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Topdressing is in high demand: How to profit from this growing, high-value service

December 9, 2011  By  Mike Jiggens

Topdressing is a fundamental practice in the maintenance of sports
fields, golf courses, and residential lawns. No wonder this natural,
efficient service is gaining in popularity.

Using sustainable practices is ranked high in our daily life and, for a business owner who wants to maintain a profitable business, topdressing represents a great way to share in an expanding market—and do so responsibly and with sustainability.

What is topdressing?

Topdressing is the direct application of a layer of soil mixture onto grass. The thickness of this layer varies from one-eighth to a quarter-inch. Topsoil is usually used for sports fields, but a soil containing at least 75 per cent compost is recommended for residential lawns.


Why should we topdress?

Whether it is included in a maintenance program or used to restore damaged lawns, topdressing with compost offers many advantages that are usually found in other maintenance procedures but separately. According to Roy Gross, from St. Louis Composting, “We are looking for results when we decide to topdress.”


Topdressing, when applied correctly, rejuvenates a lawn and has a beneficial effect on flowers, trees, and shrubs. The application of one single layer of compost fulfills between 50 to 100 per cent of the annual fertilizing needs. Compost is the only slow-releasing soil amendment containing all of the necessary nutrients. Furthermore, compost significantly improves water retention and the soil structure, stimulates microbial activity, breaks down thatch, and neutralizes the pH. It is a miraculous cure for your lawn and the results are outstanding.

New equipment

Golf courses and sports turf managers are topdressing fans. They are able to topdress between two and four times a year because they work with high-capacity, tractor-drawn equipment. In recent years, the emergence of new, efficient and easy-to-use equipment that is suitable for residential areas allows landscapers to provide professional topdressing services and respond to increasing demands from customers.

Scott Morrison, from Morrison Power Equipment in Plymouth, Mass., states: “We saw the same phenomenon with the introduction of the aerator in the 1990s. Before that, soil aeration was only used on sports fields and golf courses. Today, all professional lawn care companies provide this service in residential areas.”

Expand your customer base

Topdressing allows lawn care professionals to offer a new service that is not a gimmick, but rather an effective addition to their other services—increasing their market share and their revenue. 

Dustin McGehee, Greenside Outdoor Services, Louisville, Ken., offers this perspective: “In order to maintain and expand my business, I had two choices: either offer the lowest bid or offer something different. So, I chose topdressing. This method allowed me to stand out from my competitors and acquire new customers.”
Estimates: The best way to determine the cost you will charge your clients is by counting the cubic yardage. You need to measure the dimensions of the area that will be topdressed.

For topdressing, the application rate is one cubic yard per 2,000 square feet.

For turf renovation, the application rate is one cubic yard per 1,000 square feet.

Multiply the cost of the compost, including delivery, by four or five, depending on the use:

Compost cost x 4 for commercial (or any area over 10,000 square feet.)

Compost cost x 5 for residential (or any area less than 10,000 square feet.)

Educate your clients: We are all concerned about our health and the quality of our environment. Having less pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on our land—or avoiding them altogether—is the key to a healthy and safer environment. To accomplish this, you need to turn your attention to the soil. The principle is simple: healthy soil produces healthy plants. That’s what compost topdressing is all about!

Timing: Spring and fall are generally the best periods for topdressing turf. To obtain maximum results, the yard should be mowed prior to topdressing. After topdressing, the yard should be watered regularly for two to three days.


Once reserved for sports fields and golf courses, topdressing is now increasingly popular among residential and commercial clients. Where previously bulky tractor-driven applicators made it prohibitive, new equipment created specifically for residential and smaller commercial lawn care gives landscapers the opportunity to provide professional and profitable services to their clients.

Article courtesy Ecolawn, http://www.ecolawnapplicator.com.

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