Dress to impress: Should I top dress my lawn?

We often get asked about top dressing – what is it, is it necessary? This all depends on the type of lawn you have and want to achieve, its soil make-up and the level of care and attention you’re willing to offer your lawn.

Top dressing is the application of ‘topsoil’ which is loam - a mixture of clay, sand and silt. It is used to improve soil quality, level out areas and improve drainage and as a part of a regular lawn maintenance programme.

Free draining

High in nutrients

Clay soil


Sandy soil


Top dressing




Some people may consider top dressing their lawn with compost or mulch – but we recommend you reserve these for garden / pot planting*. So, who should apply top dressing, and who should ignore it?

Yes, absolutely

If you have a fine ornamental lawn, top dressing will most likely already be a part of your regular lawn maintenance routine including scarifying and aerating. If it isn’t, you may see your finer grasses suffer. Sweeping top soil into the air pockets created through aeration will help to improve your lawns overall quality and drainage ability. Top dressing can also help prevent compaction and make your lawn less susceptible to disease. In addition, finer grass species will thrive in equally fine soils, so it’s best to keep on top of your lawn maintenance.

Yes, you should consider it

If you notice that your soil doesn’t drain well, e.g. puddles do not drain away off the surface after rainfall, you find that grass struggles to grow in a certain area, has raised and flat areas, or you find the soil hard to work over – you should consider top dressing your lawn when doing some renovations. This will help to balance the level of clay and sand particles in your soil, creating a much more favourable foundation for you to work on and better conditions for your grass to grow in. Top dressing can also be used to level out areas of your lawn that may dip, helping to prevent water gathering on the surface.

No, not necessary

If you deem your soil to be of good quality e.g. already a loam type composition (grass currently grows well there, it is easy to work) there is less need for a top dressing. Of course, you can always improve upon ‘perfection’ and regularly fertilise to ensure your lawn remains in tip top condition.

*Compost and mulch, whilst nutrient laden, do not hold the same structure as top soil and are therefore not as efficient as adapting soil make up, surface levelling and improving drainage.

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