Spreading sand over a lawn is a popular practice. This practice is
sometimes referred to as topdressing or sanding a lawn.
Basically, topdressing a
lawn is done to help alleviate a thatch problem or to fill in low areas in a
lawn. Many people topdress because someone else did it and at least temporarily
the lawn looked a little better. But to sand a yard just for the sake of doing
it can be a major mistake.
If sanding is needed to
help level a yard, it’s best to use something that is comparable to the texture
of the existing soil. Do not use something very different in texture. For
example, with our sandy soils, it’s not a good idea to use something with much
clay in it. You do not want to create layers of distinctly different textures.
A well-regarded agronomist once professed, “Layering… it is desirable in cakes but not in turf.”
Also, a common problem is to introduce weed seeds when sanding.
It’s difficult to find weed free sand. I’ve talked to people that wished they’d
never sanded their yard after having to deal with a yard full of weeds that
came in as seeds in the sand. Buy from a reputable source.
It’s difficult to uniformly
broadcast the sand. Apply it too thick and you’ll smother the grass. Typically,
it’s recommended to not apply over an inch of sand at one time to keep from
smothering the grass. It can be difficult to uniformly spread the sand. Golf
courses have expensive, specialized equipment to help easily spread sand at a
precise thickness. They can adjust the equipment to spread the sand at 1/2 inch
or at 1 inch in depth, etc. Try to duplicate this by throwing sand out with a
shovel and a wheelbarrow. The pile of sand begins to look like a mountain as
you are pushing the wheelbarrows of sand back-and-forth. I’ve seen people with good intentions eventually give up and
let the pile of sand stay in place on the lawn for months after a few
days of attempting to throw the sand out by hand over the lawn. The grass
quickly dies under that pile of sand. Once the sand pile is finally gone, they
have a large round circle of dead grass.
“Topdressing home lawns has
minimal agronomic benefits” according to Dr. J. Bryan Unruh, Extension Turfgrass Specialist at the University of Florida
and co-author of The Florida Lawn Handbook. When asked his advice for
homeowners on topdressing, his reply was “don’t.”
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