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Topdressing is a sand or prepared soil mix applied to the surface of the lawn. The term topdressing also is used for the process of applying the material.
Topdressing materials are evenly applied in a thin layer, typically ¼ inch (6.35 mm) or less, for a variety of purposes. Topdressing can be used to smooth the surface of the lawn. It can reduce thatch buildup by encouraging decomposition. It can be used following seeding, overseeding or sprigging to protect the developing plants from desiccation during the establishment process. It also can be used on open, windswept turfgrass to help avoid winter desiccation.
When applied following core aeration, the topdressing material filters into the holes opened by the aeration process, speeding turfgrass recovery.
What we do to Topdress your lawn.
Check the soil pH and adjust accordingly if it is out of range.
Open up the thatch layer with a power rake or aerator to create channels for the topdressing material to penetrate the surface.
Mow grass as short as possible, without stressing it to the point of damage.
Remove grass clipping, dethatching debris, and plugs of soil from aerating.
Spread grass seed if overseeding.
Working in small areas a few square feet at a time, shovel out a small amount of your material. Using your shovel, “fling” the materials with a smooth, sweeping motion similar to hitting a hockey puck, spreading the topdressing over the lawn to a depth of ⅛ to ½ inch. Fertile, rapidly growing turf and lawns that are more prone to thatch may require heavier topdressing rates.
After spreading the topdressing, gently rake it in or water the lawn well. That moves material down to the soil surface.
Volume of Soil Needed to Topdress 1,000 Square Feet
Depth of topdressing (inches) Volume of soil required (cubic yards)
1/8 inch 0.40
1/4 inch 0.77
3/8 inch 1.14
1/2 inch 1.54
5/8 inch 1.91
3/4 inch 2.31
Source: James Beard, "Turfrass: Science and Culture"