Top Dressing: The Foundation Of All Lawn Care

There was a time in the history of lawn care when top dressing fell out of favour with gardeners,...

There was a time in the history of lawn care when top dressing fell out of favour with gardeners, sort of like a niche Dark Ages. We don’t know why exactly, all we know is it did. Luckily for lawns everywhere, though, homeowners have gotten back into the swing of top dressing.

Sort of like veganism and double-strapping your backpack, it’s become cool again. It’s being celebrated in the way it should be. And, to help you understand why this resurgence has come about and why you should be jumping on the bandwagon, we’re going to tell you everything you could possibly need to know about top dressing your lawn.



  1. “What Is This Top Dressing You Speak Of?”

To give it to you as straight as possible, top dressing pretty much consists of you adding a thin level of stuff to your lawn. Obviously, this doesn’t help you out much because the term stuff is the most ambiguous word in the English language (just ask any parent who’s ever asked their kid what they did at school). So, to clarify, the term stuff typically means spreading about ¼ inch of compost over your entire lawn using little more than your trusty shovel and a well-rehearsed swinging action. But it doesn’t stop there.

Once you’ve done this, you have a choice of a) working it into your lawn with a rake, b) letting the rain wash it in, or c) just leaving it to settle on its own. Whatever you decide, though, it’s easy to see why this process became unpopular: it requires a seriously healthy dollop of effort.

Of course, you can buy top dressers and compost spreaders, but they’re usually a pretty penny so, if you were planning on rummaging through the bargain bin at your local hardware store, don’t bother. That said, if you really aren’t keen on “labour intensive” chores, then we offer a top dressing service. It’s your call.


  1. “What’s The Point In All This?”

Oh, jeez, where do we start? There’s just so many reasons why top dressing is a winner. In fact, it’s so good for grass, we can’t understand why it’s not at the core of every lawn care program between Aberdeen and Timbuktu. To spell it out:

  • It adds organic matter: thanks to the microorganisms in compost, it literally improves the biology of your soil.
  • It improves drainage: we know we said top dressing was typically made of compost, but a few tweaks here and there – such as adding sand to the equation – and you can improve the structure of your soil and correct any drainage issues.
  • It makes lawns better-looking: it doesn’t matter whether your lawn is bumpier than a teenager’s face, by adding a top dressing you can smooth out your lawn while also encouraging lovely lush grass to rise up, the carpet of dense blades making the view from your kitchen window that much more delightful.
  • It helps keeps lawn and order: whether your lawn is stressed or ravaged by thick-thatch, adding a top dressing is a simple solution, not to mention that it works as a long-term and natural fertiliser. Basically, it’s everything that Donald Trump isn’t: super-beneficial.


  1. “Okay, So Which Stuff Makes The Best Top Dressing?”

We hate being the bearers of bad news but, unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to this and that’s because what makes a top dressing great depends on what your budget is and what you want to use it for. That said, the most widely celebrated top dressing is made from compost, but even these can differ wildly – there’s just so much that goes into creating great compost, from the ratio of different materials to how much organic filler is added, and even how long it has been “cooked” for. Our advice: always buy your compost from a reputable source; someone you can trust.

If, however, you’re wanting to add a top dressing because the soil beneath your lawn is heavy, or made of clay or has obvious drainage problems, then sand is a pretty good option. To get the most out of it, though, make sure you apply it after you’ve aerated your garden, that way the sand can slip down the holes and start to alter the actual structure of your soil. Not only will this stop water from sitting on your lawn, you’ll also find your grass starts to look a whole lot healthier. Cue the party poppers.



  1. “And What About Actually Applying It? How Do I Top Dress?”

We’re not going to kid ya, applying a top dressing can be pretty hard work. However, to avoid such a negative connotation, let’s replace the term ‘hard work’ with ‘good exercise’ and start again. Top dressing can be pretty good exercise and that’s because there’s quite a lot of shovelling involved. It’s totally-totally worth it though. You could even use it as an excuse to practise your hockey skills because we recommend using a similar ‘shot-taking’ action. You know, a smooth-sweeping motion. That way you’ll cover a lot of ground and have a better chance of spreading it that even ¼ inch.

As we mentioned, though, there are top dressing machines available and, if you do decide to use one of these, all you’ll need to do is shovel your stuff into the hopper and push, letting the spinning disc do all the hard spreading work for you. Keen Kevin no doubt has one because, well, he’s Keen Kevin. But he won’t be alone and that’s because they’re getting more and more popular as more and more people look to improve their lawn care routines.

One thing we should probably mention, though (especially if you want to get the most out of this process), is the importance of top dressing in conjunction with other lawn care treatments, such as aerating, scarification and overseeding. In fact, the triple threat of overseeding after aerating followed up with a lovely layer of top dressing is the ultimate triple threat and a surefire way to make your lawn sparkle like an emerald broach caught in the evening sun at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party. “Why?” We hear you shouting eagerly. Well, aeration opens up your soil to let more water and nutrients soak in, thus becoming the perfect bed for your overseeding, all of which is boosted by your top dressing, which provides your new grass seeds with the perfect environment to survive and thrive. It’s a #triplewin.