you can get a lawn care company to do both processes for you.

Applying The Top Dressing

applying top dressing

Now we come to the nitty-gritty of how to use lawn top dressing. Once you have prepared your lawn, you can apply the top dressing. Here is how to use top dressing:

  1. At every few steps, place a pile of dressing material for you to spread over the soil surface of your lawn. 
  2. Then use the back of a rake or stiff brush to spread the top dressing over the lawn.
  3. Finally, use the brush to work the top dressing into the grass and any dips you have.

Repeat this until you have covered your entire lawn. You want to make sure that the layer isn’t too thick. Otherwise, it could smother the grass. 

Pay attention to make sure you don’t have any clumps of top dressing on the grass. You should be able to see the grass clearly.

When you are happy with your application, water your lawn lightly. This will help the top dressing to work its way into the soil. Continue to do so for another few days if it does not rain.

Don’t cut your grass for a few days, otherwise you will remove some of the top dressing. It could also damage your lawn mower.

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3 Best Lawn Top Dressing Mixes

If you don’t want to make your own top dressing, you can buy commercially available ones online. Here are our 3 recommendations of the best top dressing mixes available.

#1 Tru-Turf Lawn Top Dressing

This top dressing mix is ideal for high quality lawns. 

#2 Jamieson Brother Top Soil

Top Soil 35L Bag - Peat Free Enriched Loam Based Garden Top Soil | Ideal For Lawns, Raised Beds, Borders, Allotments & Levelling - By Jamieson Brothers
467 Reviews
Top Soil 35L Bag - Peat Free Enriched Loam Based Garden Top Soil | Ideal For Lawns, Raised Beds, Borders, Allotments & Levelling - By Jamieson Brothers
  • TOP QUALITY SOIL: Jamieson Brothers Premium Top Soil in a handy 35L bag. One bag will cover approx. 1.5m X 1.5m at a depth of 2cm, Coverage will change depending on the depth laid. Screened and graded premium grade garden top soil for your selected area.
  • WHAT IS TOP SOIL USED FOR: Use for general planting and lawn preparation ideal for flowers plants fruit vegetables, loam based quality screened soil, Can be used to replenish lawns and borders after removing old soil. Great for creating new beds and borders, Top soil is a great for filling up raised beds, repairing eroded spots, or filling in holes. When planting a new lawn or overseeding a patchy lawn, you can use a thin layer of top soil to protect grass seeds as they start to grow.
  • WHY SHOULD I USE TOP SOIL: Lots of gardens have poor soil, such as those near new-build homes, where the natural topsoil has been stripped away during the build process. Topsoil can be used to cover the ground, to create new beds, borders or to provide a base for turf laying or sowing grass seed. In paved gardens where there is no access to soil, topsoil can be used in raised beds for growing many plants, including vegetables.

This top dressing mix is loam-based and peat free, so you can buy with an easy conscious.

#3 Pro-Grow Peat Free Lawn Conditioner

Pro-Grow Peat Free Lawn Conditioner 25l Bag - Use After Turfing, Lawn Repair or Top Dressing
20 Reviews
Pro-Grow Peat Free Lawn Conditioner 25l Bag - Use After Turfing, Lawn Repair or Top Dressing
  • 100% British and peat-free
  • Environmentally friendly: by buying this product you are helping to reduce the ecological impact and carbon footprint associated with removal of peat from peatlands.
  • Blended with a specially chosen sand which improves soil structure, aeration and drainage

This top dressing mix is also peat free.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have not found all the answers to your questions in this guide about how to use lawn top dressing, maybe you will find it in our FAQ section.

Can I Sow New Grass Seeds At The Same Time?

This depends a lot on the existing state of the lawn. If the lawn needs a lot of top dressing, seeding should be done afterwards.

Otherwise, the grass seeds already sown might move around while you try to level the soil.

If only a light layer of top dressing is to be added, then grass seed sowing can be done at the same time.

How Much Top Dressing Should I Put On?

The quantity of top dressing soil depends on the requirement of the lawn.

If it is in bad shape, more than 3 to 4 kg per square meter might be required. However, if it is a lighter dressing just to keep the whole lawn smooth, it can be less than 1 kg in the same sized area.

The amount also depends on the type, nature and look of the lawn. If you are using a commercially bought top dressing, follow the instructions for how much you need to use.

How Often Should You Use Top Dressing?

This depends on the soil conditions of your lawn and your soil. If it’s in poor condition, you might want to do it in spring and in autumn.

However, generally, it is said that you should use lawn top dressing once a year to keep your lawn healthy and looking great.

Now that you know how to use lawn top dressing, you will have the luxurious and lush lawn that you deserve. And maybe you now want to grow some vegetables. If so, check out our growing guides, such as growing tomatoes from seed, growing courgettes vertically or growing potatoes in a container.

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