How to Add Sharp Sand on Lawn to Improve Drainage

By   | Last Updated :   April 12, 2023 | Filed In :   DIY & How To

Standing water on your lawn isn’t just unsightly, poor drainage can cause multiple problems such as drowning your plants and creating a breeding ground for pests that will cost you a lot of money in the long run.

A water-logged lawn is a recipe for pest and fungal infestations, poor grass growth and weeds. To get ahead of these problems, improve your lawn drainage with lawn sand. Mow the lawn short, aerate the soil and pour a few bags of sharp sand on the lawn. Make sure to spread the sand evenly over the whole lawn. 

Read on to learn more about when, how and why sand improves lawn drainage.

waterlogged lawn

Why Should You Use Sand To Improve Your Lawn’s Drainage?

If you’re looking to improve drainage on your lawn, sandy soil is the best type to use. Sand allows water to drain through quickly due to the size and characteristics of the grains. Sandy soils have large air pockets between the grains which allows a lot of water to pass through quickly whereas other soil types like clay are denser and hold onto water much more readily. 

When water collects on your lawn, it will fill up all the air pockets in the soil. When this happens, little or no oxygen will infiltrate the soil drowning the roots of your grass. This could lead to yellowing lawns that might die altogether. 

When sand is added, it will help water to penetrate the soil faster. This means that air pockets in the soil will empty fast enough for the roots of the grass to survive. The course grains also allow the water to drain below the root line much faster, keeping your grass healthy but well-watered. 

Keep in mind that sand and clay soils don’t mix well. If you have a garden with clay soil, mixing in the sand will create a substrate that resembles concrete. This will lead to impenetrable soil that doesn’t support a lot of plant life. 

If you have clay soil in your garden, it’s best to simply work organic matter in to improve drainage. The organic matter will stop the clay from clumping together which will help to open up air pockets in the soil for water and air to move through. This method takes a bit longer to be effective, but it works well in the long term. 

You can use worm castings, potting soil, garden compost, grass clippings, manure and leaves to achieve this effect. The best part, organic matter also helps your grass and other garden plants to grow by providing them with the nutrients they need. 

raking top dressing

Image credit: @robertkhoushabeh

Is Sand Good For Improving Lawn Drainage?

Depending on the soil type of your garden, sand can greatly improve the health of your lawn. The particles in the sand are large enough to break up soil clumps to allow water to pass through while also aerating the soil. The aerated soil in turn allows for healthier root growth by allowing plants to access more oxygen in the soil. 

Make sure not to use sand with clay soil. You will create a substance similar to concrete which is very hard and nearly impenetrable. If you have clay soil, use organic matter such as compost, worm castings or leaves to break up the soil and allow water to drain away faster. 

When To Use Sand For Lawn Drainage

The best time of year to spread sand on your lawn is in early autumn or spring. This will allow your lawn to grow through the sand before the weather takes a turn for the worst. It’s especially important if you want to overseed your lawn. The seeds will have time to germinate and grow before frost or extreme heat will slow down growth. You might even be able to mow a few times. 

For the best drainage, you should sand your lawn annually. Top dressing can take years to be fully effective and needs to be topped up annually. 

How To Use Sand To Improve Drainage In Your Garden

To improve the drainage of your lawn, follow these steps: 

1. Mow the lawn

It’s best to mow before adding sand to your lawn. A shorter lawn will more readily let the sand through and will also make it easier to aerate the soil. 

2. Aerate the soil

Aerating means creating tiny air pockets in the topsoil under your grass. You can do this by using an aeration fork, garden fork or aeration boots. It’s best to start the aeration process from one edge of your lawn and work your way to the other edge until every part of your lawn has been aerated. 

Aeration stimulates root growth, increases drainage and helps nutrients to penetrate the soil. 

areating shoes

Image credit: @suburban_homestead

3. Topdress the lawn

Topdress your lawn by spreading sand about 1.3cm (½ inch) thick over the whole lawn. Once done, use a rake to brush the sand into the grass. 

4. Reseed your lawn

Once the sand is brushed in as well as possible, scatter new grass seeds on top to replace any damaged grass that died from waterlogging. Make sure to lightly water the lawn every day to allow the seeds to germinate.

5. Apply fertiliser

Sand adds no nutritional value to your grass. For this reason, you will need to add some fertiliser. Compost, worm castings and grass cuttings make excellent fertilisers to aid in grass growth. Fertiliser also helps to improve drainage if used correctly. For the best result, you can mix fertiliser with the sand before adding it to your lawn, but you can also spread a thin layer on top. 

Does Aerating The Lawn Help Drainage?

Aerating your lawn will definitely help with drainage issues. You can aerate your lawn by making small, yet deep holes using aerating boots, a garden fork or an aerating fork. The holes will help the water to drain into the soil instead of forming a puddle on the surface. 


If you see standing water on your lawn, it’s best to take action immediately. Standing water can damage your lawn beyond repair causing the grass to drown and die off. It also makes the grass vulnerable to pests, diseases and other problems. 

Improve the drainage of your lawn by using either sand or compost. Sand works best on loamy soils and compost on clay soils. Before adding topsoil, make sure to mow the lawn and aerate the soil. Now you’re ready to work in the sand. 

Keep in mind that it can take a few years for your drainage issue to be completely solved. Just keep doing what you’re doing. 

Happy gardening!

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