Marketing Top Dressing?


LawnSite Member
I've been wanting to add top dressing service to my company, up until now I did not have that much info on the subject, but I foung this site and love it. My question is to the company's that are top dressing - Who is your target market? are they already existing customers? How hard is it to convince potential customers of the benefits? are you useing machines or spreading with shovals etc.? and lastly what can you expect to charge for this service, without going into the "I don't know your business and your expenses speech that I see happen alot on other parts of LawnSite. just a general range that you all are charging. Thank you


LawnSite Fanatic
your best market would be existing customers
as 4 cost all depends on how much u pay 4 the product and time to spread it
i can get it in bulk truck loads it is wet to moist tough to spread
or in 1000# bags dry u need to use a top dresser or mulch blower to spread it fast
or in 50# bags goes through a special spreader about 600 for the spreader
it is hard to explain the high cost with this application many don't go 4 it
it does work well just costly

trying 2b organic

LawnSite Senior Member
Dusty can you post a pic of the spreader. Application method has been the big key to price and profit problems with compost topdressing for the residential market. I am finally going to go with what a national franchise has been doing in Canada for a couple years. Applying pellitized compost with a drop spreader. I will pay 12 dolllars for 50n bls. I will apply 100 lbs per k.

24$ per k. cost of material. I will charge 100$ per thousand sqare feet to apply, same price I charge now for wet compost from the nursery. My profits will increase with the new product and maybe I can even lower that price. (although it is competative)

As I have posted before, it was either this or buy a new spreader, it looks like a giant hopper, and apply a powdery, dry compost made from human bio-solids. Im kind of glad i passed on that now. The old fashioned way of wheelbarrow/ leaf rake or the new way of using pelletized compost. I sell this to customers who have really crappy soil and need to improve the soil to improve the growing conditions for grass.

The cool thing about the pellitized is since I dont have to buy a special spreader and its cheap I can buy a pallet and if I dont like it or cant sell it I can go back to the old way. As customers become aware that growing grass is like gardening not hydroponics then they will be willing to belive that healthy plants grow in healthy soil. How many gardeners dont know the benifits that come from amending a soil with compost?


LawnSite Member
Murfreesboro, TN
I started marketing topdressing last year for our area. What I found out is that your best market for topdressing is people who already have a concept of what topdressing does - usually people who are well educated and lead an affluent lifestyle. Also, I think it works well for people who have had a difficult time establishing their lawn (generally homes in newer neighborhoods). It can be difficult to market, if no one else in the area is doing topdressing. The best marketing tool is to get some before/after shots. A picture says a thousand words. Their are numerous environmental benefits to topdressing, but for most people, they don't care - they just want a pretty lawn.
I own/operate a mulch blower truck with a seed injection system on it, so I am able to put down quite a bit of material in not a lot of time. The key to topdressing is to find a compost product that works for you. You might have to pay a little more for it, but a good compost product is key. FYI - our price for topdressing (1/2" deep) with fescue seed lies between 7.5 to 9 cents per square foot, depending on how much area we are covering at a time.

trying 2b organic

LawnSite Senior Member
ty for info, sounds great, I think the money you put into your equipment will really pay off. As people start to feel like they want to use less pesticides they become open to thinking about the alternatives. Just the "thinking" part is the opening we need. There seem to be many many seminars in my town this spring with titles like " Environmentally friendly lawn care".

In these seminars a willing audience is told that to escape the chemical cycle they need to employ best management practices, the very practices we are talking about bringing to market. These mostly well off, mature women are told to aerate and topdress. Well most of them are not actually going to do that themselves but the next time they see your add it will resonate with them, or so I hope.


LawnSite Gold Member
A2, Michigan
Top dressing is a major target for me as a new service. I think it will involve doing some education to the customers, however, to make it popular. I want to target the new homes built in my area, with the crappy soils and lawns that are addicted to Chem Lawn in order to grow. Lord knows there are enough of them. My major work so far has been determining what exactly is the best method, what kind of top dressing, and how to put it down. My goal is to make it as efficient as possible, at a reasonable cost. A good spreader would be the biggest step for me right now.

My biggest question is, will the pelletized compost help a lawn with a crappy clay soil, or is that a waste of time?

Tim G

LawnSite Member
I have been thinking about this for awhile my self. The conclusion I came up with "I think" is compost tea. The question I have is what is the most benificial part of the compost, the organic matter or the benificials (bacteria..etc.) or both. Organic matter can be applied with the tea in liquid form. Tea is much easier to handle and apply and when brewed you times your benificials by millions. If organic matter is present in the soil wouldn't a shot of tea make more sense? Here is something I found on organic matter.

What is Organic Matter?

Soil organic matter consists of a variety of components. These include, in varying proportions and many Intermediate stages:
„h raw plant residues and microorganisms
(1 to 10 per cent)
„h "active" organic traction (10 to 40 per cent)
„h resistant or stable organic matter (40 to 60 per cent) also referred to as humus.
The "active" and some of the resistant soil organic components, together with microorganisms (especially fungi) are involved in binding small soil particles into larger aggregates. Aggregation is important for good soil structure, aeration, water infiltration and resistance to erosion and crusting.

The resistant or stable fraction of soil organic matter contributes mainly to nutrient holding capacity (cation exchange capacity) and soil color. This fraction of organic matter decomposes very slowly and therefore has less influence on soil fertility than the "active" organic fraction.

Organic matter in soil serves several functions. From a practical agricultural standpoint, it is important for two main reasons. First as a "revolving nutrient bank account"; and second, as an agent to improve soil structure, maintain tilth, and minimize erosion.

As a revolving nutrient bank account, organic matter serves two main functions:
„h Since soil organic matter is derived mainly from plant residues, it contains all of the essential plant nutrients. Accumulated organic matter, therefore, is a storehouse of plant nutrients. Upon decomposition, the nutrients are released in a plant-available form.
„h The stable organic fraction (humus) adsorbs and holds nutrients in a plant available form.

So with a shot of tea.......grass clippings ,mulched leaves maybe some corn gluten,or kelp are we getting the same as compost in the end.


LawnSite Senior Member
Top dressing is a great business. There will always be people wanting to spread compost.

Regarding compost tea: Compost tea can provide the same benefits as compost to the soil at a cost 1,000 times less than compost. So there's an advantage. It also can be spayed on plant leaves and stems which compost cannot.

On the other hand, compost provides a mulching effect that compost tea cannot. Many people want to see the results of what you did.

Check out if you're interested in spraying tea. Dr Ingham is going to start selling a tea test kit including instruction manual, microscope, and the slides. She says you can use the kit indefinitely without having to buy stuff all the time. The cost for the kit is planned to be about $400 (microscope alone is $300).


Topdressing is a hard sell to most customers because of the cost. They have been trained to use the weed and feed program which usually costs a fraction of topdressing.

As mentioned before, use pictures to sell your service, It is hard to sell an idea.

I target: really bad looking lawns because it is fairly easy to turn them around, environmently aware consumers, educated consumers because they like all the details involved with topdressing and every other person on the street on which I have just done a job. This is because most of my work comes this way. Do one job really well, everyone sees it and then you do the whole street. Many of my existing customers also have their lawns topdressed. It is one of my favorite suggestions if conditions warrent.

Good point about the gardening aspect. I always ask about the manure or peat moss they are adding to their garden beds. They will reply that adding "compost" is the best for their garden. And I will say "and the best for your lawn"
That usually puts the benefits of topdressing out there for them to realize.

I'm in the $100 per thousand range as well. This is low in my opinion but with the area I am in ... One large company does for even less. I apply between 0.5 and 1 cu yd per thousand. That is about 500-1000 lbs per thousand. Thinner grass will take more compost. Thicker grass can sometimes be covered if not raked in well enough.
Seems to me that I am putting down way more "product" than the pelletized stuff. I would treat pellets more as a "fertilizer".

Are you seeding, aerating etc along with the pellets or just adding nutrients and OM?

Check out different suppliers for compost as well. I used one once whose compost was so STICKY that it would not break up and sink down into the grass. It was not a good situation.

I hope to blend my own bulk compost this year. It will cut my costs in half when purchasing.

NCL I did not address machines in this reply because a quick search on topdressing will reveal many threads with tons of pics of machines. I use a turfco topdressor.

Thanks for the informative thread guys.