If you’ve ever taken a walk around your own lawn and tripped, then you’ll know why having a bumpy lawn is a pain. Uneven ground also doesn’t look nice, and it can be a safety hazard – especially for those of us with little ones.
There are several causes for an uneven lawn. Heavy foot traffic can push down existing soil, while waterlogging can weigh it down or wear it away. Soil also settles over time. Additionally, roots, lawn pests, and animals can all affect the soil surface.
How to level a lawn? First, assess your entire yard to gauge how much leveling is needed and if you have existing drainage problems.
Prepare your top dressing mix ahead of time. For hollows less than 2.0cm deep, simply fill them with the top dressing.
For deeper hollows, you’ll need to dig up existing grass blades before filling the hole. Then for bumps, simply remove excess soil until it is level with the surrounding area.
Save yourself the frustration of trying to mow or walk over dips and bumps. Get yourself a perfectly level lawn – after some landscaping efforts, of course.
Disadvantages of an Uneven Lawn
It can feel tempting to just leave your lawn as-is and tell yourself that you can tolerate the unevenness.
But there are genuine disadvantages to having an uneven lawn, which could be harmful to you and your loved ones or your home itself.
Water flows away from high points and collects in low spots due to gravity. An uneven surface could lead to standing water in several spots, which could affect the soil structure.
It would lead to drainage issues throughout the entire lawn and damage your plants.
Still water is also a breeding ground for mosquitoes and bacteria, which are a health risk. It could also cause lawn disease.
If water runs toward your home, you risk damaging the structural integrity. Moisture can wear away at your foundation or cause wooden structural supports to rot. It could also leak into your house.
It’s difficult to mow a lawn if the surface is uneven. This is especially true for a highly or moderately uneven lawn.
You need an even amount of sunlight and water for grass growth and a healthy lawn, but bumps and dips will prevent that.
This applies to everyone from children to adults, and even pets. Bumps and low spots are a tripping hazard and could lead to serious injuries.
No one wants to catch their foot in a hollow by accident and sprain their ankle!
Preparing Uneven Lawns for Leveling
Start by assessing your lawn for the locations of bumps and hollows. If the dips are occurring around water pipes and other structural components, you’ll need professional help with re-grading and lawn leveling. Otherwise, you can DIY the project.
Water your lawn several days before you level it. This will ensure the soil isn’t too hard, dry, or compacted, which will make it difficult for you to work. Don’t overwater, though – that’s just as bad!
Additionally, you’ll need to mow your existing grass to its optimal height. This gives you better visibility of the surface.
The tools you’ll need for lawn leveling include:
- Carpenter’s level
- Wheelbarrow or similar tool for holding and carrying soil
- Garden rake
- Top dressing soil mix
- Push broom
How to Level a Lawn
The best way to level lawn comes in four phases.
The first is surveying and measuring, then the second is making your top dressing mix.
Once that’s done, you can begin leveling. Wait a few days before sprinkling grass seed.
1. Survey and measure
To check the overall angle and slope of your lawn, you’ll need to use a combination of stakes, string, and a carpenter’s level.
Use the ruler to measure around 5.0–8.0cm from the bottom of the stake, and 3.0cm from the top, then mark them. Make sure you’re consistent with your measurements.
Place stakes around the perimeter of your lawn at strategic intervals. Drive the stake into the ground until the bottom mark is at ground level. Then connect the stakes with string at the top mark.
Use a carpenter’s level to check if the strings run perfectly flat or not. This will give you an idea of the slope direction and severity, and also an idea of which spots in your garden are lower/higher than others.
If the ground slopes towards your home or the slope is steep, you’ll need to hire a professional to re-grade your lawn.
For the hollowed areas, use the ruler to see how much lower they are than ground level. Anything that is 1.0–2.0cm lower is a “shallow spot,” while anything more than 2.0cm is a “deep spot.”
You can also hire an expert to survey your yard for you.
2. Make your soil mix
People commonly use sand, topsoil, or organic compost for top dressing.
Pure sand is a popular choice, but can be expensive and could be less ideal than a sand-soil mix. It is, however, the better option if you have clay soil since it helps with drainage.
A good leveling mix consists of equal parts sand and topsoil, with some compost added in.
Use topsoil that’s similar to your existing soil for consistency. The compost will provide the necessary nutrients for soil health.
3. Level your lawn
Start with the shallow spots since these are easy to work on. Start by removing any rocks and debris.
Then simply sprinkle on a thin layer of your soil mixture and spread it evenly with either a garden rake or a push broom. Make sure the area is filled out before tamping down the new soil.
Lightly water the area so it settles.
For the deep spots, you’ll need your shovel. Cut a cross shape in the center, then use the shovel to turn over each quarter of turf as if you’re “peeling” the top layer of ground.
Get underneath the grass roots so you don’t kill the grass. Try to keep each section to an even thickness.
Remove any rocks and break up any large clumps of soil. Then fill the area with your topsoil mix, compacting it to remove air pockets.
You can use a garden fork to break up the surface a bit before folding the turf back into place and tamping it down from the outer edges to the center. Fill in gaps with new sod and water to settle the soil.
If you have bumps, turn over the turf then dig out excess soil until the surface is level with the surrounding area.
Remove any rocks or clumps that are pushing up the ground. Tamp the soil, then fold the turf back over.
4. Sprinkle grass seeds
For the hollows you filled with dressing mixture, you can sprinkle lawn seed after a few days. Add a light dusting of top dressing mix and water regularly to germinate the seeds.
You can also sprinkle grass seed into the gaps where you cut into the lawn for deep spots and bumps. Again, water regularly to assist germination.
Causes of an Uneven Yard
Even if you start out with a new lawn that’s nice and even, many factors can contribute to unevenness. Several things can eventually lead you to need to level your lawn.
Heavy and consistent foot traffic can push down grass and soil, causing low spots – all the more so if the ground is wet or soft.
This occurs over time, whether because of kids playing, pets running around, or lots and lots of outdoor parties.
Animals and pests
Certain animals can wander into your yard and dig it up or burrow into the soil.
Pests like nightcrawlers and larvae can eat grass and soil, leaving air pockets where soil will eventually settle and causing a sunken area.
Environmental or structural changes
Tree roots can cause changes in the ground as they extend and grow, usually by pushing up the soil. If you install a pool, the drainage pipes can also affect the ground.
Other things like walkways and irrigation systems also lead to irregular surfaces.
Waterlogged soil tends to sink, especially if weight is placed on it. It particularly affects clay soil, and is often caused by ground compaction.
Consistent water build-up on your lawn can lead to long-term damage besides unevenness.
It’s natural for soil to settle as time goes by. Changes underground will eventually lead to natural hollows forming.
If you live in a rocky area, you’ll likely need to excavate affected areas so you can remove and break up rubble underneath.
When to Level a Lawn
The best time to level a lawn is in spring.
Warm-season grasses are emerging from dormancy at this time, so they have better chances of recovering from disruption.
It also gives any new turf a better chance of growing before the summer heat.
Work after the frost and snow has melted and the ground is no longer frozen or wet.
Do not level your lawn directly before or after any heavy rain since the ground will be soft and muddy.
Should I Use a Lawn Roller on an Uneven Lawn?
It feels like an easy solution for a level yard, but it can be detrimental to your lawn’s health.
A roller pushes soil down and compacts it, which can lead to waterlogging or prevent grass roots from spreading and collecting moisture. It can also damage the grass.
Tips for Lawn Maintenance
Knowing when and how to level a lawn will leave you with healthier, happier turf in the long run. And you’ll be happier and healthier as well – especially when you’re not at risk of tripping on a walk.