Dressed for Success!

Dress your lawn for success with aeration and top-dressing today.

Aeration allows water, air and nutrients to reach the roots. Top-dressing, especially if you use compost, provides organic material to improve soil texture and micro organism activity. Together, aeration and top-dressing serve as a magic elixir for the lawn and most importantly reduce the amount of water needed by increasing the waters ability to penetrate the soil and the soils ability to hold it.

What is aeration? When you aerate your lawn you roll an aeration machine (like you would a lawnmower) across your lawn. This machine removes small plugs of soil from the ground and deposits them on the surface. These will quickly disappear back into the lawn. Aeration benefits the lawn by allowing air, water and nutrients to reach the roots. It takes about 20 minutes to aerate an average lawn.

Can I do the work myself? Yes!  You can do it yourself or you can team up with your neighbors and rent an aerator and purchase top-dressing.  If you do not wish to do the work, many landscape contractors offer this service.

Where can I find an aeration machine? You can rent an aeration machine from local equipment rental stores and large garden centers.  Machines typically rent for between $50 and $100 a day.

What is compost and top-dressing? Many people use the terms interchangeably. Compost is the completely decomposed residue of plant and animal materials like leaves and manure.  Top-dressing is a combination of compost and a small amount of sand or sandy loam.

May I use mulch? No, mulch does not benefit lawns. However, mulch is excellent for trees, shrubs, and beds and should be used there often.

Which lawns would benefit from aeration and top dressing? Lawns that have a soil depth of four inches or more will benefit from this treatment.

What if I have less than four inches of soil in my landscape? If you have less than four inches of soil under your grass, start over by adding at least an additional four inches of soil over the existing turf and re-sod or landscape with alternative watersaver plants.

How long before improvements are noticed? Every landscape is different. Often you will notice a bit of greening up as the compost, nature’s fertilizer, works its way in. However, if it is still early in the year and the weather is cool, our warm season grass will not begin to grow until the days and the soil grow warmer.

How much water is needed after the process is complete? Every landscape is unique in their water requirements. Just remember that in most cases the deeper the soil and the healthier the landscape the less water you need to apply.

Can I use my own compost pile? Yes, if you have enough. Check the compost table for minimum amounts.

How much is a cubic yard of compost or top dressing? One cubic yard generally fills the back of a full size pick-up truck; said another way, one cubic yard is equal to 27 cubic feet.  Bags of compost usually come in two cubic feet bags so you need 14 bags to equal one cubic yard of compost.

Top-Dressing Table

Lot Size (in Acres) Lot Size (in Square Feet) Minimum amount of compost or top-dressing
0.06 – 0.11 2,500 – 5,000 1cubic yard
0.12 – 0.18 5,001 – 8,000 2 cubic yards
0.19 – 0.23 8,001 – 10,000 4 cubic yards
0.24 – 0.46 10,001 – 20,000 6 cubic yards
≥0.47 ≥20,001 10 cubic yards
Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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