This lawn care guide is for those that are looking to level a:
- Large Yard
- Sloping Yard
- Bumpy Yard
- Uneven Yard
- Leveling yards for Pool
One of the most common questions I get asked is how to level an uneven lawn? Many people feel that leveling their lawn is a daunting task, but this task is truly less frustrating depending on the condition than trying to maneuver your lawn mower over lumps and bumps.
Areas of your lawn can become uneven over time due to one or more issues including natural and unnatural causes. If your lawn is slightly or moderately uneven, you can level your lawn by topdressing with a thin layer of leveling mix (compost, soil, and sand), but you will have to overseed in extreme cases of unevenness.
Maintaining an even lawn is an ongoing process, but an important maintenance task that can make a significant difference in the quality of your yard.
Benefits of a Leveled Lawn
Many lawn owners spend way too much time and energy trying to achieve a lush, green lawn. But children, pets, and outdoor entertainment can take a toll on your lawn, and the more it’s used, the harder the impact will be.
One of the biggest advantages of a leveled lawn is that it will be easier to mow. You will also be able to mow more quickly, and create better quality cuts, as you won’t be scalping the lawn with your mower.
And if your lawn suffers from drainage and water clogging issues, leveling and grading it can direct water flow away from your yard, while allowing the right amount of water to be absorbed into the soil along with the essential nutrients.
Most importantly, leveling your yard will make it safer to use, and decrease the risk of twisting your ankle, and make it usable and enjoyable for any activities you and your kids may pursue outdoors.
What Causes Your Lawn to Become Uneven?
Knowing what’s causing your lawn to get out of shape will help you decide on the best way to level it out.
Freeze and thaw cycles
The most common reason for the bumps is freeze and thaw cycles. If you live in an area with chilly winters, the freeze-thaw cycles can cause a bumpy lawn.
When the soil freezes over the winter, logs and other organic matter in it break down as they decay and thaw. This causes a void underground that caves in, leading to bumps in your lawn.
Animals and kids
From home and neighborhood pets to pesky foxes searching for food, animals can really cause havoc in your lawn.
There are several things you can do to keep cats and other unwanted animals off your yard such as installing a chicken wire, covering the sandpit that cats mistake for a litter box, or simply spraying them off with water.
Drainage and waterlogging issues
Winter weather can play an important role in causing lumps and bumps in your yard. If surface water is allowed to accumulate, it can cause long term damage, which is why you should periodically check the drainage of your lawn.
Drainage issues are also a common problem for your overall lawn health, as they put your grass at risk of disease or rotting.
A few things you can do to improve the drainage of your lawn are creating a French drain to get rid of the excess water, changing your landscaping so that the slopes in your lawn and garden are away from your house, or extending your downspout to directly pour into a drain.
Poor lawn health
If your lawn isn’t in good health to begin with, it can become patchy and diseased, resulting in bumps in your yard.
Maintaining a lawn is no easy task, but few things you can do are selecting the right grass for your area and climate, watering your grass regularly, and fertilizing your grass to avoid fertilizer burn.
Nightcrawlers are basically large size earthworms that are actually good for your lawn’s overall health.
However, they leave behind small castings on the soil surface, which contribute to bumpiness in your lawn.
This waste is also good for your soil health, as it provides natural aeration to help recycle nutrients and fertilize the soil.
Therefore, it isn’t a good idea to get rid of nightcrawlers completely, but lower their population in your yard, so that they still continue to benefit your lawn.
When is the Best Time of Year to Level a Lawn?
Spring is the best time to start any type of lawn repair, because the soil is softer, easy to work with, and it’s the right time for grass seed to grow.
And since you ideally want the grass to grown through the fill, you should level your lawn when the grass is actively growing before the cool weather of fall.
Refrain from filling uneven spots in your lawn when the grass is dormant, because the grass will spend the winter under a damp layer of fill, which will affect its growth when the season arrives.
Tools You Will Need to Level Your Lawn
You probably have most of the tools required to even out your lawn in your gardening arsenal.
- Wheelbarrow or similar container
- Garden rake
- Sprinkler to gently water the lawn
Best Topdressings to use for Leveling Lawns
Topdressing has been a go-to repair practice for uneven lawns since 1947, but has only recently been adopted by homeowners.
This process offers myriad benefits for your lawn, and just as the name suggests, entails adding vital organic matter from the top down.
It is important to formulate a good topdressing blend, because a fertile one will promote grass growth, and retain water well compared to using just sand.
Further, topdressing is also a great alternative to using chemical treatments, and will serve as a great natural fertilizer for years to come.
Even though there are several different ingredients you can mix in your topdressing, the best topdressing formula depends on your soil type.
Many home gardeners use sand to level their lawns, but this isn’t recommended for a few reasons. First, most lawns are rich in clay, which already makes it difficult for grass to grow.
And adding sand over top of that clay will lead to further issues by hardening your soil, to a near cement like state, and affecting your drainage.
Sand also dries out quickly in the summer, which can leave your grass to suffer in the heat, making it more susceptible to injury.
Peat or Compost
If you have sandy or loam soils, use a gritty top dressing such as peat, compost, coarse sand, and topsoil. But if you have clay soils, you can use a mix of compost and topsoil. You can buy a readymade topdressing if available at your local garden center.
As a rule of thumb, your topdressing formula should be as close as possible to the original soil, if not better. You want to avoid any form of transplant shock, and not be too different from the original soil.
The best time to top-dress your lawn is on a dry day, and mow the lawn before applying the topdressing. Refrain from topdressing a lawn that is frozen or water-clogged or if your lawn is stressed by drought or disease.
It’s also a good idea to water your lawn a few days prior to a topdressing application to ensure that the soil is not too hard, dry or powdery, but avoid overwatering it, as it may make the soil hard to work with.
How to Level an Uneven Lawn?
Minor Levelling with and without Topdressing
You can fix small animal holes without adding any topdressing by simply topping the disturbed holes with soil. If the holes are small enough, the existing grass will gradually grow over them.
For gentle undulations, especially if one area of your lawn is more used than other or if there are tree roots running underneath, you can top-dress with a very fine sand.
If the bumps are less than an inch in size, you may be able to step on them to flatten them out when the ground is soft, which is generally during the spring months.
You can also use a water-filled roller to go back and forth over the bumps to level the lawn. But you have to be careful with this technique, as overdoing it can compact the soil, which can lead to other problems.
I was able to tackle most of the small irregularities in my lawn with topdressing. To do this, I first prepared a batch of levelling mix in my wheelbarrow using a shovel, and mixed well, so that the ingredients were blended well with the soil. After which I:
1. Applied roughly half inch of topdressing on top of the low areas. Refrain from adding more than 1/2-inch mix, because doing this can smother the grass, and grass will not grow if it’s covered with soil.
2. Grab your rake, and spread the topdressing over the area evenly.
3. Next, use a push broom to brush the grass gently back and forth, to work the topdressing mix down.
4. Lastly, water the area, but do not overwater, because it can wash away the topdressing, and put an end to your efforts.
5. Check on the area over the next few days, and you should see grass, and no dirt. You can repeat the topdressing process if you do notice any dirt on the surface, but only apply 1/2 inch at a time until its level.
For depressed areas of your lawn that are covered with healthy grass, you can pick up the carpet, and sweep dirt under it.
First, grab a flat spade or manual lawn edger, and carefully cut out the portion of the sunken area. You’d have to use your cutting skills to make clean, vertical cuts to prevent damaging the roots.
Now remove the patch of turf, and set it aside. Grab some potting soil and even out the hole, so that it’s level with your surrounding lawn. To avoid air pockets, and prevent future settling, water the soil in that area lightly.
Lastly, replace the turf patch, and secure it into the ground with your hand or foot, and water as needed to help it recover from the stress of being removed.
Leveling Out Deep Holes in Your Lawn
Deeper depressions in your lawn—ones that that are one to two inches in size will require a different method of leveling. Again, this is because applying a large amount of topdressing may kill the grass below.
And even if the leveling does work out, you’ll probably have to deal with health and potential problems in the future.
One of the easiest ways to repair large holes in your lawn is by starting over, that is filling them with a good soil mix, and installing new grass seed.
You can use topdressing too, but this will require too many applications, and you’ll spend a fair bit of time and effort trying to keep the grass healthy and alive.
If you have too many large depressions in your lawn, regrading the entire area may be your only option.
Regrading your lawn will cover the existing grass, so you’ll need to reseed or resod. If you’re going to go this route, and aren’t sure how to go about it, it’s recommended that you call in professional help, especially if you have a larger lawn.
A professional landscaper will have the right equipment such as a level and backhoe to get the job done quickly and correctly.
It’s normal for certain areas of your lawn to become uneven over time due to drainage issues, settling, or myriad other natural and unnatural causes.
In most cases, you can resolve the issue with a topdressing application, and a couple of applications for more widespread unevenness that’s not too deep.
For uneven areas located near water pipes, it’s recommended that you speak with a professional to avoid damaging the pipes.
And if you have deep sunken lawn areas, where topdressing won’t work, you’d be better off getting the task completed by a professional.