Soil or sand: Which is better for top dressing your garden?

6th February 2023
Soil or sand: Which is better for top dressing your garden?

Top dressing is the practice of adding a layer of organic or inorganic material to the surface of the soil in a garden or lawn. This is usually done to fill in ground holes, improve plant growth, and maintain a healthy soil ecosystem.

Top dressing can be done with a variety of materials, but two options are the most popular: soil and sand. Both come with their own unique advantages, so it can be tricky knowing which you should go for.

M B Wilkes are South's leading providers of building materials and aggregates. In this article, we compare the pros and cons of using soil or sand for your top dressing.

Pros and cons of soil top dressing


  • Soil is rich in nutrients and holds water well, which are both key factors for healthy plant growth. This makes soil top dressing the best option for improving the fertility of your garden.
  • Soil reduces lawn stresses, helps keep thatch under control, and smoothes out bumps caused by worm castings.


  • Soil is relatively heavy, making it difficult to spread evenly and thinly. It’s not uncommon for gardeners to accidentally smother their grass with it, so you’ll need to handle it with a high level of care.
  • The presence of weeds, insects, or pathogens in the soil can pose a threat to the health of your lawn, so additional care and attention is required to maintain its well-being.

Pros and cons of sand top dressing


  • Sand is light and easy to spread evenly, making it a great option for filling in low spots or levelling out uneven areas.
  • Sand doesn’t retain water, which helps improve drainage and reduce the risk of water-logging and root rot.
  • In areas of high human or animal traffic, a layer of sand can prevent the underlying soil from becoming compacted.
  • Sand allows roots to penetrate deeper into the soil, improving soil aeration.


  • Sand contains no nutrients, making it a poor choice for improving garden fertility.
  • Although useful for drainage, the lack of water retention can lead to dry soil and make it difficult for plants to grow in hotter seasons.
  • Like soil, sand can be heavy. Adding too much can cause soil compaction, making it difficult for plant roots to penetrate and receive adequate oxygen.

Should I use soil or sand for my top dressing?

Soil and sand both have their benefits and drawbacks. Ultimately, the right type for your lawn will depend on what you’re looking to get out of a top dressing.

If you’re looking to improve the fertility and overall health of your lawn, soil is probably your best bet. If you’re looking to fill in low spots or level out an uneven area, however, sand may be the better choice.

Still not sure which option is best for you? We’re happy to help. Get in touch online or call us on 01258 857465, and we’ll be happy to recommend a product for your specific needs.

Enhance your garden with premium sand and soil top dressings

At M B Wilkes, we specialise in the supply of premium-quality aggregates for projects of all kinds.

Thanks to our close relationships throughout the aggregate supplier industry, we can offer you some of the lowest prices in the area. Our fast-track delivery service means we can usually deliver your chosen product within 48 hours of ordering. Our services cover all of Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, and the surrounding areas.

If you’re in need of high-quality soil and sand for your project, look no further. With so many to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect choice for your garden.

Shop our full range of sands and soils today!

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