Lawn Top Dressing Service in Austin, TX
Top Dressing 101: How Does Top Dressing Help My Lawn?
Top dressing interacts with your lawn in much the same way bacteria, fungi, and other microbial activity interact inside your intestine. You need microbial activity in your intestine to help the body break down and consume food.
This microbial activity in your intestine lives in harmony in a symbiotic relationship with your body. When things are not right in your intestine bad things happen.
The soil under the lawn lives in the exact same symbiotic relationship as your body and intestine. Top dressing actually feeds the microbial activity in the lawns root network and helps it indirectly also in a symbiotic relationship. This microbial activity must have organic matter to flourish in the soil.
See Our Lawn Top Dressing Process in Action!
Organic Matter Matters!
Lawn Top Dressing is Like Steroids for Your Lawn
The problem in central Texas is the soil does not contain much organic matter. The soil found on the raw land tends to be clay over caliche or worse caliche at the surface in some areas. The builder trucks in loads of chocolate loam from a pit near the airport in Del Valle but that is also mediocre soil at best. This loam is composed of extremely finite decomposed organic matter that is really a clay with little nutrient value.
Do not confuse top dressing material with top soil which is really just another word for chocolate loam. You can not just add anything to a lawn to improve it. Top dressing which is also called lawn composting is what delivers results and consists of the proper composted organic matter.
Top Dressing pumps up the level of organic matter in the soil and allows the population of microbial activity in the soil to explode very quickly. Literally top dressing is like organic steroids for your lawn. Top dressing causes the root network of the lawn to get much larger and more efficient at extracting water and nutrients as the picture below illustrates.
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 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 soil. The microbes and root network flourish together in a symbiotic relationship that creates a vastly enhanced root network. The stronger root network can now reach further out into the soil to extract 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.
Does Your Lawn Need Help?
Whether lawns are Bermuda, Zoysia, St. Augustine, or Buffalo Grass it will benefit from top dressing with a high quality compost material. Top dressing can keep lawns looking great or save a lawn on the brink of needing to be re-sodded. All turf types depend on the symbiotic relationship with microbial activity in the soil to survive and flourish.
Problem lawns may look a little better in the spring but once the weather heats up and the stress level on the turf increases more problems always arise.
Often the growth rate of turf in poor soil will decline no matter how much it is watered or fertilized. The color will often get a slight or moderate tinge of yellow and there may be patchy areas where the lawn grows slightly better surrounded by areas with anemic growth rates.
These are all classic signs of a soil that is low in organic matter and has depleted levels of beneficial microbial activity.
For lawns with no history of health issues like anemic growth, lack of color, poor density, or similar issues the application of half of a yard per 1000 square feet of top dressing works great. For lawns with a history of issues or that were damaged in the past by a lack of water, Chinch Bugs, or other issues a heavier rate of three quarters of a yard per 1000 square feet of material is recommended. For people who want to make their lawn even more robust and healthy many chose to make their first application the more potent three quarters of a yard application and then follow it up the following years with a half yard application per 1000 square feet.
In very rare instances where sandy loam was present in the soil one cubic yard of top dressing was applied per 1000 square feet and three quarter yard applications were done the following years.
The top dressing material used by Plantscape Solutions consists of 80% composted material and 20% fine washed sand. There is no Dillo Dirt or any manure in the mix. This makes it suitable for use on properties along Lake Austin, Lake Travis, Barton Creek, or any where that runoff into water ways could be a concern. The material is screened down to a small ¼” size to allow it to easily sift down through the lawn to the soil where it belongs. The fine sand also adheres to the compost material allowing it to resist floating in heavy rain events.
The top dressing material is custom made to Plantscape Solutions specifications by Organics By Gosh which has new owners and processes in place for 2020. They have invested millions in new state of the art composting facilities and equipment.
The Many Benefits of Top Dressing Your Lawn
- 20% fine sand in the mix works to break up the tight clay bonds in the soil that bind the particles close together. Clay consists of tiny particles of highly decomposed organic matter. Clay particles tends to form tight bonds that make it difficult for water to be absorbed or stored in the soil. The sand helps break up these tight bonds in the soil and allow water and beneficial oxygen to better infiltrate the soil.
- Organic matter stimulates the microbial activity which allows the lawn to better extract nutrients and more water from the soil. This allows the lawn to also survive with less irrigation because the root networks now has the ability to extract more water from the soil.
- The organic material creates water holding voids in the soil that act like tiny sponges. This allows the soil to better hold and conserve water. This translates into the need to water less.
- Density of all types of turf will increase by top dressing. Common Bermuda has been known to double in density and resemble Tif Bermuda more then common. Thicker turf better shields the soil from the sun and minimizes evaporation.
- Growth rates of all types of grass will increase by top dressing. This makes it harder for weeds to invade. This is especially true in Bermuda lawns. This decreases the need for herbicides to control weed issues.
- Restores the organic material in the soil and naturally occurring nitrogen depleted by synthetic fertilizers.
- Environmentally friendly way to naturally fertilize your lawn without causing any problems for sources of drinking water such as lakes, creeks, or the Edwards Aquifer.
- Lawn top dressing also helps trees that share the same soil environment with the lawn. For trees with health issues top dressing is a great way to boost a trees vitality.
- Improves the effectiveness of organic or traditional synthetic fertilizer absorption by the root network. This can lead to the need to use less fertilizers. Over fertilizing with manmade fertilizer is never good because it depletes the organic material and naturally occurring nitrogen in the soil. It can also cause the buildup of salts, phosphates, and other elements in the soil that can rise to a toxic level.
Aeration yields benefits when done on sports fields that have engineered soil that contain organic material and sand that has been compacted by high traffic. That type of soil does not bind together like the clay chocolate loam or denser underlying clay found deeper under every lawn in central Texas.
Aerating the loam soil found under lawns in the Austin area is not going to alter the soil characteristics. It remains a clay soil with tiny particles that stay tightly bound together. Now it just has aerator holes that will yield no measurable benefit and money was wasted to create those holes needlessly.
There is not a single company in Austin that sells residential aeration services that has information on their website showing any aeration trials or experiments that have yielded results. It is simply a service preached to make companies money during the slower winter months. It is not a service that is done to the benefit of customers. Really it’s not that much different then the companies who convince customers chopping up Crepe Myrtles is a needed and beneficial service.
Top dressing causes the root network of the lawns to grow to often be double or more the size. This root growth coupled with adding sand and compost to the soil creates aeration the natural way. The root growth displaces soil and aerates in the process. The sand in the top dressing helps break up the tight clay bonds in the soil and in conjunction with the compost it creates voids in the soil that help aerate it. Allowing Mother Nature to aerate your soil for free is really the way to go. The results are not smoke and mirrors and will be long lasting.
We Do Not Use Dillo Dirt!
The top dressing mix contains no Dillo Dirt or manure. This insures no odor issues often found with Dillo Dirt or other companies products that contain manure. The Plantscape Solutions material has naturally occurring nitrogen from the foliar material that was introduced into the composting process. You get a great spring green up minus the odor. If you are trying to be environmentally friendly with your life choices then top dressing fits that mantra perfectly.
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.
Build Up a Healthy Lawn by Top Dressing Annually
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.
Top Dressing Experiments
Plantscape Solutions relies on trials conducted on a regular basis to gauge and measure the results of top dressing. Trials are done and samples of material are sent off to be analyzed for the breakdown of elements, compounds, and micronutrients. (view a sample soil test report)
Here is an experiment done to clearly show top dressing delivers results. The pictures below show in step 1 how a section of the lawn was covered with plywood so no top dressing was applied to the test area. Step 2 shows the area after top dressing and step 3 shows the exposed untreated area after the plywood was removed. Step 4 shows how the grass looks a few weeks later. The experiment was done in March while the lawn was still dormant.
You can clearly see how the top dressing application caused the lawn to start to green up while the untreated area clearly showed no signs of coming out of dormancy.
The step 5 picture shows how the lawn looks in the heat of summer months later after seven days with no irrigation. This particular lawn has been top dressed every year with a 3/4ths yard of top dressing per 1000 square feet.
Tree Health Benefits
Do you have stressed or damaged trees that need some restoration help? Or do you just love trees and want to do all you can to help protect them. Plantscape Solutions has done several experiments on properties with stressed or damages trees and seen great results.
The tree roots of Live Oaks, Cedar Elms, Red Oaks, and most other trees are in the top 18” of soil. This root zone will benefit from enhancing the microbial activity in the soil just as your lawn does. If the intent is to help trees with health issues the recommendation would be to apply between 3/4ths of a yard to one full yard of material per 1000 square feet.
If your trees root zone is in the same area as your lawn then your trees will benefit from top dressing the lawn as an indirect benefit.
Lawn Top Dressing Estimate
Feel free to contact Plantscape Solutions for pricing information specifically tailored to your lawn. Our Top Dressing service area covers Austin, Lakeway, West Lake Hills, & Buda. We have gone to other locations on request such as Cedar Park, southwest Round Rock, Dripping Springs, and Driftwood, so please gives us a call and see if are able to service your lawn: (512) 626-8400