Lawn Top Dressing for Austin, TX

Lawn top dressing is like steroids for your lawn.

A. This is typical of the root structure found in many of our central Texas lawns that are growing in a depleted clay Chocolate Loam soil with low amounts of organic matter. There is microbial activity present but at very low levels.

B. This is typical of a root structure that would be found growing in amended soil with more organic matter present. Top dressing material contains a high level of organic humus matter which provides a food source for the beneficial microbes that occur naturally in the soil. The microbes and root network flourish together in a symbiotic relationship that creates a vastly enhanced root network. The enhanced roots can now reach further out into the soil to collect more water and nutrients. The microbes are also able to get into small particles of soil and extract water and nutrients that the roots could not get to otherwise.

a versus b
root comparison
The lawn top dressing process uses only finely screened material which largely settles into the lawn with a clean looking end result. The most important thing that differentiates our material from the material used by most companies is the process of how it is created. We use only static pile created material. This process ages and turns the piles of compost for up to a year or more. Flash composted material is made in as little as 30 days. If you had a lawn top dressed with flash composted material on one side and static made material on the other you would likely see a difference yourself after about 30 days. The main reason flash composting process exists is to create material much more quickly not because it enhances the material in any beneficial way for the consumer.

Our material is custom made by Master Nurserymen Phil Gosh and his company Organics By Gosh. The mix only uses compost made the old school way using static piles that age and create the material over a period as long as a year. To read more about the benefits of using static piles to create superior compost check out the section on the facts about compost.

lawn top dressingPeople are often unaware of the effect soil micro organisms (often referred to as microbes) have on the health of a lawn. Soil microbes in a healthy soil environment will colonize the root structure of turf grasses such as St. Augustine, Bermuda, Zoysia, and Buffalo. Microbes help the roots by acting like billions of little water and nutrient straws that help feed the root network in a symbiotic relationship. These beneficial soil microbes are in the fungal, bacterial, algae and protozoa groups. The more soil microbes that are present the more it will benefit a lawn.

The microbial activity in the material we use gives off heat as it is made in the composting process. The ideal temperature is about 180 F for production. Here you can see in the picture below that the material headed to a job is still a steamy 116 F. This is a clear indicator that the material is teaming with rich beneficial microbial activity. We take quality control of the product we use to a level you will not likely find else where.

The amount of organic material available in a soil is what controls the level of microbial activity. Here in central Texas the soil used in the construction of most lawns is chocolate loam. This alluvial type soil has been deposited by the Colorado River in the Del Valle area over millions of years. Chocolate loam is low in beneficial organic material and consists of tiny clay particles that tend to be flat in structure. The tiny flat particles tend to stack very tightly which allows for very little soil aeration. This is not a conducive environment for soil microbes that require oxygen and organic matter to thrive.
By top dressing (also called lawn composting) turf it helps it conserve water in two ways. The top dressing causes a huge spike in microbial activity in the soil which super charges a lawns root network by giving it billions of new micro conduits for up taking water and nutrients. The enlarged root network can now handle the stress of heat and drought better and can also more efficiently uptake moisture when conditions are less than ideal.
A third benefit of increasing the amount of organic matter present in dense clay chocolate loam soils is that it increases the water storage capacity of the soil. In clay soils the amount of available space between the particles of soil to hold water is very limited. As a result when chocolate loam is irrigated the air gaps between the soil particles are displaced very quickly and runoff becomes a problem. By applying top dressing it forces the organic material down into the soil by foot traffic, mower traffic, and gravity. The organic material creates much needed water holding voids in the soil. With watering restrictions becoming the norm maximizing your landscapes ability to hold water is becoming very important. By top dressing it’s possible to increase the water holding ability of soil by 30% or more.
Between increasing soils water holding properties and the size and efficiency of a lawns root network it is entirely possible to irrigate 25% less by top dressing annually. The average person will get a 100% return on their investment by the end of the year. If water restrictions get ugly top dressing could make the difference between your lawn surviving the abuse or losing everything. Top dressing costs as little as $95 per 1000 square feet while re-sodding the same size area can cost $775. Top dressing an average size lawn is only about $475 with delivery and is really a cheap way to hedge against our ongoing water woes.
The top dressing material we use is a custom made Triple Power Compost blend that contains 30% fine washed sand. The sand works its way into the soil and helps break up the tight bonds that hold clay particles together. Another benefit of sand is that it clings to the compost and gives it much greater mass which in turn helps it settle into the lawn more cleanly. If you get a major downpour traditional compost will often begin to float and be displaced while a compost/sand mixture does an amazing job of staying put. The mixture is screened down to a fine 1/4” size to really help it cleanly settle into your lawn.
soil close up
The top dressing product we use uses old school turkey manure and not Dillo Dirt as the source of nitrogen to help lawns green up in the spring. Some people are squeamish about Dillo Dirt and don’t like the thought of what they flushed down the toilet ending up on their property. To have a single product that appeals to everyone we avoid the use of Dillo Dirt.
The goal of top dressing annually is to keep increasing the organic content of the soil year over year. The benefits and residual effects of top dressing can easily exceed twelve months. The goal of annually top dressing is to prevent the beneficial effects from fading away. We want to build on the soils improved organic content with each annual application. There is a zero percent chance of ever having too much organic material in your soil. The U.S. Composting Council’s goal is for soil to have at least 5% organic matter and that goal takes time to achieve. Both Plantscape Solutions and Organics By Gosh are members of the U.S. Organic Council and strive to deliver the best product possible.

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