How to Topdress a Lawn


Topdressing a lawn is a process of placing compost over the lawn in spring to prepare a lawn for green in summer. Topdressing is an environmentally friendlier alternative to using fertilizer, which can put contribute to pollution with phosphate runoff. Topdressing a lawn can also help reduce thatch and nitrogen burn, which build up in a lawn when too much fertilizer is used.

Step 1

Place a core aerator on your lawn before topdressing. Start the aerator with a pull rope starter. Push the aerator over your lawn in sections. Repeat this process up to four times, varying the pattern that you push over your lawn each time. There should be between 40 and 60 holes per square feet in the surface of your soil when you have finished.

Step 2

Spread a 1/4-inch layer of compost over your lawn. You will use approximately 24 cubic feet of compost per 1,000 square feet of lawn.

Step 3

Work the compost into the soil by combing your grass with a leaf rake. The compost will move into the aeration holes and begin to dissolve and improve the nutrient content of your grass.

Step 4

Water your grass with 1 inch of water per 1 inch of lawn with a sprinkler to help work compost into the soil. Use a rain gauge to determine how much water you have used.

Things You'll Need

  • Core aerator
  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Leaf rake
  • Garden hose
  • Sprinkler


  • Ohio State University Extension: Natural Organic Lawn Care for Ohio
  • Ohio State University Extension: Will Compost Improve My Lawn?
  • University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Low Input Lawn Care

Who Can Help

  • Lousiana State University Extension: Topdressing Turfgrass Sod
Keywords: topdressing a lawn, using compost fertilzer, lawn maintenance

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."