What is a Good Lawn Top Dressing?


“I have a few bales of Black and Gold Raised Bed and Potting Mix. Can I use that as a top dressing for my lawn?” Question from Albert of  Texas

Answer: It’s smart to start by using what you have. Our Natural & Organic Raised Bed Mix should work well as a top-dressing for your lawn. It does contain partially composted bark, but the pieces are small. The ingredients in the product are Starter Fertilizer Charge, RESiLIENCE®, Earthworm Castings, Compost, Bark, and Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss. All of these will boost your lawn’s organic matter and help with any seeding efforts. Other good products for the task include Black Gold Peat Moss and Garden Compost Blend.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

What are Inexpensive, Easy Groundcovers to Stop Erosion?

“We have a small fenced-in backyard with a dog. Due to sloping, and poor drainage, we have little topsoil left, but a lot of mud that gets tracked in the house. Are there any inexpensive suggestions for easy-to-grow hardy ground coverings or grass that will alleviate these issues? Our back yard has a mixture of sun and shade and is primarily red mud, so any assistance would be greatly appreciated! THANKS!!!” –Cathy of Mooresville, North Carolina

Answer: Whatever you plant, you will need to allow it to become established before you let your dogs back in the yard. It sounds like this is a problem that will take several steps, even if you choose the least expensive approaches. Here are my recommendations.

Steps for Establishing a Lawn and Groundcover on Sloped, Clay Ground

Taller, denser groundcovers will keep your dogs away from tree and bed areas. Curvaceous groundcover bed areas look tidy and attractive.

Here are my recommendations for managing your erosion and muddy yard troubles.

  1. Identify and attempt to stop the source of erosion. If you can identify the water source (a bad gutter or washout from a driveway or a patio), you can often divert the water away from your yard by creating dry-wells. The method of diversion will depend on the source. (Click here for some more ideas and here.)
  2. Define sunny lawn areas and shaded groundcover areas around the base of trees. Athletic Field Fluorescent Orange Striping Spray Paint works well for drawing out bed areas on the soil. Be sure that you create appealing lines for tree beds or gardens.
  3. Scratch up lawn areas with a hard rake, top-dress the soil with approximately 1 inch of Black Gold Garden Compost Blend or Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, then lay down a cost-effective biofabric with grass seed, like Grotrax Burmuda Rye Mix, which can be purchased by the roll. Products like these stop erosion while encouraging lawn establishment. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for care (click here for more information), and keep pets and people off of the area until it has fully sprouted and started to become lush.
  4. In shaded bed areas around trees, I recommending working up the soil and adding lots of compost amendment. If your yard is large, consider buying it by the yard from a landscape company because it costs less. Finally, cover the beds with quality, all-natural bark mulch, which is also cheaper when purchased in bulk by the yard.
  5. Plant plugs of groundcover for dry shade in the beds then water them in. A good groundcover layer will hold the soil in place as it becomes established (list below).
  6. Keep the plugs watered and cared for until they begin to really grow and spread–around two to three months.
  7. You may also create stone or pebble pathways for your dogs where they run the most. (Click here for a good DIY idea.)

Good Groundcovers for Dry Shade and Clay

There are lots of good groundcovers for a difficult, dry shade that reduce or stop erosion. Buy these by the flat at your favorite local garden center to get the best deal. Good choices include creeping wire vine (Muehlenbeckia axillaris ‘Nana’, light shade, Zones 6-10), sweet box (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, Zones 6-9), evergreen vinca (Vinca minor, shade, Zones 4-9), dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’, shade, Zones 6-11), and the evergreen creeping plum yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘Prostrata’, Zones 6-9).

If you like native groundcovers, consider evergreen arrowleaf ginger (Asarum arifolium, shade, Zones 3-9) or wild ginger (Asarum canadense, Zones 3-8), Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens, shade, Zones 4-9), and the pretty green-and-gold (Chrysogonum virginianum, part sun to shade, Zones 5-8). Any of these plants can be mixed.

I also recommend that you click here to learn more about the best garden mulches and creative groundcovers.

I hope that these solutions help!

Happy gardening,

Black Gold Horticulturist

Jessie Keith

How Do I Get Rid of Dallisgrass?

“How do I get rid of Dallisgrass?” Question from Mil of Knoxville, Tennesee

Answer: Dallisgrass (Paspalum dilatatum, USDA Hardiness Zones 6-9) is a weedy perennial grass that originates from South America. It forms coarse, stiff clumps that spread and grow quickly–faster than most turfgrasses. There are several ways to rid it from your lawn or garden. Sadly, none are an easy fix. Here are the top four methods:

Top 5 Methods for Removing Dallisgrass

  1. Manually remove plants early in the season to catch them early and stop them from setting seed–This may sound obvious, but quick removal is always one of the best ways of stopping weeds. A long-handled Ho-Mi is a great tool for the job. long-handled tools reduce back stress and sharply pointed Ho Mis make root removal easy.
  2. Mow your lawn on the low end. This keeps dallisgrass from setting seed and spreading. In the meantime, you can slowly remove annoying clumps bit-by-bit, and seed over the open areas with the lawn grass of your preference. Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss is a great amendment to apply for better grass seed establishment.
  3. Apply corn gluten or other preemergent herbicides in spring to stop new Dallisgrass seed from germinating.
  4. Selectively spray clumps with any quality herbicide for grass, and then remove the dead clumps.

(For more tips, click here to read my response about removing Bermuda grass.)

I hope that these tips help.

Happy gardening,

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Soil

How Do I Keep Ticks off of My Lawn?

“What is the best way of getting rid of ticks? My lawn and yard are infested, and I have gotten Lyme disease.” Question from Kathy of West Rutland, Vermont

Answer: Ticks are the worst and a real worry for people living where Lyme and other tick-borne diseases are a problem. Of course, tiny deer ticks are the carriers of Lyme disease, and they contribute to over 99% of all tick-borne diseases in the state of Vermont, but there are several other larger tick species in the state that can also be problematic.

Six Steps for Tick Removal in Yards and Lawns

Here are six good ways to keep ticks off of your lawn and away from your yard. Some are more practical and doable than others.

1. Spray the yard with all-natural tick repellents and killers, like Tick Killz and Wondercide Flea and Tick Spray. These products can be costly, but they are effective. The best application times are in mid-spring and midsummer.

2. Set tick traps, such as Thermacell Control Tick Tubes,  along your yard’s periphery. These capture and kill ticks and are not a threat to pets or other organisms.

3. Plant tick-repellent plants in your garden and along your yard’s periphery. These include strongly-scented plants such as lavender, sage, mint, feverfew, pennyroyal (this can cause allergic reactions in some people), and marigolds. (Amending your soil at planting time with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend will help all of these plants grow better!)

4. Cut your grass short, bag your clippings, and keep your grass leaf-free. Ticks like to hang out in yard waste and leaves as well as tall grasses and shrubs. Keeping your grass clean and low will help deter ticks.

5. Treat your pets for ticks, and try to keep wild animals out of your yard. Pets and wild animals are tick carriers. Some wild animals, like possums, eat ticks, but most are just carriers. Deer are some of the worst. Applying a quality animal repellant around your yard can help.

6. Consider investing in chickens or guinea hens, which require care and protection but eat ticks in large quantities. You may not have space for chickens, but they will take care of tick populations in the lawn right away, and you’ll get eggs.

I hope that these tips help!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist


What’s the Best Midwest Lawn Grass?

“I have a new yard (bought a lot) and it doesn’t have good grass growth. This will be its first spring with its new dirt. Got any recommendations for grass seed that will take root quickly and be strong. I like to keep it 2-3″. Thank you.” Question from Michelle of Dayton, Ohio.

Answer: Tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea) is a good lawn grass for Midwestern homeowners. The cool-season bunch grass is easy to grow, while also being adaptable and disease resistant. It’s broad, coarse, deep green blades look good all season long, and it can also withstand the moderate heat and drought of summer. It also takes lots of foot traffic.

For a surefire lush lawn in the first season, you can always plant sod, but it is far less economical than seed. If choosing to seed, early to mid-spring is a great time to plant. The key is making sure that most of the grass seeds germinate, and the lawn fills in well. Here are six steps to ensuring your seed takes hold:

  1. Plant fresh, quality seed.
  2. Make sure your soil is smooth, weed-free, and top dress it with Black Gold Peat Moss to help germination.
  3. Plant seed with a push broadcast spreader for good coverage.
  4. Lightly rake in seed after spreading and consider using a lawn roller to press it down.
  5. Add a layer of straw over seeded areas to hold moisture and encourage people to stay off.
  6. Water the area lightly until the grass sprouts and starts to look lush.

Refrain from walking on your new lawn until it really begins to grow. Be sure to keep is moist, and fertilize it once it is full.  Once it reaches a few inches, you can mow it to a 3-inch height. Wait until it is totally full to mow it down to 2 inches.

I hope this helps!

Happy gardening!