Sanding lawns: why do it & how?

Kati
Kati
Kati
Kati

I am a qualified gardener and horticulturalist and love everything that grows! Whether it's a shrub, a tree, a useful plant or a supposed weed: for me, every plant is a little miracle.
In the garden I look after my 13 chickens, grow fruit & vegetables and otherwise observe how nature manages and shapes itself.

Favourite fruit: Blueberry, apple
Favourite vegetables: Braised cucumber, kale, green pepper

Many questions arise when it comes to sanding lawns. Get answers to some of the most common questions about sanding lawns and tips on how to ensure that everything goes smoothly when topdressing with sand.

A lawn that has been sanded
There are various benefits to sanding a lawn [Photo: Oldboys/ Shutterstock.com]

After scarifying and aerating comes sanding the lawn. Scarifying removes lawn thatch and stimulates the grasses to grow more densely. It also removes unwanted moss and opens the soil so that it is ready for fertilising and other maintenance measures. There are various tools you can use for lawn aeration, all of which aim to work the soil more deeply and improve its air and water flow. Sanding can be done independently of scarifying and aerating, but it is especially useful when done after these maintenance measures. It is a highly useful method for improving the growing conditions of your lawn, especially in compacted and clayey soils.

Why is sand good for grass?

Sanding lawns has various beneficial effects depending on the pre-treatment (i.e. scarifying or aerating), the soil type, the sand you use and how much you apply. Even the equipment you use for distribution influences the effects of sanding your lawn.

The goals of sanding are:

  • To improve aeration to promote root growth of the grasses
  • To improve drainage and water run-off from to prevent waterlogging
  • To increase resilience, especially to foot and vehicle traffic
  • To increase strength of the soil, especially for lawns used for sporting activities
  • To improve wettability of the subsoil and rapid drying of the lawn surface to prevent moss
  • When evenly distributed, sand can also help with levelling a lawn
A person shovelling sand
Sand is a coarse soil component and promotes permeability [Photo: KIRYAKOVA ANNA/ Shutterstock.com]

Essentially, if there are problems that severely impair your lawn’s growth, a large quantity of sand will improve the long term health of your lawn. However, regular sanding with small amounts also supports the growth of the lawn in the long run and significantly increases its resilience.

Tip: do not topdress naturally sandy soils with sand. Sandy soil naturally has a loose structure, so it has no problem with waterlogging or critical compaction.

When should the lawn be sanded?

Sand is a non-reactive material that you can apply at any time. However, as it is best to sand lawns that have been mown short − preferably in conjunction with scarifying or aerating – it is usually done in the spring. You can also lime or fertilise your lawn together with sanding. But do not apply lime and fertiliser at the same time, as this can cause undesirable chemical reactions.

unscarified versus scarified lawn
Once the lawn has been scarified, the sand can better penetrate the soil [Photo: borzywoj/ Shutterstock.com]

Should you aerate or scarify your lawn before sanding? Small amounts of sand can be distributed without prior scarifying or aerating. That said, sand can incorporate better into a lawn which has been scarified or aerated. So, although it is not necessary to work the area beforehand, it does make it possible to apply larger quantities of sand and thus achieve better results.

Which is the best sand for sanding lawns?

Different sand grains and qualities can be used for sanding lawns. Dried sand is more free-flowing, while washed sand has been cleaned of dust or particularly coarse particles. For your home garden, it is best to use washed, pure quartz sand with a grain size of 0.06 to 2mm.

Can play sand be used for sanding lawns?

No, play sand should not be used for lawns. To make it better for building sandcastles, play sand typically contains a small amount of clay. The clay prevents the sand from incorporating into the soil, and can prevent water from trickling down. For this reason, play sand is not recommended for sanding lawns.

Sand castle in a sandpit
Play sand is not advised for sanding lawns – it does not distribute well [Photo: Olga Leschenko/ Shutterstock.com]

Sanding a lawn: the right amount per square metre

How much sand you need for your lawn depends on your intentions:

  • If the sand is used annually for levelling a lawn, as is typical for sports fields, use 0.5 – 1L of sand per m²
  • When sanding after scarifying, use 2 – 3L of sand per m²
  • After aerating with slitting blades, use 3 – 5L of sand per m²
  • After using an aerifier with hollow cones, apply 4 – 6L of sand per m²

The actual amount of sand you should use also depends on your lawn’s soil type. Sanding is generally not necessary for soils that are already sandy. The more compacted or clay-rich a soil is, the more sand you should use to improve lawn drainage.

lightly- versus heavily-sanded lawn
The amount of sand per m² also depends on the reason for sanding. [Photo: Oldboys/ Shutterstock.com]

Step-by-step instructions

Sanding a lawn does not have to be difficult:

  1. With a sandspreader or a wheelbarrow, simply distribute a suitable amount of sand across your lawn. Heaps of sand are acceptable at this stage.
  2. After the initial distribution, spread the sand with the back of a rake and then more finely with the tines.
  3. Broom the sand in using a coarse push broom.

If the lawn needs levelling, pull a lawn levelling drag mat over the area several times. You may need to do this by hand if the mat is too small. There are also are lawn brushes that distribute sand evenly, but these are meant for larger trailing equipment and are not suitable for small private lawns.

Important: once the sand has been evenly distributed, you should be able to see the tips of the grass poking out of the sand across your lawn.

Sandspreader spreading sand over lawn
A spreader keeps the distribution of sand even, but it is not a must [Photo: Oldboys/ Shutterstock.com]

Should rolled turf be sanded?

Yes. Rolled turf does not differ in any way from seeded turf once it has grown in. Therefore, you can also sand turf. However, the first treatment should not be done until one year after installation. It may be necessary to spread sand before laying rolled turf to give the turf base layer more stability and better drainage.

Sanding, reseeding and fertilising the lawn

Fertiliser and sand can be applied together, as the sand does not react with the fertiliser. We suggest using a primarily organic lawn fertiliser, such as our Plantura Lawn Feed, to improve your lawn’s growth throughout the following year.

Lawn Feed 10.5kg, 250m2 coverage
Lawn Feed 10.5kg, 250m2 coverage
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(5/5)
  • Perfect for a healthy & lush green lawn without moss
  • Supports your lawn with all the nutrients it needs in spring & summer
  • Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly
£29.99

Our fertiliser, made from the composted leftovers from the food industry, is nitrogen-rich to support rapid regeneration. Nitrogen spurs vegetative growth, making it indispensable for growing new fresh blades of grass. We suggest applying 70 to 100g of organic lawn fertiliser per square metre before topdressing with sand.

Patch of dirt in a lawn
If your lawn is patchy, repairing it will help [Photo: Grandpa/ Shutterstock.com]

After aerating and scarifying, the lawn may need to be reseeded. However, these two measures also stimulate the branching of the existing grasses, so the lawn will grow more densely after scarifying anyway. Adding excessive seed can increase the risk of fungal disease on the lawn.

Therefore, only reseed if the undergrasses were already clearly decimated before the lawn was scarified, i.e. if you could see a lot of soil between the blades. If the lawn appears thin over a wide area, reseeding with a Lolium perenne mixture is the right choice. This vigorous and regenerative grass provides a dense appearance. If, on the other hand, the lawn is patchy and missing in places, it is better to use a lawn repair mixture. This contains both fast-germinating and competitive grasses and fills in any gaps.

Levelling uneven lawns with sand

Sand can also be used to level out small irregularities. However, its usefulness in this regard is limited. Do not fill deep holes with pure sand. Instead, fill them with a mixture of garden soil and some sand. If the lawn is only slightly uneven in places, you can make it more even by using a drag mat to evenly spread the sand over a large area.

A wicker broom
Levelling a lawn evenly is difficult with a broom [Photo: Weerayuth/ Shutterstock.com]

The right care after lawn sanding

If you scarified or aerified your lawn before sanding it, water it thoroughly. Also avoid walking on the lawn again until the next time you mow it. If the lawn has been sanded without any previous soil preparation, it can be used normally again immediately after a thorough watering. Plenty of water from above will wash the sand down a little, helping it to settle in the existing soil and be worked into the soil structure by the soil life and the roots. Watering also helps soften or dissolve any fertiliser, ensuring that nutrients are released or mineralised by the soil life. Now your lawn can begin growing anew.

Dirt plugs on grass
After aerification, the plugs of dirt that have been removed must also be disposed of [Photo: Sherry Barr Photography/ Shutterstock.com]

Besides sanding, fertilising is another important lawn care measure. In our dedicated article you can find out everything about fertilising lawns.

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