A Homeowners Guide to Topdressing Lawns

Many ask when the right time to top-dress your lawn. It’s a simple answer and a simple do it yourself project. Spring and fall are the definitely the best times of the season for topdressing. This is when the nights are cooler and you get that fresh dew cover to assist with germination of the grass seed. Getting outside and adding the finishing touches to your lawn in preparation for winter is key in aiding of pests, winter mold and ensuring readiness for a healthy lawn for the early spring. Remember when taking on this project being prepared is a key element to your lawns success. 

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Here are some tools and materials you may want to consider when preparing to top-dress your turf areas. 

  • Aerator (Not 100% required) 
  • Wheelbarrow  
  • Shovel 
  • Hard and Soft Rake 
  • Hose and Sprinkler 
  • Topdressing Blend (Compost and Coarse Sand Mix) 
  • Grass Seed 
  • Turf Fertilizer 

Once you have all these materials ready to go your all set. Here is a step by step process to help assist in the DIY project.  

  1. Measure your area to determine how much material you will require. Our Miller Compost Website has a soil calculator to assist you with precise amounts for the material you will require. www.millercompost.ca   
  1. Determine soil type. Dig a small hole and take a handful of moist soil. If the soil forms a firm ball and will not break apart, your soil is clay. If the soil breaks apart easily and feels gritty, you have sand. 
  1. Determine type of topdressing best suited for your lawn.  
  • Field Topdressing for clay soils  
  • Premium Compost for sandy soils 
  1. Determine what type of grass seed for your growing conditions (sun, part-shade, low maintenance etc.)  
  1. Dethatch the lawn with a rake or dethatching machine. This will remove dead grass that forms a mat at the soil layer. Dethatching will bring the material to the top and will need to be removed before mowing and/or topdressing. 
  1. Mow the lawn as low as possible, remember not so short you burn it. This will improve better seed germination and soil contact with the topdressing material. 
  1. Remove any debris left on the lawn from dethatching and mowing.  
  1. Core-aerate the lawn. If the soil is poor, consider removing the cores. If the soil is good quality, leave them on top of the lawn to rot down naturally. 
  1. Spread the topdressing around the lawn. You should try and achieve a layer between one-quarter inch to one-half inch across the lawn. 
  1. Using the backside of the rake, work the topdressing so it makes contact with the top of the soil. If you already core-aerated, try and work as much topdressing into the holes as possible. 
  1. If you are planning on over-seeding the lawn, use Canada #1 grade seed. This will ensure you get the best seed, with the fewest amount of weed seeds. If you purchase grass seed without Canada #1, you could be introducing unknown amounts of weeds to your lawn. After you apply the recommended amount of grass seed over the area. Lightly rake the lawn again to help distribute the seed evenly and to make contact with the soil. 
  1. Compost contains plant nutrients; they are in the form of slow-release fertilizer and will be made available to the grass over time through microorganisms. It is recommended that a quality turf starter fertilizer be used at the time of establishment. 
  2. Giving your lawn a good deep watering will help settle the new topdressing into the root-zone and help the topdressing into the core holes. If you over seeded, you will also need to keep watering your lawn well into the fall to prevent water stress.

Managing our lawn is any easy practice for homeowners to participate in. Hard to believe, but pound for pound we use to use more pesticides and herbicides per acre on our lawns than big agriculture does on food crops. Instead of synthetic fertilizers that cause water-polluting nutrient runoff, harm beneficial soil life, and introduce unnecessary chemicals into your yard’s ecosystem, turn to compost instead. As you now know, the benefits are many and you can feel great about letting your kids and pets roll around in the lawn without worry. 

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