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I just removed my old front stoop: it was a wall of field stone, filled with a layer of pea stone and 2x8x8 cubic feet of sand, and finally covered by slate. I want to level my very uneven lawn with this sand. My lawn is terrible and I plan to sod or bring in top soil and reseed next spring (I should have done it in the fall but I couldn't get it done in time).

The lawn is less than a quarter acre.

  1. Will putting thick layers (up to 5 inches in some places) of sand throughout the yard hurt future lawns?
  2. If I plan on putting a layer of top soil on top of everything, is it ok if I don't mix the sand with top soil (some answers to other similar questions suggest 50/50 mixes)?
  3. If I plan on growing a lawn on top of this sand, do I need to weed before I pour the sand on top?

I live in the Boston area and the lawn is in partial-to-full sun.

Based on these questions:

I would guess that the answers to my questions are (1) yes I can fill in my lawn, (2) mixing 50/50 is probably better, but not necessary if I plan on putting a layer of soil on top (I don't know how much is needed for it to be ok?), and (3) I should probably weed before I cover things with sand, because the weeds are likely to push through.

Any clarification/correction to my own answers are greatly appreciated.

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Sorry - I was trying to ask about current drainage. Is it already a sandy soil, or what? (Probably sandy, near Boston). Boston rainfall = 42 inches/year. I don't know enough to answer. FWIW, when we had our yard landscaped, the designer put in a layer of clay to reduce the drainage in some areas, because it was so sandy. I don't know how much. –  Ed Staub Oct 18 '11 at 19:13
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1 Answer

up vote 7 down vote accepted

If you have a warm-season lawn, mid-Spring is the ideal time to renovate:

* Can my lawn be saved or is it time to dig it up and re-sod?

Seeing as you live in the Boston area, I'm 95% certain you would have a cool-season lawn, therefore late-Summer to early-Autumn (Fall) is the ideal time to renovate:

If you're laying a cool-season lawn via sod (not via sowing seed), then you will get away with doing so in early to mid Spring.

On the other hand, if you plan to establish a cool-season lawn via sowing seed, I can't recommend strongly enough that this should be carried out in late-Summer to early-Autumn (Fall). Doing so will greatly increase the success rate of establishing a strong, healthy lawn. Sowing cool-season lawn seed in Spring really is a lottery if it will survive or not, especially if the Summer is hot and dry...


There is no way I would dump up to a 5inch (125mm) thick layer of sand onto my lawn or anyone else's lawn for that matter, even with the knowledge that the sand layer will then be covered with top soil afterward... Why?

  • Sand is a (very) good drainage material, too good for most plants (including grasses used for home lawns) ie It doesn't hold moisture long enough for the plants to use effectively.

  • Sand is a poor growing medium for most plants (including grasses used for home lawns) ie Roots struggle to establish themselves, moisture isn't retained long enough for the plants to make effective use of.

  • During hot, dry Summers you would be for every watering your lawn just to try to keep it alive.


If that's the sand in photo "1) sand pile", there's no way I would spread any of it over a lawn. I agree with:

"bstpierre" -- It would be generous to call that "sand" -- definitely don't spread it on your lawn. Looks more like fine gravel to me.

"winwaed" -- The right kind of sand might not be too bad for lawns, but I would agree that that stuff would not be too good (from both horticultural and geological perspectives, I probably wouldn't even call it sand).

If you want to use up some of that sand, here is what I would do (rightly or wrongly), assuming sod is going to be laid.

Now, Autumn/Fall 2011:

  • Remove as many of the weeds as I could via hand-pulling.

  • Fill the low spots with no more than a 2inch (50mm) thick layer of sand.

  • Bring in enough fill material (see below for recommendation) to level out the lawn area.

    • By volume mix 10% to 20% (maximum) of the sand into the fill material.
  • Spread this fill material over the lawn, getting the lawn area as level as I can (doesn't have to be perfect at this stage).

  • Walk away and let the fill material overwinter on the lawn area.

Early to mid Spring 2012:

  • With a heavy-duty metal garden rake work the fill material layer to level it out and break up the surface a little. Remove any large stones, vegetation (including roots, wood, etc) and foreign objects I come across.

    • A (sharp) hoe would be handy to have, will make short work of removing any weeds (vegetation) that have popped their heads above the surface.
  • Bring in enough fill material (see below for recommendation) to put down a final 2inch (50mm) thick (sod-bed) layer.

    • By volume mix 10% to 20% (maximum) of the sand into the fill material.
  • Spread this fill material over the complete lawn area.

    • With a heavy-duty metal garden rake level this fill material layer to final grade.
  • Lay the sod (instant lawn), when doing so, staggering the joints as if I were building a brick wall, also taking my time to ensure I get nice tight joints.

  • Lay a scaffold-board over the top of the sod. Shuffle along the board a few times, this will ensure good contact between the sod and the soil underneath is achieved. Move the board over the width of the board, repeat "shuffle" process. Repeat, repeat... until the complete area has been tamped down.

  • Bring in enough "high quality" compost to put down a ½inch (12.5mm) thick layer over the newly installed sod.

    • By volume mix 10% to 20% (maximum) of the sand into the compost.
  • Spread this compost/sand mixture over the complete lawn area.

  • Lightly water the newly laid lawn, do this daily for the first couple of weeks (assuming no rain). After that, water lightly every 2 to 3 days. Basically you don't want the sod drying out (contracting and gaps appearing along the sod joint lines).

  • A month after installing the sod, revert to your "normal" watering schedule (or follow the recommended watering requirements for the chosen grass type).

Fill material: Personally I would use a 50-50 mix of "high quality" screened (¼inch/6.25mm sieved) top soil & compost for filling in low spots in a lawn.

  • "High quality" = Make your own from compost and soil (materials) you control, or buy from a local independently owned garden nursery, or if you're lucky enough to have access to a local (free) community composting facility that is known to output good quality material.

    • Basically you want to reduce the risk as much as possible of bringing in lots! of weed seeds into your environment.

Good luck! and I hope the above is somewhat helpful/useful...

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