Is Adding Sand To Lawns A Good Idea?

Every homeowner wants a lush, green, and healthy lawn. Adding sand to lawns is becoming quite a common practice but there are pros and cons which you should take into account before deciding to go forward with it. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about adding sand to your lawn.

Adding sand to your lawn is a practice, that originated through golf courses, known as a top dressing. You should only add sand to fill holes and to prevent thatching on your lawn. While adding sand, make sure to spread it evenly and no more than ½ inch thick. It is also important to mix it with some mulch or topsoil.

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What is Top Dressing?

Top dressing is a common practice in the maintenance of golf courses. This practice has been adopted by a lot of homeowners in taking care of their own lawns. Golf course owners often use sand to take care of uneven surfaces, covering bare spots and taking care of thatching.

Should You Add Sand to Your Lawn?

One of the biggest reasons why adding sand works on gold courses is because most of the courses have been built on sandy soil. Specialized turf grasses which grow on sandy soil are often used in constructing golf courses which react very well with adding sand on top.

On the other hand, the grass species which is used for common lawns are not the same, and adding extra sand on top might just have more negative effects than positive. Another factor to consider is that the golf courses are often much more regularly maintained when compared to home lawns.

It is only recommended to use sand on your home lawns for taking care of aesthetic problems like fixing holes, unevenness, covering exposed tree roots, and thatching. It should only be used as a thin layer, no more than ½ inch thick, and mixed with mulch or topsoil. You should only use sand when you really need to.

Some of the Pros of Using Sand on Your Lawn

Adding sand to your lawn can have a number of positive effects. You can use sand to even out the lawn. Nobody likes an uneven lawn and adding a thin layer of sand is an easy method to fix this issue. This will also prevent water from collecting in low areas of your garden.

Another advantage is that of filling any exposed holes in your garden. Although keep in mind that in this you should pay attention to the type of soil your lawn has and mix some topsoil/mulch along with the sand to add the necessary nutrients to the soil.

Another advantage of adding sand is to protect your grass from frost in the winter season. Adding a thin layer of sand can protect the grass roots and blades from freezing over in the winter.

Adding sand can also improve the drainage in your lawn. Of course, sand particles help break down the top soil and add air pockets which facilitate the drainage of your lawn. Although keep in mind that it is not recommended to add sand to clay soil. As I said in the Homes&Gardens article the added air pockets in the soil, due to the sand, also let other nutrients make their way deeper into the soil and consequently supporting healthier growth.

Possible Problems with Using Sand as a Top Dressing

Along with the advantages of adding sand to your lawn, there are a lot of disadvantages as well.

Adding sand to clay soil will only make the soil condition worse. This practice instead of loosening the soil only ends up making it more cement-like. The clay soil only gets weighed down by adding heavier sand particles making it more impenetrable.

Another disadvantage is that adding too much sand can end up choking the grass. Spreading the sand unevenly can also create mounds of sand on your lawn which don’t only look aesthetically displeasing but can also suffocate the grass and the roots underneath.

Sand also doesn’t have any nutritional value. Adding sand alone too frequently or too much can make the soil devoid of any nutrients. This will affect the health of your soil and consequently your grass as well.

It is also very common for the sand to be contaminated with weeds and nematodes which can ruin the look and quality of your lawn. Many plants and trees require sandy soil for growing, however, usually, the grass growing in our yards requires nutrient-rich soil. So unless you want to kill trees, bushes, shrubs, or grass entirely, do not overuse the sand.

Tips For Using Sand as a Top Dressing

Keep in mind the following tips before using sand as a top dressing:

  1. Understand the soil profile of your lawn before getting started. The sand that you are going to use should have the same type and texture as the soil underneath for best results. The best method is to mix some topsoil and mulch along with the sand to make it more compatible.
  2. Keep the lawn dry for 2-3 days before adding the top dressing.
  3. Do not spread the sand too thick. The top dressing should not be thicker than ½-1 inch.
  4. Spread the sand evenly using a rake, and make sure there are no heaps of sand lying on top of the grass.
  5. Make sure the grass blades are not fully covered with sand.
  6. Use clean, sterilized sand free of any weeds and nematodes.
  7. Do not cut the grass for about a week after adding the top dressing.
  8. Remove any debris, thatch, clumps of grass, or other materials from the area.
  9. You can mow the grass beforehand, but don’t cut it too short.
  10. Open up the top layer of the soil using a spade so that the sand is able to penetrate deeper. This should be done especially in cases where you want to improve the soil drainage. 

Is it Better to Use Soil Mix Instead of Sand on Your Lawn?

Using a mixture of topsoil and sand is a much better option than using sand alone, especially when you have to cover larger holes created by stump removal, or while dealing with more uneven surfaces.

Adding topsoil or mulch to the mixture adds some nutrients to the top dressing and lowers the risk of choking the soil and the grass underneath. Adding topsoil also makes the top dressing more compatible with your existing soil type.

Using this mixture will also improve drainage, reduces thatch build-up, and improves drainage. This method is quite affordable as well. You can add a little mulch to this mixture to boost the nutrient build-up as well.

Should You Use Sand on Clay Soil?

You should not use sand on clay soil. Adding sand ends up weighing down the clay soil which is inherently not aerated and absorbent enough. This can choke the grass underneath and lead to water clogging the lawn.

How to Use Sand To Repair Bare Spots on Your Lawn?

You will need a spade, sand, topsoil mix, mulch, and grass seeds for this process.

  1. Identify the bare spots on your lawn
  2. Dig down in the area using the space and dig out the dead root system as well. Cut through the dead spots and stop at healthy grass.
  3. Mix sand and topsoil in a 50-50 mixture in a clean bucket
  4. Spread this mixture over the hole until it is level with the surroundings.
  5. Sprinkle grass seeds over this area. Use about 1/3 of a pound per 250Sq. Ft.
  6. Add 1/8 inch of the sand and topsoil mixture over the seeds
  7. Press down on the soil just enough so that the seeds don’t wash or blow away due to wind and rain.
  8. Add a layer of shredded mulch over this area and keep it covered for about 2 weeks or until the seeds germinate.
  9. Keep this area moist but don’t add too much water. Prevent any puddling

What are the Common Top Dressing Materials Other Than Sand?

Some of the most common top dressing materials include topsoil and compost.

Adding the same layer of soil which is in your garden or in your region ensures that the soil is getting the necessary nutrients and that the added layer doesn’t clash with the already existing soil type. This won’t change the composition of your lawn but at the same time, it might also not improve the fertility of the soil.

Compost is considered to be the best choice as a top dressing material. It is natural, full of nutrients, and improves the overall fertility of your lawn. It also doesn’t have any of the negative features of both sand and topsoil. Make sure that the compost doesn’t have any weed seeds or other invasive plants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s take a look at some of the most common queries related to this topic:

Does Lawn Sand Help With Drainage?

Using small amounts of sand in your lawn can help break down the soil cods and further aerate the soil which helps with drainage. Although it shouldn’t be used with clay soil and no more than ½-1 inch of sand should be applied. Also, keep in mind the type of topsoil you have and whether the sand type matches it or not.

What Type of Sand is Best for Lawns?

Sharp sand or coarse sand is the best option for lawns with sandy or loamy soil. It is affordable and quite versatile.

Can You Use Builder’s Sand on Your Lawn?

Builders’ sand is quite salty and has a high Ph content which can prove to be harmful to your lawn. One of the biggest risks of using builders’ sand is poor drainage.

Conclusion

Adding sand to your lawn or ‘topdressing’ should be done to cover any holes, uneven surfaces, and exposed tree roots along with thatching and aerating the soil. But adding too much sand can end up suffocating the grassroots. While filling larger holes, make a mixture of topsoil or mulch along with sand to add some nutritional value to the soil as well. Make sure the sand is spread evenly and not more than ½-1 inch thick.