The act of topdressing and amending soil with sand has been used for decades to level out divots and ruts made on golf courses and other commercial lawns. Sports fields and many other heavy-traffic large acreage properties use different types of sands to level out and repair the compaction caused by use.
With this cycle, grass can be heavily used and retain its sponginess and green vigor through the simple task of laying down sand on the soil.
What’s even more astonishing is you can do the same thing at home without having to buy yards of sand or use landscaping equipment. With a few simple tips and some elbow grease, you can use sand for lawn leveling, smoothing out bumpy lawns while adding organic matter for deeper root growth.
Before going into what can be added to the sand to make the best top-dressing concoction, let’s explore what types of sand are best for yards and why.
What Type of Sand Should I Add to My Lawn?
To get the most out of leveling your lawn with sand, you will want to know what different types of sand are available and what to do if you need to cover the entire lawn with yards of sand. When selecting sand for lawn leveling, always use dry sand, and the finer the grit, the better, as wet sand is heavy and will not spread evenly no matter how hard you rake it. An uneven lawn will need a different type of sand than a lawn that is only getting top-dressed.
A common practice is to only add a half-inch at a time and overseed to return a lawn to its level and lush greenness in just a few seasons. If you apply more than that, it can suffocate your grass and lead to worse compaction than when you started. The good news is most of the time, the entire lawn will not need the sand mixture, and you only need to apply it where it is needed.
Because the sand content is not like a compost or fertilizer application that needs to be applied across the whole yard, you can simply stick to spots that have noticeable divots and ruts, saving time and effort. Below are some of the recommended types of sand for lawn leveling.
One of the most commonly used and affordable sand mixes to treat grass is masonry sand. Traditionally used in construction, it serves every purpose, from leveling the ground to mixing up mortar for bricklaying. Because it has to be smoothable to the grain, it is finely screened of pebbles and rocks and, best of all, easily available and relatively cheap.
For large landscaping jobs, masonry sand can be ordered and delivered by the yard to level large amounts of grass and patches of sunken soil. If you have a particularly large patch of turf that needs to be treated, you can lay the sand on the soil with a ride-on spreader as they do on golf courses.
This type is virtually rock and pebble free, consists of the finest sand grains, and is an excellent option for amending garden beds or poor drainage areas. It is cheap and easy to pick up from hardware stores in up to 50lb bags. There are delivery options as well to help get you started on your lawn tasks sooner if you cannot get it on your own. For consistent lawn care, add a thin layer of play sand to low spots at least once a year and overseed the area frequently.
River lake and beach sand are types of soil additives that are not screened prior to delivery and may have rocks and other debris that could cause problems in your lawn. Either sift the sand before use or opt for a pre-sifted type to avoid issues. Since shiting the sand mixture to a size appropriate for topdressing takes so much extra effort, it makes sense to go with either of the previous sands first and only use these sands as a last resort or for very specific tasks.
The grains of this sandy soil are also larger and coarser than play and masonry sand which limits your ability to lay wonderful layers. The light grains of sand can blow away and distribute themselves naturally if too much is applied, but the larger grains may clump and harm turf.
There are also sands like sharp sand and silver sand that can also be used, but they may not be available everywhere or be cost-prohibitive.
Uses for Sand in Lawns
Sand on a lawn can be extremely useful for countless reasons. Lawns change, and the ground is constantly in flux, but a cheap natural way to bring your yard back to a level surface is essential to immaculate lawns. Bumps cause bad cuts and can lead to scalping, so steps need to be taken to keep the soil level even, free-draining, and full of nutrients and organic material. Below are some ways to use sand to accomplish those goals.
|Cover Tree Roots||Poursand over exposed roots and even out, then sow grass seeds or cover with mulch||Builds soil levels naturally and prevents erosion while soil slowly compacts|
|Level a Lawn||Evenly spread or rake half an inch of sand over actively growing grass||Raises the level of the entire lawn to be almost dead even in a few growing seasons allowing for beautifully manicured lawns|
|Fill in Divots||Pour sand in ruts and divots to quickly level the soil out||This will even the soil out without affecting the grass’s continued growth, but as the sand settles, divots will reappear easily, and the process must be repeated at least annually|
|Decrease Grades on Slopes||Pile a mound of and against sharp grades and plant with a fast-growing ground cover with matting roots||Almost instantly reduces the angle of a hill and can be done slowly to add soil strength overtime or quickly if reinforced with a retaining wall|
|Prevent Erosion||Fill in low points at the tops of hills that lead to gullies with coarse sand, then plant with grass or other ground covers||Water from rain or irrigation overflows evenly down the hill and doesn’t erode sections, causing gullies along the hillside|
|Improve Drainage||Place a thin layer of sand on loam or silt soil or mix thoroughly into clay soil and compost blend to apply to sand and clay soils||Water will reach roots fast, and the soil will hold more water improving water retention across the entire yard|
Most of the sand-related tasks in a lawn have to do with leveling something out. An even lawn is easier to maintain and safer to run and play on. Setting up tables and picnics can go smoothly on flat ground that isn’t bumpy, rutted, or compacted. A level lawn looks more appealing and is a point of pride for the dedicated yard marker.
Taking subpar topsoil and making it rich and ready to grow the turf of your dreams is another common use of sand. Most of the time, sandy soil is free-draining but lacks nutrients, whereas clay soil is full or rich in organic matter, but it won’t allow water in, or then water does get in; it won’t escape causing the death of your beloved grass.
Mixing sand correctly can make the worst soil amazing if you want to improve your lawn, sand-animal manure compost combinations are your absolute best bet.
When Is the Best Time to Add Sand
Adding sand to your lawn at the right time is the only way to ensure it gives you the benefits you are after. I racked sand over dormant grass one year to help bring down the thatch issues and immediately regretted the damage raking did to my turf. Now I only add it when the grass is actively growing to avoid the negative effects on dormant turf, which cannot always handle unexpected stress.
Generally, spring and fall are the best times to apply sand to your yard. In climates with a non-stop growing turf, summer is also a reasonable time to add sand, but only if a drought or other stresses are not forecasted. Layering sand in the spring can help sort out compaction from snow and other winter occurrences, whereas fall is a good time to add sand to negate any damage done by summer parties.
If you have the time, budget, and desire, then taking advantage of both spring and fall can help you level soil faster than an annual application.
Benefits of Adding Sand
Sand greatly benefits lawns that are not already predominately sand-based. I have always witnessed sand greatly improving water retention and curing compaction in some pretty unhappy lawns. The best thing is the spongy attribute sand gives to grass that experiences heavy foot traffic.
This buffer of sand that keeps the soil directly above the roots of grass from compacting demonstrates the versatility of improvements accompanying sand treatments in lawns.
Sand also helps with thatch breakdown and aeration during spring and fall maintenance tasks. While adding sand gives a finished look to your freshly prepared turf, it also allows the easy mixing of grass seeds to level out and replant a lawn simultaneously.
Seeds sowed in the sand are safe from wild animals, and the tiny sprouts are less likely to suffer from waterlogging and potential drowning. Best of all, laying sand in your lawn is cheap and effective, requiring very few extra tools or equipment to apply successfully.
Drawbacks of Sand in Lawns
There are certainly a few drawbacks that may make mixing sand into your yard a no-go. While these situations are few and far between, it is important to realize that there is some risk to your lawn, and all lawn damage can end up being an expensive fix. The main danger is if you try to save money and get poorly sourced sand, you could pick up contaminated sand.
This is a problem as it can harm your turf or introduce pests or weed seeds into your lawn.
Sand has no nutritional value for plants on its own, which means in addition to the cost of the sand, additives like compost, potting soil, or fertilizer need to be added. Other topsoil dressings can level and enrich the soil, so when these are affordable, they may be the best best. Rocky sand can cause pebbles to kick up when mowing or even contain pieces of beach or lake debris you didn’t notice.
The wrong soil type for adding sand is soil that is already sandy. If you need to improve your grainy soil, you can try compost or other additives instead. Never topdress clay soil with sand since these are the principal ingredients for cement and can create an impenetrable layer across the entire lawn.
Mix sand, compost, and clay soil together before applying them to a predominantly clay lawn. If the sand is not applied evenly and spread carefully in a very thin layer, if can kill the grass by suffocating the roots; this is an extreme situation but possible, especially if the grass is already experiencing health issues.