5 Reasons You Should Use Sand on Your Lawn - Backyard Boss
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5 Reasons You Should Use Sand on Your Lawn

The practice of “top dressing” grass with a layer of sand began on golf courses. Now, given how inexpensive and readily available sand is, many gardeners are curious about the benefits of applying it to their own lawns.

The truth is that sand can work wonders in helping you solve specific lawn challenges. But don’t just strew it around at random. Remember that golf course grass is of a different type than that found in most residential lawns; it’s a specialized turf bred to thrive in sandy conditions. If you aren’t careful, sand, which is naturally devoid of nutrients, can cause your grass to suffocate. 

Below, we share five lawn situations that can be helped by sand, along with tips for applying it the right way.

1. Fix dense thatch buildup

Lawnmower on green grass
Image credit:Daniel Watson via Unsplash

A major reason golf course managers use sand is to control the growth of thatch, that layer of dead grass and other organic material that causes your lawn to feel spongy. Reducing thatch improves the look, texture, and overall health of your lawn. 

Typically, the best way to prevent and control thatch is to mow and rake your lawn regularly. But if the buildup is already excessive, these activities may do more harm than good. Your best option may be to top dress and reseed.

Most gardeners choose a top dressing compost mix that complements their existing soil composition. When added to the blend, sand has the advantage of soaking up plenty of water, preventing it from pooling and drowning the new grass. Working course sand into thatch can also help break up the dense clumps, aerating the soil underneath.

2. Even out bumpy areas

A well maintained lawn
Image credit:Petar Tonchev via Unsplash

Leveling out bumpy lawns is one of the most widespread uses for sand in residential gardens. Mildly uneven areas can be leveled via a top dressing of sand, without you having to remove sod. If you’re planning to reseed over the leveled areas, try a mixture of around 30% compost and 70% sand to ensure the new grass will have access to nutrients.

3. Improve lawn drainage

Boots on a muddy lawn
Image credit:June Admiraal via Unsplash

If you’ve noticed that rainwater tends to pool on top of your lawn, or that patches of your grass remain muddy for a long time after the rain has passed, you may have a drainage issue. Poor drainage can wreak havoc on your lawn, as the water prevents air from infiltrating the soil. This results in drowned roots.

Top dressing your lawn with a mixture of that includes coarse sand may help break it up and allow water to penetrate deeper. Keep in mind that improving drainage is a long-term project; it may take several years of top dressing before you notice significant changes in your soil’s behavior.

4. Protect grass from snow and ice

Snow on grass
Image credit:Lawrence Hults via Unsplash

Top dressing your grass with sand before the first frost can help protect the crowns from ice and snow damage. Try to do this as close to the onset of winter as possible, but while the grass is still in good health, in order to give it the best chance of surviving.

5. Cover tree roots 

Exposed tree roots
Image credit:Tim Green via Openverse

Exposed tree roots may look charming, but they’re vulnerable to damage from people, animals, and the elements. Protect your tree’s health (and protect yourself from tripping-related injuries) by covering up its roots.

Many people choose to cover tree roots with mulch, but others prefer the look of soil. If you go this route, opt for a mixture of 1:1 soil and coarse sand. The sand will add porosity to the soil, preventing it from becoming too compact and smothering the tree. Build up cover gradually, adding around a half inch of soil every two weeks, and monitor the tree as it adjusts.

What to consider before using sand

Any time you’re using sand for top dressing, make sure to follow best practices for top dressing your lawn in order to prevent smothering and nutrient imbalance. Spread the sand evenly, making sure to break up any small mounds. Experienced gardeners recommend top dressing following a stretch of dry weather, as sand and soil are much more difficult to spread evenly when wet.

It’s also crucial that you have a good understanding of your soil’s composition and how it may be affected by sand. Be wary of using sand on clay-heavy soil. When combined, sand and clay can form a thick, cement-like mixture that impedes drainage. Loamy soil, on the other hand, generally responds well to sand.

Finally, not all sand is created equal. Look for a coarse-grained variety, as fine grains may drain poorly. Your sand should also be low in salt content, so avoid using beach or sea sand. Popular varieties for garden use include river sand and masonry sand.