Lawn dressing is the task of applying a mixture of sand, soil, and compost to the surface of a lawn. The lawn dressing process is based on enhancing the integrity of the existing grass, causing as little damage as possible. You will need to spread the topsoil in an even layer over the surface of the lawn. If need be, you can fill in any depressions in the surface and mix in some extra seed.

Lawn dressing and top dressing (often referred to as topsoil) can be considered the same thing when it comes to the jargon of lawn lovers and lawn care. The terms refer to similar but slightly different practices. Both involve applying materials to the surface of a lawn, but their purposes and the materials used can vary. Let us understand the slight difference before we delve deeper into dressing your lawn like a Pro…… (or you can get in touch with your local lawn mowing service and get a quote)

What is the difference between lawn dressing and top dressing/ topsoil?

Lawn Dressing:

Lawn dressing is a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with “top dressing/topsoil,” but it can also refer specifically to a mixture that is prepared for top dressing purposes. Lawn dressing typically consists of a blend of materials such as sand, soil, and organic matter like compost. The exact composition can vary depending on the specific needs of the lawn and the preferences of the gardener.

Top Dressing/Topsoil:

Top dressing or topsoil refers to the practice of applying a thin layer of soil, sand, compost, or a mixture of these materials onto the surface of a lawn. The primary purpose of top dressing is to improve the quality of the soil, level the lawn surface, and enhance the overall health and appearance of the grass.

Both lawn dressing and top dressing involve the application of materials to the surface of a lawn, but “top dressing/topsoil” is a broader term that encompasses various materials used for improving the lawn’s health and appearance. “Lawn dressing” can refer to the specific mixture of materials used for this purpose.

What does top dressing a lawn do?

Lawn dressing benefits are so numerous; it’s hard to understand why it is not the foundation for every lawn care program. By incorporating this practice, you unlock a range of benefits that contribute to the vitality and lushness of your lawn:

  • Enhanced Soil Biology: Introduce valuable organic matter and beneficial microorganisms into the soil through lawn dressing, enriching the soil’s overall biology and promoting a thriving ecosystem.
  • Improved Soil Structure: Utilise top dressing with materials like sand to effectively modify soil structure and enhance drainage, fostering an environment conducive to root growth and water absorption.
  • Smoothed Terrain: Regular application of lawn dressing helps level uneven surfaces caused by worm castings and other natural factors, resulting in a smoother, more visually appealing lawn.
  • Lush Density: Encourage the growth of a dense and luxurious lawn by consistently employing lawn dressing techniques.
  • Thatch Control: By reducing stress on your lawn, lawn dressing contributes to effective thatch control. This helps prevent the accumulation of excess thatch, ensuring the health of your lawn’s upper layer.

What is the best sand for top dressing?

The choice of sand for top dressing depends on the specific needs and characteristics of your lawn. Here are a few types of sands commonly used for top dressing:

River Sand: This type of sand has coarse particles and is known for its excellent drainage properties. It can improve soil structure and help prevent compaction. River sand is ideal for addressing drainage issues and enhancing soil aeration.

Builders Sand: Also known as soft sand, has finer particles compared to sharp sand. It’s often used for bricklaying and construction but can also work well for top dressing. It provides good drainage while also offering a smoother texture.

Top Dressing Sand Mixes: Some companies offer specialised sand mixes designed specifically for lawn top dressing. These blends often combine various types of sand, soil, and organic matter to create an ideal mix for improving soil structure, drainage, and overall lawn health.

Lawn dressing can vary in quality; high quality should be dark and rich and contain a variety or organic materials with few fillers such as sawdust or loam. In some cases, it is blended with soil or sand to make it more affordable and easier to spread. Compost should be made from the appropriate ratios of wet and dry materials and should be fully “cooked” in other words highly decomposed.

Step by Step Lawn dressing like a Pro

Dressing your lawn involves a systematic process that, when followed correctly, can yield significant benefits for your lawn’s health and appearance. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to properly dress your lawn:

Materials Needed: Not all the materials are an absolute necessity, but do the best that you can.
* Suitable sand or sand mix (sharp sand, builder’s sand, horticultural sand, or a specialized top dressing mix)
* Compost (optional)
* Lawn spreader (optional)
* Rake
* Lawn roller (optional)
* Lawnmower

Step 1: Prepare Your Lawn

Begin by mowing your lawn to a shorter height than usual. This will make it easier to distribute the dressing evenly across the surface.

Step 2: Assess Your Lawn’s Needs

Identify any low spots, uneven areas, or compacted soil that might benefit from dressing. This assessment will guide the distribution of the sand.

Step 3: Spread the Dressing

  • Sand Distribution: Fill the lawn spreader with the chosen sand or sand mix. Adjust the spreader settings according to the manufacturer’s guidelines for the recommended application rate.
  • Even Application: Start walking along the edge of your lawn, and operate the spreader in straight lines, overlapping slightly with each pass. Ensure an even distribution of sand across the entire lawn surface.

Step 4: Level and Rake

Once the sand is spread, use a rake to gently level it out. Work the sand into low spots and uneven areas to achieve a smoother lawn surface.

Step 5: Optional Compost Application

If desired, spread a thin layer of compost over the sand. This adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil, further enhancing its health.

Step 6: Watering

Lightly water the lawn after dressing. This aids in settling the sand and ensures that it makes contact with the soil beneath.

Step 7: Lawn Rolling (Optional):

If you have a lawn roller, you can use it to gently press the sand and soil mixture into place. This step can help improve soil contact and level out the surface.

Step 8: Lawn Recovery

Allow the lawn some time to recover. Avoid heavy foot traffic and mowing for a few weeks to give the grass a chance to grow through the dressing.

Step 9: Regular Maintenance

After the recovery period, resume regular lawn care practices such as mowing, watering, and fertilizing as needed.

It is a good idea to perform lawn dressing in conjunction with other cultural practices, such as aerating, de-thatching and over seeding. Lawn dressing after aerating and over seeding is the ideal trio of lawn care practices, sure to create a healthier lawn.

Generally, dressing every 1-3 years is recommended, but closely monitor your lawn’s response and adjust accordingly. Additionally, consulting with local lawn care experts can provide tailored advice based on your region’s climate and soil conditions.


I am a lawn care treatment specialist whose passion for working outdoors has blossomed into a thriving business. What sets me apart is my dedication to understanding each lawn’s unique needs. I don’t just apply generic treatments; I assess soil conditions, identify specific grass types, and tailor my approach accordingly. This personalised touch has earned me a reputation for delivering exceptional results. I now offer comprehensive lawn care solutions, including planting, executing meticulous cleanups, and even crafting stunning landscapes. My team and I value building relationships with our clients, taking time to educate them about proper lawn care practices, empowering them to maintain healthy, beautiful lawns year-round.