Top Dressing basics - for lawns

Goeie more mense, 

Tops dressing your lawn. Apart from the labour, it sounds so simple. However, there are numerous aspects to consider if you think you might need to top dress, and even if you don't think you need to.  Below are a list of questions I receive often regarding top dressing.  

Q: Do you need to top dress every spring? 
A: No.

Q: When should I top dress then?
A: Only when you need to smooth out the surface or if you are absolutely certain that you must add organic matter to your current profile. And in that case, you should be core aerating first or it is almost pointless.

Q: What type of sand/soil do I use?
A: This is probably the most important questions to ask. The short answer is that you should find a local sand supplier that can get you your local soil type and simply keep adding that. Maybe add a silica or compost, or both, compliment if your local soil is not great to start with.  Remember, your lawn is not like your flower beds.  If you fill it with organic matter instead of something stable like silica, then it will continually change contour. If you have a specific set of problems, then you address them accordingly. For example, if you have very sandy soil like I do then you need to add organic matter. The finer and better quality the compost, the better. Better quality compost is compost that has finished composting completely. No big chunks of plant matter that you could identify basically. The compost that you usually buy for your garden beds is still full of raw material that still needs to be broken down. This process if fine in beds but not in lawns. You introduce a mass of problems including insect issues. Properly fermented compost will allow the material to be immediately useful to the plant and soil and it will feed and nurture the plants, microbes etc, properly and without introducing unwanted pathogens or bad bateria etc etc.   You really don't always know what's gone into cheap composts.

Q: Can I top-dress any grass type?
A: No, not exactly. Or rather, not in the same fashion. Top dressing grass like kikuyu is simple. So simple. It's nearly impossible to mess it up. However, grasses like LM Berea can quickly become damaged and or smothered by top-dressing incorrectly.  I will write a slightly more advanced blog on ideal procedures and do's & don'ts regarding top dressing later on. 

Q: Can I top-dress any time of the year?
A: The short answer is no. The slightly more detailed answer is yes, but you need to be extra careful based on the current lawns condition and growth pattern, the season etc. If you are in a warm area and winters never freeze then yes you could very possibly top dress year round without any major issues. 

The absolute basic to remember are:
Never completely smother the grass. 
Monitor the current weather patterns and be somewhat aware of your micro-climate.
Choose your medium wisely. Ask for help if you are not sure. Not the guy at the hardware store, ask me.

And I think that sums up the basics. Thanks again for tuning in and please feel free to ask should you have any questions.

Cheers, Trav.