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View Full Version : How Do You Handle Top Dressing?


DavidNJ
12-12-2010, 05:05 AM
I've only found one contractor who would do it residentially, and then only for 50+k sq ft. While still waiting for the soil test, based on the aeration the front lawn needs it; about 10k sqft.

No one here rents a top dressing machine. Most of the rental places never heard of it. The front yard would need around 15 cuft, too much to unload from a dump truck (no place to put it).

What would you do?

cgaengineer
12-12-2010, 09:47 AM
I have applied 7 yards of topdressing sand by hand so if you are doing compost its doable. I had the sand dumped in the driveway and I don't see why you couldn't do the same or even have it dumped in the street if its in a subdivision.
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fl-landscapes
12-12-2010, 12:19 PM
I've only found one contractor who would do it residentially, and then only for 50+k sq ft. While still waiting for the soil test, based on the aeration the front lawn needs it; about 10k sqft.

No one here rents a top dressing machine. Most of the rental places never heard of it. The front yard would need around 15 cuft, too much to unload from a dump truck (no place to put it).

What would you do?

what I would do is jump on an opportunity and buy a earth and turf 100sp top dresser and tap into an untapped residential top dressing business for your area.

Patriot Services
12-12-2010, 04:19 PM
It would be a great add on business. Especially here in FL. Trying to get the average customer to understand the concept is a different matter. I actually had a customer ask for sod that doesn't have that "dark junk" under it.
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robtown
12-12-2010, 06:56 PM
we offer it. I also own a topdresser, and have been subcontracted to do other lawn guys properties.

DavidNJ
12-13-2010, 01:02 AM
A top dressing can require 30-50 cubic yards of material. That sounds like multiple dump trucks and a front loader in addition to a top dressing machine. That should read 15 cu yds.

I don't think the town would like it on the street. The driveway was paved this year. My guess is it would have to go on a section of the lawn. The top dressing machines seem to have relatively high bins. Isn't it hard to load into those bins without a frontloader? In the videos at Earth and Turf, the compost or sand is always in the unit before the video begins.

The trick to residential top dressing is selling it to the customer, or to the landscaper and to their customer. How hard is it to sell aeration? How do you sell lawn disease and insect treatments?

cgaengineer
12-13-2010, 07:59 AM
Normally a mini skid or similar is used to load the machines if you have one...if not you spend a ton of time loading and none unloading.

Could you lay a tarp on the driveway prior to dumping? Compost on a new paved drivway is not going to hurt it, but I can understand some customers are picky...have you asked them or are you just thinking they wouldn't go for it?
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DavidNJ
12-13-2010, 03:04 PM
My driveway...$12k to pave. A Bobcat MT52 Mini Loader is about $200/day. However, still no top dresser.

I would like to build up 1-3", or at least make the top 3-4" porous and turf friendly. If this was August 15th, I'd just dump it on the lawn, roll, and do a full renovation. With temps more likely to be in the 20s than the 40s, that isn't happening now.

So, I'm thinking a 1/4-1/2" topsoil top dressing twice a year sounds good. Or maybe more than twice a year, with the others being 1/8-1/4" sand and compost. I'm told it is hard to find places that sell the right sand, topsoil, and compost.

cgaengineer
12-13-2010, 05:58 PM
3" of soil is not topdressing. That's a renovation.

Regardless, a little soil won't hurt your paved driveway.
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DavidNJ
12-13-2010, 06:02 PM
3" of soil is not topdressing. That's a renovation.

Regardless, a little soil won't hurt your paved driveway.
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Correct, I'd like to do a rennovation. But it isn't in the cards. The top dressing also seems problematic; there don't appear to be any contractors or rental places in the area.

cgaengineer
12-13-2010, 06:13 PM
Correct, I'd like to do a rennovation. But it isn't in the cards. The top dressing also seems problematic; there don't appear to be any contractors or rental places in the area.

Man that sucks...around here you can rent a topdressing machine along with a mini skid for about $300 per day (package deal).
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DavidNJ
12-13-2010, 10:35 PM
I will try to work on the rental place.

Question, can I spread 10k sqft with just the mini track loader and a 48" rake? I'm thinking I could drop 8 cuyd on the lawn, than move it around with the loader followed by the rake.

cgaengineer
12-13-2010, 10:42 PM
I will try to work on the rental place.

Question, can I spread 10k sqft with just the mini track loader and a 48" rake? I'm thinking I could drop 8 cuyd on the lawn, than move it around with the loader followed by the rake.

Yes but I am afraid you are going to destroy your lawn with the track loader...compost is so light you would be better to drop piles every few feet and spread with snow shovel...then finish with a lute or landscape rake.
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DavidNJ
12-13-2010, 11:52 PM
Yes but I am afraid you are going to destroy your lawn with the track loader...compost is so light you would be better to drop piles every few feet and spread with snow shovel...then finish with a lute or landscape rake.
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Bobcat says:

Its small size and turf-friendly track drive make the Bobcat mini track loader a great solution to limited access and low-disturbance tasks. The innovative control panel makes the Bobcat mini track loader an easy to operate machine, and the optional ride-on platform adds comfort and conveniences to this top performer.

The Track Advantage
The tracked undercarriage of the Mini Track Loader gives it several advantages. The tracks distribute the loader's weight, reducing ground pressure to just 5.2 psi for the MT52 and 4.1 psi for the MT55 and minimizing damage to lawns and other surfaces — meaning that there is little need for costly and time-consuming worksite reclamation after a job is completed. They provide improved traction in loose or soft conditions, and of course, they never go flat!

http://www.bobcat.com/publicadmin/getImage.do?id=5894&width=500

cgaengineer
12-13-2010, 11:56 PM
I've used one of those...its a great machine, I have also used the Dingo...both are great and both will tear turf if you are not careful....no zero-turns and you should be fine.
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DavidNJ
12-14-2010, 12:04 AM
I've used one of those...its a great machine, I have also used the Dingo...both are great and both will tear turf if you are not careful....no zero-turns and you should be fine.
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So it is practical to spread and rake 7 cuyd without a top dresser? Of course this ignores the side and backyards and presumes there is a day warm enough.

cgaengineer
12-14-2010, 12:06 AM
So it is practical to spread and rake 7 cuyd without a top dresser? Of course this ignores the side and backyards and presumes there is a day warm enough.

Yes...I did it with sand...much heavier. I used nothing more than a trailer on my 4 wheeler...I did have 2 helpers, my wife and my son. This was for my own lawn...pics are on this site if you search under my name.

Compost would be easy. I would also break the yard up into smaller sections and just do a little at a time.
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Exact Rototilling
12-14-2010, 12:15 AM
Correct, I'd like to do a rennovation. But it isn't in the cards. The top dressing also seems problematic; there don't appear to be any contractors or rental places in the area.I would suggest you enquire what other Co.'s in your area are charging for the service? I was ALL over this idea [in the past] but frankly abaondoned it due to a lack of any confidence of a real market "realistic profit" for it....vs....getting mowing accounts lined up. I did a small lawn install and top dressed by hand but it was very labor intensive. I have a hard enough time selling areations for X2 the mowing rate as it is. Too many half price aeration hacks in my area $39.95 for up to 12k sq feet....apply fert for only $30 extra.

One bark blowing Co. in my area has large trucks that blows bark with huge hoses up to 300 feet or so and can also blow the exact same compost I was going to use as well.

cgaengineer
12-14-2010, 12:19 AM
Topdressing should be billed at around $130-$160 per cu yd (around here anyway). This includes, scalping the lawn, the product (sand), and the labor.
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DavidNJ
12-14-2010, 01:03 AM
How many cubic yards per day can you put down? The Earth and Turf unit is 10cuft, about 1/3rd yard. My guess is it is a two person job, one operating the top dresser and the other moving the material to the machine with a mini loader.

cgaengineer
12-14-2010, 01:06 AM
How many cubic yards per day can you put down? The Earth and Turf unit is 10cuft, about 1/3rd yard. My guess is it is a two person job, one operating the top dresser and the other moving the material to the machine with a mini loader.

Not sure, I never used one...but it takes more time to load than unload that's for sure! I will not rent a topdressing unit until I have a larger demand or a larger job...7 yards with 3 people and some shovels took about 6 hours.
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DavidNJ
12-14-2010, 01:16 AM
I'm thinking if it can move 1/3 yard at time, the mini track loader could probably distribute the 7-8 yards 3-4 hours. Then using the wide aluminum rake should only take another couple of hours. Picking up and returning the mini loader will probably take 2 hours and managing the delivery of the top soil another 30 minutes to an hour.

cgaengineer
12-14-2010, 01:21 AM
The raking is the easy part...since you are doing compost leveling is not as important like when applying sand. A lute made with a 2x4 6-8 feet long will help with the process.
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DavidNJ
12-14-2010, 09:54 AM
Probably topsoil rather than compost. A local place offers 4 types:


Black Gold Top Soil-$30-A high quality screened, organic, compost topsoil. This mixture has the most nutrients and is the richest topsoil.
Jersey Brown Topsoil-$30-Premium topsoil, screened and blended mixture. A combination of organic matter, sand, silt, and clay.
Farm Top Soil-$18-Unscreened soil. Excellent value for building up planting beds and other uses.
Mushroom Soil-$38-Mushroom soil is a byproduct of mushroom production. It is an excellent soil conditioner containing essential nutrients for plant development. 100% Organic, Aged, and Screened.


I haven't found a local source for sand.

cgaengineer
12-14-2010, 10:12 AM
Probably topsoil rather than compost. A local place offers 4 types:


Black Gold Top Soil-$30-A high quality screened, organic, compost topsoil. This mixture has the most nutrients and is the richest topsoil.
Jersey Brown Topsoil-$30-Premium topsoil, screened and blended mixture. A combination of organic matter, sand, silt, and clay.
Farm Top Soil-$18-Unscreened soil. Excellent value for building up planting beds and other uses.
Mushroom Soil-$38-Mushroom soil is a byproduct of mushroom production. It is an excellent soil conditioner containing essential nutrients for plant development. 100% Organic, Aged, and Screened.


I haven't found a local source for sand.

don't think you want to use sand where you are...not for cool season grass anyway. Depending on what you are trying to achieve the screened topsoil sounds good...if you plan to aerate or till either compost would be fine...the main thing is getting some organics into the soil.
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Puttinggreens
12-14-2010, 11:02 AM
Just my opinion, but I wouldn't suggest the sand in this part of the country either. I would look for a straight compost, no topsoil. Hopefully you already have topsoil in place, why go through the labor and expense of adding more. What you really need is to improve the topsoil with a complete compost.

We have been doing organic topdressing for years. It is not always easy to sell but it flat out works. I think we have applied roughly 1100 cubic yards so far this year.

One other note, I have always found that going heavy is not always the best route. Without being able to incorporate the material into the existing soil you build a small layer on the surface. Often the new grass will stay rooted in mostly the surface, any turns from the mower rip the younger turf right out of the ground.

I have tried using many different rates, what works best for us is a rate of about 1/4" organic topdressing, no more at any one time. That is about 0.4 to 0.6 cubic yards per 1000. We generally aerate first to help incorporate the topdressing into the existing soil. Ideally you would topdress first aerate second, problem with that is you end up tracking the topdressing all over the walks and driveways, way to hard to clean up well. Therefore we aerate and seed first, topdress second.

Based upon the size of the areas you have mentioned topdressing I would skip the loader and topdresser, they would be great if you had several properties. But for one or two properties a three man crew with wheelbarrows makes the most sense from a time and expense standpoint. No need to rake it, use the big scoop shovels and fling it, scattering the material. Trick is to find dry topdressing.

Hope this info helps. This is how we do it and it may not work for everybody but we have tried many different methods and this is our system.

cgaengineer
12-14-2010, 11:08 AM
Just my opinion, but I wouldn't suggest the sand in this part of the country either. I would look for a straight compost, no topsoil. Hopefully you already have topsoil in place, why go through the labor and expense of adding more. What you really need is to improve the topsoil with a complete compost.

We have been doing organic topdressing for years. It is not always easy to sell but it flat out works. I think we have applied roughly 1100 cubic yards so far this year.

One other note, I have always found that going heavy is not always the best route. Without being able to incorporate the material into the existing soil you build a small layer on the surface. Often the new grass will stay rooted in mostly the surface, any turns from the mower rip the younger turf right out of the ground.

I have tried using many different rates, what works best for us is a rate of about 1/4" organic topdressing, no more at any one time. That is about 0.4 to 0.6 cubic yards per 1000. We generally aerate first to help incorporate the topdressing into the existing soil. Ideally you would topdress first aerate second, problem with that is you end up tracking the topdressing all over the walks and driveways, way to hard to clean up well. Therefore we aerate and seed first, topdress second.

Based upon the size of the areas you have mentioned topdressing I would skip the loader and topdresser, they would be great if you had several properties. But for one or two properties a three man crew with wheelbarrows makes the most sense from a time and expense standpoint. No need to rake it, use the big scoop shovels and fling it, scattering the material. Trick is to find dry topdressing.

Hope this info helps. This is how we do it and it may not work for everybody but we have tried many different methods and this is our system.

Much of what you said is what I told him...piece of cake slinging it.
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DavidNJ
12-14-2010, 02:53 PM
It is .77cuyd/1000sqft...or 7-8 cuyds for 10ksqft.

The issue in the area I'm considering attacking now is that the top soil is VERY thin. It may be a moot point; the material is frozen as the temps today are in the low 20s.

If anything, it will be a topsoil/compost mix, which is the best I can do at this time. Or possibly a sand.