topdressing to achieve the perfect lawn???

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by Squirter, Jun 2, 2008.

  1. Squirter

    Squirter LawnSite Member
    from Zone 5
    Messages: 172

    I'll start by admitting I am merely a homeowner...not a lawn pro! Now, on to the issue I need help resolving, but first, a bunch of backround info so you'll get the idea. I have a residential sized 1/3 acre yard or about 10,000 sq.ft. of turf in central Indiana. Exactly two years ago, I started a huge lawn/yard renovation project which included removing all bushes and a few trees as well as improved drainage by burying downspout runoff.

    After adding about 10 yards of topsoil and re-grading about 60% of the entire lawn area, I waited until Fall of 2006 and performed a core aeration and overseeding to the ENTIRE lawn. Within a month, I had grass (50-50 mix of Kentucky blue/perennial rye). It turned out pretty nice but I wasn't completely satisfied.

    After last summer's ('07) drought, I got sick of dragging hose around the yard to water the lawn so I added an in-ground irrigation system. (I know, should have thought of this in '06.) Even though the contractor was careful, about 20% of the lawn was torn up due to trenching irrigation pipe, etc. With Fall fast approaching, I wanted to repair the lawn damage and thicken the entire grass so I used a slice-seeder and overseeded. With the help of my new irrigation system, my new grass really came in nicely. After the Spring rains we've had this year ('08) and two apps of Scott's fertilized (yes, Pre-emergent), the lawn looks quite good..with only two complaints. #1) The lawn is still quite bumpy. #2) Bare areas that haven't filled in with new grass.

    You see, when I slice-seeded last Fall, I really couldn't take the time to "perfectly repair" or level the areas disturbed by trenching. Therefore, the slicer/seeder was riding over un-even terrain and wasn't always making a good "seed bed" for my seed. As a result, I have several small patches (8"-12") in my lawn where grass didn't grow...and again, the yard is lumpy/bumpy. Overall, my lawn could stand to be thicker to prevent weeds from finding a place to grow.

    What are the best ways to address my two complaints??? What about core aerating followed by topressing...then broadcasting more seed over the top???
    How would this approach level out the bumpy/lumpy areas??? Won't they still be needing some dirt to bring them up to grade level??? How would I spread a topdressing mixture of peat and compost??? Would adding sand to my topdressing mixture create a problem for my sprinkler heads???

    Thanks for reading this NOVEL. Your ideas are greatly appreciated!!! P.S. Please, NO FAIR SUGGESTING I USE A ROLLER. I don't think it's a good idea to compact the turf area. Afterall, isn't this why they make core aerators?
  2. OBXFrank

    OBXFrank LawnSite Member
    Messages: 12

    Core aeration followed by a good overseeding and topdressing would be a great start, especially in the aspect that you're trying to thicken things up. Many people don't understand the importance of having a strong root system.

    As far as leveling - you could try topdressing some soil into those areas and raking it in, just do it steps at a time. Just put it over the top and rake it in.

    If you're worried about a roller, unless you have EXTREMELY loose soil, you're not going to hurt anything. It's very important to have that good seed to soil contact. If you're really against doing that, you could try raking it in. It helps, but isn't as good as rolling.

    One last thing - it's a very small chance, but in the areas where you're having trouble growing: I wonder if there isn't something buried down there that could be affecting drainage. Just a thought...Hope that helps.
  3. Squirter

    Squirter LawnSite Member
    from Zone 5
    Messages: 172


    thanks for the feedback. a couple of points to make clear. 1. the drainage issue you raise is a great thought. however, in my case, the spotty areas are in no particular/specific area. rather, they are scattered throughout the yard. therefore, i don't think the drainage or underground debris is an issue. what happened was the slice seeder did not scratch up the soil in the lower or depressed areas because the seeder blades couldn't reach the soil. the seeder was riding or following the higher graded terrain.

    in reading your reply, am i gathering you suggest i first core aerate, then topdress and seed...then roll over the topdress/seed material to press the seed against the soil/seed mixture? interesting!!!

    i'm somewhat afraid that using a core aerator will not produce the desired result for the same reason i stated (above) that the slice seeder didn't work as planned. again, the terrain is uneven and the aerator will ride on the highest point of the lawn. hence, the tubes may not reach deep enough to disturb the soil to fully develop an ideal seed bed. for this reason, i feel the need to topdress so that i can fill in the depressions and bring them up to grade level. thereafter, i can see your approach working. does this make sense???????????
  4. OBXFrank

    OBXFrank LawnSite Member
    Messages: 12

    Makes perfect sense! The rolling itself obviously won't do anything for seed in the holes, but they should be fine. Pine straw on the low areas would help, but I'm assuming you'd rather have it levelled out permanently, in which case topdressing that soil would definitely be better.

    Good luck with it!
  5. k911lowe

    k911lowe LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 526

    use mortar sand to top dress your will find its own level and help in drainage.
  6. OBXFrank

    OBXFrank LawnSite Member
    Messages: 12

    Excellent point, I hadn't thought of that!
  7. Squirter

    Squirter LawnSite Member
    from Zone 5
    Messages: 172

    as i questioned in my original post, i'm somewhat concerned about using any sand as part of a topdressing mixture. i do recognize the value in using sand in the mixture. however, i am afraid i may cause problems with my sprinkler system. particularly doing damage to the seals inside the pop-up heads as well as clogging the numerous small ports in the sprinkler nozzle itself.

    i have a rather unconventional sprinkler system in that i use only pop-up heads as opposed to gear driven rotors. inserted in the pop-up head are nozzles called "MP Rotators". MP Rotator has since been purchased by Hunter. These nozzles spin and discharge water in small streams through the numerous openings in the nozzle itself. It is VERY efficient and does not waste water...although I have to extend my watering cycles/times.

    The sand may be a good additive to the topdressing....but!!!

    Again, i think my approach will be to use a mixture of compost and topsoil and spread it across the depressed areas/spots/ruts in my lawn...shovel by shovel full. then, using a leaf rake, i'll rake it in making sure to add just enough at a time so as not to kill my existing grass. wheel barrow by wheel barrow, shovel by shovel full, rake by rake, i'll "git er done" over the course of the next month or so. give it a month to harden up a bit, i should be ready to core aerate and overseed in the fall. the questions then is.....(according to frank), do i smash it all down by going over the plugs/seed with a roller before turning on the water?????????????? or, forego the roller and call it a day???

    thanks again for all who have weighed in!!!!!!!!!!!
  8. CrazyJ

    CrazyJ LawnSite Member
    from Raleigh
    Messages: 17

    Most suppliers near me sell a 'blend', which is compost+sand+topsoil all mixed up. I've used it for topdressing and had good results. It seems especially well suited for your situation. Runs about 16 $/CY here.
  9. jeffinsgf

    jeffinsgf LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 641

    I have done / am doing the same thing. Here are some of my experiences and some things I have had success with.

    Consider coring the yard, then raking the plugs into the low spots. I have done this a time or two, with good results. The soil you will be raking into the ruts has exactly the same composition as your successful turf areas. You can do it just by raking, or if you have a sweeper attachment, you can sweep up the plugs and drop them in your problem areas.

    My irrigation system uses MP Rotators extensively (but not exclusively). In three years and 5 sand topdressings, I have never had an issue with sand in the MP Rotators -- or any other head for that matter.

    Unless the irrigation company used a powered tamper to backfill your trenches, expect the trench areas to settle for a couple of years. I put in my own system, thought I was being OCD on mounding up the trench backfill, and I can still locate about one third of my trenches.

    I would (in order) Aerate, move cores into low areas, topdress with sand/compost mixture, overseed, roll the problem areas with a filled roller, roll the balance of the lawn with a half filled roller (for seed to soil contact).
  10. JoeKidd

    JoeKidd LawnSite Member
    Messages: 55

    I'm no pro but I'd cut some squares over those depressions and pry it up and fill the holes with some good fill, tamp the sod back down, and then water. Then I would proceed to aerate, overseed, and top dress the whole lawn the following week.

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