How to Level a Lawn in 5 Steps
While we know you can always have a perfectly level lawn, having an uneven one may actually cause more problems.
With a smooth surface your soil likely won’t face drainage problems and you’re less likely to scalp your lawn while lowing.
Low spots in your garden, however, make it harder to maintain and can cause waterlogging.
Find out more about why you should maintain a level yard and what might be causing any low spots or holes in the soil.
We also take you through how to level a lawn in 5 steps.
Why A Level Lawn Is Important
There are a few reasons why a smooth, even lawn without bumps or low spots is important. Foremost, it makes your yard more usable and an easier surface for people to walk and play on.
Outdoor activities, such as playing ball or tag, will be safer and more enjoyable for both adults and kids. Having a level yard also helps your grass be healthier and allows for easier maintenance.
Mowing an uneven lawn results in an uneven cut. Not only could you scalp parts of your lawn when you have an uneven yard, but your mower will jump around and it will take longer to mow the entire lawn.
Finally lawn leveling results in a good underground drainage system.
When you have holes and low spots in your soil, water will collect in pools and you have an increased chance of grass disease.
How Do You Get An Uneven Lawn?
While there are many reasons a lawn can become an uneven, bumpy lawn, it’s usually caused by foot traffic from kids or animals, pests such as beetles or waterlogging.
While kids playing in your yard us typically fine, too much foot traffic when the soil is damp or soft can cause it to become uneven ground.
While this means you end up with an uneven lawn, it can also cause compaction in the soil leading to bigger issues.
Whether it’s your pet or a neighbouring cat, animals are the main cause of holes as well as dead patches of lawn.
They’ll also stray into your garden during vulnerable months when lawns are in hibernation or frosty.
Lawn pests such as the larvae of the African Black Beetle, will hatch underground and eat through soil and roots under your grass.
Depending on how much damage they do while they’re in larvae stage, pests are another common cause of a sunken area in your lawn.
Especially over winter, the weather can play a big part in causing large clumps and bumps in your lawn. Allowing water to build up on the surface of your lawn can cause long-term damage.
Waterlogging is often caused by compacted soil and is worsened by standing water on your lawn.
Tools For Leveling Uneven Lawns
By following our guide on how to level a lawn you’ll need a few key tools including:
You may find that if you are fixing low spots in a larger area, you may need some large equipment to make this task far easier.
However, for the majority of homes, you’ll be able to level a lawn using simple equipment.
Steps For Leveling A Lawn
Step 1: Mow the grass
As part of preparing to level your lawn, you need to be able to see what you’re deaing with.
Have you got a few lumps or bumps, or are there larger holes?
To help you get a better understanding, you should cut your grass blades to the optimal height for your lawn variety, taking care not to scalp the grass.
With that done, you can get a better idea of how much levelling will be needed, and how much lawn leveling mix you will need.
Depending how uneven your existing grass is, you may need a wheelbarrow to transport the top dressing mix and a square-edged shovel.
With your lawn freshly mowed, you will also be able to better identify why your lawn is uneven.
If it is because of foot traffic or compaction, you may find that you need to aerate your grass more often to maintain a level lawn in the future.
However, if it is a more serious issue, such as leaking water pipes, you will find that you’ll be right back at step 1 before long unless the water pipes are fixed first.
Step 2: Water The Grass
Before you level a lawn, you will need to give it a good water.
However, it doesn’t need to be completely drenched, it just needs sufficient moisture a few days before you plan to level your lawn.
For smaller areas of grass, you might find a watering can will be sufficient but larger areas will need a hose pipe.
As want to water evenly but not heavily for this stage, you my wish to use a hose setting with smaller water droplets.
Step 3: Choose Prepare The Soil Mix For Your Lawn Dressing
The next step is to decide what topsoil mix you’ll be using to level your own lawn.
The most common options for top dressing are sand, topsoil and organic compost.
However, the best option is often a mix of all 3, for example 2 parts sand and 2 parts topsoil with some compost mixed through to make a good soil mix.
While pure sand is often a popular choice, it can be expensive and is only suitable if you don’t already have a sand soil mix.
Leveling Top Soil. Landzie 36” Lawn Level
Sand is easy to use, will attach itself to clay soil and helps with drainage.
Too much, however, will cause drainage issues as the water will drain straight through. This will dry out your soil even if you water regularly.
Using topsoil similar to your existing soil will help to level out your lawn but often won’t help provide much-needed nutrients to your grass.
Compost or an organic soil mixture, however, will give your lawn the nutrients it needs to thrive.
While these each have their benefits individually, a blended top dressing mixture will not only be more cost-effective but will help your grass in more than one way.
Step 4: Tackling Minor Hollows
For any hollows that are less than 2 centimetres deep, simply fill them with your lawn dressing.
Sprinkle a thin layer over the area and brush it into place with a garden rake.
Then, press it firmly into place using the straight side of your rake.
Give the soil a light watering. This will also help to remove air s.
If there is grass in the hollow already, make sure to leave the tips poking through the dressing.
However, if you are adding new lawn to a dead spot, you may wish to leave the hole a couple of days before adding the grass.
Step 5: Tackling Bigger Lumps Bumps
Larger holes or mounds will take a bit more preparation before you can level your lawn.
You’ll need your shovel to cut into the centre of the uneven area, down to a depth of about 5 centimetres.
Then make a second cut at right angles to the first, so you have a cross shape.
Now slide your shovel under each quarter of the cross.
Keep it as flat as you can, and gently fold back the edges of the turf over the surrounding area.
You want to be able to fold these back into place after you’ve dealt with your hollow or mound.
For mounds, dig out any excess soil and then level the soil gently so that it’s flat and you can fold the turf back into place on top.
However, if it’s a hole or an area that’s too low follow a similar procedure to above and fold the grass over. Then remove any large stones or roots and level the soil. Add your new soil mix so that it’s level with the surrounding area.
Give it a rake, so that the surface is even, then fold the turf back into place. Press it down firmly, working from the outer edges to the centre.
Finally, fill any gaps between the cuts with more lawn dressing – or follow our in-depth guide on how to top dress your lawn.
Now all you have to do to level a lawn is wait for the grass to grow and fill in the areas cut, or to grow above the layer of top dressing.
While it will take more than a few days, your grass will have it’s curb appeal back in not time.
Lawn Practices To Maintain A Healthy Lawn
After your hard work levelling your lawn, you’ll want to be able to enjoy it for years to come.
To maintain a healthy green carpet, there are a few simple lawn care practices that will keep your lawn the greenest on the block.
Aerating Your Lawn
Aerating your lawn will help with compacted soil as well as a build up of thatch. Aeration will also help with air circulation, water drainage and nutrient absorption.
Read more about aerating your lawn with a garden fork in our lawn care guide.
Watering Your Lawn
Establishing good watering habits will help your lawn to build up drought resistance and prevent lawn disease. In order to do this, you should water your entire yard deeply and infrequently.
Often, in Australia, you’ll find that you’ll only need to water your lawn when it hasn’t rained recently. And, if you’d like to water your lawn less, you can even use lawn water crystals sprinkled through your grass.
Mowing Your Lawn
Regular mowing doesn’t just keep your lawn looking good, it also encourages even grass growth, stronger roots and faster recovery from disease and pests.
Applying Lawn Fertiliser
Regular mowing doesn’t just keep your lawn looking good, it also encourages even grass growth, stronger roots and faster recovery from disease and pests.
Check out our latest guides on Lawn Fertilisers:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
When Hannah is not writing, you can often find her at the gym, on a walk with her dog or binge-watching Netflix. Hannah is an admitted gaming fanatic, she feeds her addiction with regular game nights, filled with a mix of console gaming, as well as tabletop.
How to level a yard – fix a bumpy lawn or sloped garden yourself
Landscaping your plot? Find out how to level a yard and lawn – by hand or not – to make more of your space.
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Learning how to level a yard is a vital backyard maintenance step whether you’re landscaping the entire space, preparing to lay a patio or deck, or rescuing a bumpy lawn.
Bumpy lawns can be unsightly and make it tricky to mow your lawn, are a trip hazard and can ruin the aesthetics of your garden. A level lawn is also a really important factor for drainage; holes and low areas can collect water which may cause lawn disease.
So, before you investigate garden landscaping ideas, follow this step-by-step guide to leveling your bumpy lawn.
How to level a yard: what to consider
The best way to level a garden depends on the garden’s design, and how uneven or sloping the space is. You may just want to get rid of lumps and bumps in the lawn so it looks its best, is suitable for sitting or lying out on and so kids can play on it. A flat lawn is easy to mow, and rain will be absorbed evenly, making the grass healthier.
Alternatively, you may want to construct a patio or deck. If that’s the case, you’ll need to start from a level surface to build your new garden feature.
Of course, your garden may be a sloping one, leaving you with space you can’t easily use. If that’s the case leveling is imperative if you’re to create space for all sorts of garden activities, and to make tending the plot much more straightforward.
If you don’t want to do the job yourself, you can outsource it, but find out what the cost to level a yard is first.
How to level a lawn
Topdressing is the easiest and least onerous approach to leveling out lawns with uneven areas, using a thin layer of leveling mix (made up of soil, compost, and sand). You will need:
Mow the lawn
Mow the lawn at the lowest setting with the best lawn mower – remove the majority of excess grass.
Dethatch your lawn with a garden rake or dethatcher. Thatch is a mix of dead and living plant material that forms a layer at the base of grass, the cross-section where it meets the soil. A thin layer can be beneficial to lawn health but too much (often caused by poor soil aeration and drainage) can cause root problems and difficulty mowing. Dethatching can help restore lawn health.
Check your thatch before dethatching by digging up a small wedge of grass and soil with a trowel, anything over a couple of inches needs thatching. Thoroughly rake the grass to remove thatch then clear all debris.
Make a leveling mix
In an old bucket or wheelbarrow, mix up some leveling mix, you can buy this premixed or mix it yourself using 40% fine sand, 40% topsoil, and 20% compost. The sand provides good drainage, and the compost adds nutrients to the soil to promote grass growth.
Apply mixture with a shovel
Apply the mixture on top of the low areas with a shovel taking care not to add more than half an inch because anymore can smother the grass. Rake to spread the mixture out evenly.
Brush the grass with a broom
Brush the grass back and forth with a broom; this works in the leveling mix down whilst at the same time, lifting the grass blades up to make sure the grass isn’t covered with soil. Water the area lightly, taking care not to overwater as this can wash away the leveling mix. Monitor progress (giving the grass a chance to recover). Repeat if needed
Top tip: You can level out any small bumps (less than 1 inch) by stepping on them; it’s best to do this in Spring when the grass is soft.
Level out larger areas
To level out larger sunken areas (more than half an inch) you will need a different approach. Mow the lawn and dethatch as outlined above. For any larger patches, you can remove the turf patch by cutting along the sunken area with a flat spade or lawn edger, taking care to protect the roots. Spread a layer of topsoil into the hole, watering slightly as you build it up to the lawn level and then replace the turf patch, pressing the grass back into place with your hand or foot.
How to make your lawn LEVEL and Flat. Beginners Guide to lawn levelling
Level out bumps and lumps
For lumps, you’ll need to carefully lift the turf, then remove the soil below until the area is level with the rest of the lawn. Lay the turf back down and compact it afterward.
Reseed if necessary
For anything bigger than two inches deep you should start again rather than try to salvage the grass. Fill the plot with a good soil mix and lay new grass seed. Leave for two days, then add grass seed and a light layer of topsoil. Water as required.
Add terraces to a sloped garden
The best way to level a sloping garden is to construct terraces within the garden to create level areas. For gentle slopes, timber retainers can be used to form small, stair-like terraces. In this case, moving the soil around the garden is feasible, and it can be a DIY job.
Add retaining walls to steep slopes
For steeper slopes, retaining walls will be required to keep the soil in place, and the soil should then be piled up behind them. Retaining walls can be attractive features and may be formed with materials such as bricks, stone, sleepers, gabions – wire enclosures filled with stones – and special concrete blocks.
We’d recommend calling in a professional landscaper to do this job as the retaining walls must be strong; you may even require a structural engineer in addition to specifying the design of the wall. If walls are not correctly constructed for your particular plot, they can collapse with damaging and expensive results.
How to regrade a yard
If you’re thinking of installing a swimming pool, you’ll need to regrade your yard first. Before grabbing a shovel, you want to find and mark the location of any underground utility lines. You may think you’re only removing the top layer of grass, but it’s better to be safe before unearthing a power or gas line.
You should also check with your local municipality to see if you need any permits for this job. Blythe Yost, landscape architect and CEO of Tilly, an online landscape design company, says that ‘most municipalities have a soil movement permit requirement,’ depending on the extent of the job. For example, if you’re changing the grade enough to require a retaining wall, you probably need a permit.
What’s the best way to level an uneven yard yourself?
Leveling a bumpy lawn can be tackled at home, the best tip is to do this in spring when the ground is soft. Start with small lumps (less than one inch), using your foot to press them down then fill any small animal holes with garden soil, compressing with your foot and watering; in time the grass should grow back over them. For larger lumps mow your lawn and rake it to remove thatch, mix a topdressing with some sand and garden soil (at a ratio of 40% sand to 60% soil) and fill any lumps, raking even, brushing with a household broom to work it into the soil and watering to finish.
How can I level my yard cheaply?
You can level your yard yourself on a budget, for next to nothing, using a rake, play sand and some soil from your yard. Firstly, level any small bumps (under one inch) with your feet, making sure the ground is moist when you step on them. Any animal holes can be leveled by filling the soil back in with soil from your yard and then topping up with topsoil; if they’re small the existing grass should grow over them, for any larger holes you can sprinkle some grass seed if you have it and water.
For mildly uneven areas that require more work, topdressing is easiest. Once you’ve mowed the lawn, mix together some fine sand with some compost from your yard (at a ratio of 40% sand, 60% soil) and apply it to the low areas evenly. Rake even if you have one and run a household broom over it to work it into the grass, water and monitor progress. Repeat if needed.
Levels low areas in turf to prevent scalping; Promotes air and water penetration to grass and turf roots; Promotes Rapid turf growth and repair; Retains moisture and nutrients, Long lasting silica sand, Ideal infiltration rate
Angular to Sub-angular shape, Meets USGA Particle Size Recommendations (if required), Available in Green Dyed Sand
Topdressing is one of our most popular turf care products. Topdressing comes in a variety of blends of sand, soil, compost, and peat moss. However, our clients in Metro Atlanta and Georgia prefer USGA Topdressing Sand.
For our turf care professionals such as Golf Course Superintendents, Athletic Field Managers, Landscapers, Agronomists, and other clients please note that RSI supplies a variety of topdressing products including:
- USGA Topdressing Sand (PGA Sand)
- Green Dyed Topdressing Sand
- Greensmix Sand and Peat (90/10, 80/20, 70/30)
- Ultradwarf Topdressing Sand
- River Sand
- Divot Sand
- Sand and Compost Blends
- Sand and Soil Topdressing
- Soil Topdressing
Let’s start with the purpose and benefits of topdressing your lawn, golf course, sport fields or any other turf grass field or grass lawn.
Topdressing is the process of spreading a thin layer of material, usually sand, soil, compost or a combination of these bulk landscaping materials, over the surface of your grass, usually turfgrass. Typically, the grass or turf is already established and in its growing season.
So, what is the purpose of topdressing?
There are a few reasons to topdress your lawn. The practice originated with golf courses. Turfgrass such as bentgrass, bermuda, or zoysia grows quickly because of ideal conditions. As the turf grows a layer of thatch develops, and this layer reduces the ability of air and water to penetrate to the rootzone. Core aerating prior to topdressing removes plugs from the turf and topdressing with sand allows for the holes to be filled. The fresh holes provide much needed aerification and infiltration into the rootzone of the turf. Therefore, topdressing helps develop a healthy rootzone and eliminates the excessive thatch layer that builds up and leads to grass diseases. Deeper roots mean a greener, healthier plant that is more drought tolerant and increases its ability to withstand/recover from traffic or heavy use. This is the one benefit of topdressing especially for golf courses and sports fields that have a sand-based rootzone with high intensity irrigation and fertilization plans for ideal turf conditions. Furthermore, topdressing alleviates compaction in the high use or traffic areas such as greens, the goalie spot in front of a goal, or the center of a football field.
The second and most common benefit many homeowners topdress their lawn is to level the lawn or grass. A level lawn creates a smooth surface for mowing that prevents scalping. Scalping is when the mower cuts lower than all the green leaves leaving only the brown stems, stolons, or dirt beneath. Scalping actually removes the leaves from the grass and not only looks bad but is detrimental to the health of your lawn. Also, when sod is installed there are usually seams in the squares of sod that create uneven bumps that remain once it grows together. Topdressing helps level your lawn and and fill in any uneven surfaces while still allowing the grass to grow right back through the material. Levelling your yard also allows for proper surface drainage of water to prevent pooling.
The third and most relative to Georgia deals with our famous Georgia red clay. It is a common practice, almost always, for a home builder or contractor to remove any topsoil from a house site, leaving only compacted red clay to build upon. Our clay is great for building a house on but not so ideal for growing a lawn. So many lawns have compacted clay with shallow root systems that leave your grass struggling in the summer heat to survive. With the sod already established it is expensive to start all over with ideal soil conditions. Topdressing is the preferred method to amend the soil beneath your lawn without having to start all over again. One myth related to our clay is that mixing sand and clay will make bricks or concrete. This simply isn’t true. Adding sand to the soil changes the soil texture, and creates more pore space for air and water to move into the soil. The beneficial soil structure with high clay soils was probably lost by grading or compaction during the construction of the house. Keep in mind, that we supply sand, soil, and compost products to clients so if you have a preference we can get you the landscaping material that you need. But if you want to do a little more research, please look at the decades of research performed by the USGA, even specifically for topdressing.
Topdressing is a critical practice for turfgrasses that are used for golf, baseball, softball, football, soccer, or an appealing lawn. There are many methods used to apply topdressing to the grass. A topdresser, such as a Turfco Mete-r-matic, Ecolawn, Earth and Turf, Tycrop, or Toro is a great option for spreading topdressing. There are different sizes to accommodate large sports fields or golf course fairways down to smaller versions for golf course greens and home lawns. You can use a tractor, and one of the most popular methods is to top dress by hand with the help of a shovel.
Topdressing warm-season turf grasses such as bermuda, centipede, and zoysia grass is done in the growing season. In areas of Georgia such as Gainesville, Athens, Alpharetta, Roswell, Cumming, Lawrenceville, Flowery Branch, Braselton, and Dawsonville the best time of the year to topdress is May-August when the grass is green but leaving it time to reestablish before is becomes dormant again in October. There are a couple of methods to topdress your lawn and you can read our recommendation in a step-by-step article that explains how to topdress your lawn. However, the basic steps involve scalping your turf (cutting it on the lowest mower setting) once it greens up in color; core aerate the lawn, apply the topdressing sand to the surface, drag the topdressing with a rake, piece of wood/fence, or preferably a drag until it smooths the surface. Subsequent irrigation and fertilization will promote Rapid regrowth of the turf.
What Type of Sand To Level a Lawn ( How To Do It!)
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Perfectly flat, even lawns do not appear out of nowhere. It takes a lot of preparation and ongoing maintenance to keep a lawn level so children can play and furniture can stand upright!
While there are many reasons a lawn becomes uneven, they all come down to soil displacement. So the best way to remedy a bumpy lawn is by replacing the lost soil.
Sand is a key component of healthy soil and can be used when leveling a lawn by hand. However, you should read on before attempting to level your lawn with pure sand!
What Is Sand Leveling And Topdressing?
One of the greatest ecological benefits of planting a ground cover like turfgrass is that it helps keep the topsoil in place. But even a thick blanket of grass can’t prevent all settling, erosion, and other damage from marring the surface of your lawn.
Leveling a lawn can be done in a number of ways, the least invasive of which is called topdressing. Topdressing involves spreading a very thin layer of soil over the existing lawn — grass and all — to level out small bumps and valleys.
Sand is an extremely popular choice for topdressing. However, pure sand should pretty much never be used for leveling a residential lawn.
Think of it this way: Anything you topdress your lawn with will eventually become part of the base soil composition. Topdressing with sand alone will change the balance of your lawn’s native soil.
While sand isn’t inherently bad for turfgrass, too much sand will interfere with water and nutrient retention.
How To Level Lawn With Sand
Again, you probably shouldn’t level your lawn using sand alone. But leveling a lawn using a mixture of sand, potting soil, and/or compost is a surprisingly simple way to repair damage from erosion, foot traffic, and general settling.
There are two main approaches to leveling low sections of lawn:
Topdressing is the best way to level out a lawn that has a generally uneven surface. It’s a relatively quick and easy process — you can topdress the average lawn in an afternoon. All you need is a wheelbarrow to mix and transport your sand mixture, plus a sturdy rake or hoe for actually spreading the material.
However, you should not spread the sand mixture more than ½-inch thick at a time. You should always be able to see the grass blades poking through the topdressing. So it may take several applications over the course of a summer to even out a particularly bumpy lawn.
To level a lawn with sunken areas more than 1-inch below the rest of the ground, you can employ a strategy called underfilling.
Underfilling utilizes the same sand mixture as topdressing. But you will not be spreading the soil over the top of the grass!
Instead, underfilling involves lifting the sod away from the affected area to reveal the bare soil below. You can then add the mixed sand until the area is flush with the rest of the lawn (some sources recommend piling the soil slightly above the rest of the lawn as it will settle over time). Replace the lifted sod and water the area to help everything settle into place.
Can You Use Sand To Fix Holes In A Lawn?
Yes, you can use a similar process to repair large holes or ruts in your lawn. Just fill the damaged area until it is flush with the surrounding ground.
Complete this step before topdressing the rest of the lawn. Or, if only a few spots need attention, use extra topdressing sand to blend the patched area into the rest of the soil.
While topdressing can be done with or without reseeding as well, this isn’t true for filling sizable holes. You’ll need to reseed the patched areas for a consistent final product.
Even when fixing small holes, you should still use a mixture of sand and potting soil instead of pure sand. Using sand alone will make it hard for the new grass seed to put down strong roots and keep up with the existing turf around it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Sand Should I Use To Level My Lawn?
Most homeowners reach for masonry sand or play sand when topdressing their lawns. These sands have fine, consistent particles and are thoroughly sifted to remove pebbles and other debris.
Although masonry sand and play sand are very similar in composition, sourcing these materials can be quite different.
Masonry sand tends to be the best option for large topdressing projects as it can be ordered by the truck. Meanwhile, play sand can easily be bought in bags for filling holes or treating small recesses.
By weight, masonry sand tends to be much more economical than play sand. However, if you feel it is time for disposing of old sandbox sand, soil leveling could be a good project for it.
How Much Sand Do I Need To Level My Lawn?
You can estimate the amount of sand you’ll need for your yard with a bit of (relatively) simple math.
Measure the length and width of the area to be covered, plus the thickness the final layer needs to be. Multiply these three measurements to get the rough volume of leveling material needed. Don’t forget to account for any holes or ruts you plan to fill as well.
If you will be mixing the sand with potting soil and/or compost before spreading, divide the total volume accordingly to find out how much sand you’ll need.
When topdressing a lawn, the thickness should be no more than ¼- to ½-inch. Take this into consideration when calculating the amount of sand needed for your specific leveling project.
When Should You Level Your Lawn With Sand?
Since the entire point of leveling with sand or soil is for the grass to grow through the new material, you should only topdress your lawn when the grass is at its most active. For this reason, mid to late spring tends to be the best time for applying sand.
Silvia is a mom of three pre-teen kids and is passionate about living a more sustainable family life. She feels she has only just begun her journey towards environmentally friendly living, and hopes that EnviroMom can be a resource to help other families on their own journeys!