Applying top dressing to a lawn

Lawn during top dressing

Time needed: 1 day.

Have you ever wondered how to apply top dressing to a lawn? Top dressing is applied to lawns to level out any minor imperfections on the surface of a lawn and it helps to create an ideal environment for new grass seeds to germinate. Top dressing is commonly carried out by lawn care experts during Autumn or Spring. Many of the UK Lawn Care Association’s lawn care experts opt for organic top dressing, which is made from well-rotted garden waste and helps to get organic matter back into the soil.

The typical stages of applying top dressing are as follows:

  1. Before applying top dressing

    The lawn should be prepared by scarification and aeration. Scarification removes the excess thatch which sits at the surface of the soil and aeration helps to alleviate any compaction in the soil under the lawn. Scarifying and aerating the lawn helps to ensure the top dressing can be worked deep into the sward.

    UK Lawn Care Association member scarifying a lawn

  2. Select a top dressing

    There are many types of top-dressing products available to choose from. Many of the UK Lawn Care Associations member companies choose organic soil conditioner top dressings to help ensure organic matter gets back into the soil. Most top dressings are made up of a mix of sand and loam with the proportions stated, such as a 50/50 or 70/30 sand/loam mix.

    Gardening tools on soil

  3. Calculate how much top dressing is needed

    This will vary depending on the size and condition of the lawn. As a rule of thumb you should allow approx 0.5 to 1m3 of top-dressing for every 100 square metres.

    Calculating expenses

  4. Spread the top dressing

    If you choose to top-dress your lawn manually, firstly, load your wheelbarrow with the chosen top dressing mix. Start at one end of the lawn and shovel equal portions from your wheelbarrow at regular intervals across the lawn.

    Man with shovel by wheelbarrow

  5. Brush it in

    Once you have small piles of top dressing on the lawn, start to gently push it over the lawn to create a smoother surface using the back of a rake. This stage does require a lot of care & attention – the aim of top dressing is to improve (even out) the surface of the lawn so you need to make sure you’re creating that. It’s easy to create an even bumpier surface if you rush this part! Once it’s all evenly distributed, switch to a stiff brush and brush the dressing into the dips of the lawn to help create a new even surface.

    Stiff sweeping brush

  6. Consult a lawn care professional

    There’s no denying it – the manual way of top dressing a lawn can be very labour intensive. All the loading, shovelling, pushing and brushing can take its toll on the fittest of us! This is why a better option might be to call on your local professional lawn care company. Lawn technicians can apply top dressing to your lawn using a mechanical spreader to make sure it’s applied evenly across the lawn. They can then use specialist equipment such as mechanical brushes or drag mats to ensure the top-dressing is worked evenly into the lawn, giving a perfect even lawn surface. You can search for your local independent lawn care company here

    UK Lawn Care Association technician applying top dressing

  7. Watering after top dressing

    Once the top dressing has been applied to the lawn, be sure to water the lawn daily during spells of dry weather.

    Hose pipe watering a lawn

  8. Mowing

    To help your grass recover after top dressing, do not mow your lawn until the grass has grown to approx. 2-3 inches (5-7cm) long.

    Top Dressing Mowing


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