Top dressing is the process of adding compost, soil mixture, or sand to the surface of your lawn or other landscape area to improve the soil.
Unlike rototilling, double-digging, and other intrusive (read backbreaking) methods, top dressing is relatively simple and easy. Ultimately, the top dressing is mixed into the existing soil through natural methods of worm and plant feeding, rain and irrigation, and foot traffic, but it is merely spread around on top. Nature does the rest of the work for you.
Top dressing provides these benefits:
Materials to use when top dressing
Selecting the right materials for top dressing your lawn may be as simple as spreading aged compost or it may be a scientifically researched analysis of existing nutrients and soil structure. A soil test is always a good idea because there is no sense adding nutrients that are already in abundance. At the same time, you generally can’t go wrong spreading aged compost over a lawn or other growing area. The most common mistake made selecting top dressing material is to use fine grain sand to reduce compaction. The grains of sand end up clogging the tiny spaces between soil aggregates that allow for the flow of air and water, creating concrete. These spaces are called the macropores and micropores.
Also, thatch may create impenetrable barriers to roots if it is too thick before applying a top dressing. (Thatch is the layer of dead stems, stalks, and other plant material that can build up in a lawn.) A dethatching rake can break up this layer, making your top dressing more effective. A thin layer of thatch should not cause any problems as the top dressing and irrigation will help it to break down more quickly.
How to apply top dressings
Top dressing is handled differently, depending on the area being treated. To top dress an existing garden bed, the application of an inch or two of aged compost each year will significantly improve soil structure and fertility - just be sure to keep this mulch a few inches away from tree and shrub trunks to avoid crown rot. To successfully top dressing a lawn, follow these simple steps:
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