Friday, April 19, 2013
Top-dressing the lawn
It’s only been 2 ½ months since we top-dressed our front lawn with compost but we are already seeing good results! So I thought I’d go into a little more detail. Top-dressing is an old concept that had fallen by the wayside when the need for instant gratification and convenience triumphed over the old art of manually spreading compost on the lawn. However with new attention to organic lawn care and a desire to reduce the use of chemicals top-dressings is coming back into favor with homeowners.
Topdressing a lawn is the process of adding a thin layer of organic material over the lawn. Typically 1/4 inch - 1/2 inch of compost is spread across the lawn with shovels, in a throwing action. The material can be worked into the thatch area by raking, washed in with rain or sprinklers, or allowed to settle on its own. It is labor intensive and may be a reason for its lack of popularity. Lawn care companies sometimes offer a topdressing service but it is often viewed as an inconvenience because of the materials and labor involved. But as organic lawn care gains popularity, topdressing the lawn on a regular basis may become more popular and more services may offer the service.
Topdressing's benefits are numerous and it's hard to understand why it is not the basis for every lawn care program.
• topdressing can improve soil biology by adding organic matter and the beneficial microorganisms of compost. Soil structure and drainage can be modified by topdressing.
• Topdressing reduces lawn stresses, helps keep thatch under control and acts as a long term natural fertilizer. Adding organic matter to a lawn by topdressing with compost is the most beneficial cultural practice lawn care has to offer.
Topdressing materials vary greatly and are usually dictated by budget and need. Most topdressing is performed with compost, which can vary in quality and get expensive. Compost should be made from the appropriate ratios or wet and dry materials and should be fully "cooked". High quality finished compost should be dark and rich and made with a variety of organic material with few fillers like sawdust or loam.
When topdressing, it is beneficial to do it in combination with other cultural practices like aerating, de-thatching and over seeding. Topdressing after aerating and over seeding (as needed) is the ideal trio of lawn care chores that will result in a healthier lawn. The aerating opens up the soil, allowing for better air and water movement and reduced compaction. The aeration holes provide the perfect seed bed for over seeding, allowing newer generations of grass to establish and thrive. Lastly, topdressing with compost, helps fill in the holes, covering the seed and allowing for ideal germination conditions with a burst of nutrients as the seedlings establish. It's a win, win, win, situation.
I haven’t reseeded my front lawn. Once this application of compost has fully worked the yard is and actively growing I am planning to aerate, then plan to topdress again.