How to topdress your own lawn…in 8 easy steps (ok it does require some physical activity)

January 13, 2017

How to topdress your own lawn…in 8 easy steps (ok it does require some physical activity)

So you have heard the benefits of topdressing your turfgrass already, and in your boredom at work you are researching the plan to topdress your lawn this weekend.  Obviously you could pay a professional but you would rather save some money and get a little exercise while making your lawn look great.  Here is the basics to topdress your lawn yourself:

  • Most importantly this IS ONLY about topdressing warm season turfgrasses such as any type of bermuda, zoysia, centipede, st. augustine, and a few more. This is NOT for fescue (unless you want to kill it, which is perfectly fine but round-up is easier).  Almost all subdivisions in North Georgia and Atlanta are sodded with bermuda by the contractor (on the worst red clay they can find).  If you have this type of grass then let’s go.

    Typical bermuda in poor health on clay soils.
  • Make certain that the grass is green. Most warm season turfs green up in May or June in the South.  Let the grass come out of dormancy (when it’s brown) for at least a few days or couple of weeks.  You can topdress into July and August but not past that as it will not recover before the fall.
  • Get your supplies. You will need to schedule a delivery of topdressing sand (it will fit in the driveway or along the curb).  A rule of thumb is order about a ton of sand per 1,000 square feet of lawn (not more than 2 tons per 1,000 sqft.)  You will need shovel(s), wheel barrow or topdresser, a loader or tractor with loader is optional, small rake and a landscaping rake (or shop broom -the wide one).  If you have a larger area, a drag will help too.  A drag can be an infield rake (like the thing they drag around at the Braves’ game), but a simpler version is an old chain link fence gate or just fence weighted with 2×4 lumber (be creative because all you are doing it dragging it around to level up the sand).

    Mower, core aerator, and topdressing sand are all ready!
  • Scalp the grass with the mower. Cut it on the lowest setting on the mower without the mower hitting the ground.  This may take a couple of trips around depending on the initial turf height and mower.
  • Core aerate the lawn. Core aeration increases the effectiveness of topdressing.  A core aerator is the type that has hollow tines and throws out a plug (looks like goose poop).  You can usually rent these at hardware stores, rental stores, or buy a cheap one that you pull with your mower. There are so many types.  Don’t worry just do it – you aren’t going to hurt the grass.  Just look out for the sprinkler heads, tree roots, and buried phone lines (which should be deeper than a few inches anyway).

    Red clay plugs and thatch are replaced with sand to help aeration and infiltration.
  • Spread some topdressing sand. Read this if you need to know what kind and why you should spread sand instead of soil or compost.  You can be fancy and rent an actual topdressing machine (from Keystone Rental, along with a mini loader.  However, I suggest breaking out the ol’ shovel and wheel barrow.  You can just sling the sand evenly over the grass with the shovel or dump it in small piles and spread with the landscaping rake.  A drag (see above) behind a lawn mower works great for larger areas.  Either way you need a long flat surface to help level up the ground with the sand and break up the core plugs.  The idea is to add about a ¼ inch of sand and work it evenly.  It will fall into the holes.  Keep in mind you may have some small areas/holes that need more sand to level it up.

    Using a small topdresser or a shovel works great to spread the sand.
  • It is optional but a little fertilizer is great to add to help the turf recover. A fertilizer with a high amount of nitrogen (that is the first number on the analysis) helps the leaves grow back quick.
  • Water that lawn or ask God to do it with some rain. This allows the sand to melt in and the grass to recover quickly.

Now you know that your neighbors will be jealous once your lawn looks awesome, so this is your warning that you better be ready to tell them who to call or you may be doing it again next door.  Seriously, just get them to split the cost of the load of sand delivered with you so you can have help and save money to start with.  This is work but have a good time and enjoy your time outside!

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