If you want to know how to flatten uneven lawn then you are at the right place. On the other hand, a yard with lumps and bumps is not only ugly, but it is also a potential safety hazard, with plenty of opportunities for trips, falls, and sprained ankles. Many events can cause an uneven yard, including drainage issues, leaks in pipes beneath the surface, and lawn pests like grubs or moles disturbing the root structure of the turf, but none of them need to completely derail your landscaping efforts.
Improper grading can also cause issues with a home’s foundation or basement. Before you begin working to level the surface of your lawn, troubleshoot the underlying issue to ensure it does not reoccur in the future. Then follow these steps to level a yard to transform your lawn into the smooth, lush, green landscape you’ve always desired.
Why Is Having a Level Lawn Important?
A smooth, even lawn with no bumps or depressions is important because it provides a much more usable walking surface. Any athletic or recreational activity, from soccer to croquet to bocce ball, will be made safer and more enjoyable. For both children and adults.
A level lawn is also a healthier and easier to maintain lawn. It not only results in a better quality cut because your mower isn’t scalping the lawn, but it also allows you to mow more quickly because the mower isn’t jumping around. Not to mention that mowing over a bumpy surface is simply unpleasant (much like driving over potholes in your car).
Low spots are especially problematic because as the tyres pass over them, the level of the mower blade drops, causing it to plunge into higher spots and cut the grass there too short. The final benefit of a level lawn is drainage. Holes and low spots collect water in pools, increasing the likelihood of lawn disease.
What Causes a Bumpy Lawn?
Before you can do anything to fix bumps and unevenness, you must first figure out why they happened. Often, there is an underlying issue that must be addressed. It is critical to find a long-term solution by removing the cause before correcting the effect. Bumps and depressions can occur as a result of drainage issues or even broken water or irrigation pipes that cause erosion. If there are two to three low spots, for example, near areas where there may be water or drainage pipes, you should investigate to ensure that nothing is leaking. If necessary, seek the advice of an expert.
Sprinkler systems are a common source of erosion because the water lines are prone to damage and the entire system necessitates regular maintenance. Check to see if the spray heads and rotors are working properly and rising to their full height, if the nozzles are not clogged or damaged, and if the heads are not leaking.
Another common cause of a bumpy lawn is ground settling. Depressions are caused by settling over time. This is almost unavoidable. Particularly if you have a new lawn, have had yard work done, or have large equipment on your lawn. In cold-winter climates, freezing and thawing cycles can amplify this. These cycles can cause the soil to heave, making it bumpy and uneven. Bumpy areas appear in the spring as clay soil thaws unevenly. It has the ability to heave and ripple your lawn, much like a bunched-up carpet.
Another cause of lawn bumpiness is a thin lawn caused by a disease or insect infestation that is weakening an area. As a result, there are patches of bare soil. These areas then erode even further as a result of rainfall, wind, and activity, resulting in depressions in comparison to the surrounding area of healthy lawn. This was the main cause of the unevenness in my front yard.
Other sources of bumps include buried objects such as construction debris (which should be removed), people walking on too-soft lawns (such as in the early spring or after heavy rains), and animals. Animals, both wild and domestic, will occasionally dig holes in lawns. If the bumps are caused by burrowing animals such as groundhogs or moles, they must be removed or repelled. Finally, ant mounds can cause significant bumps. Because of the presence of ants, these will be readily apparent. Ants, for the most part, do not harm the grass and can even help keep other pests at bay; however, when they form large mounds, they become a problem.
How to Flatten Uneven Lawn: Easy Steps From an Lawn Expert
Before you begin, determine the gravity of the problem. Is your lawn mostly bumpy and uneven, or is it as smooth as the moon’s surface? Your approach will be determined by the severity. Small holes can usually be filled in and reseeded by topdressing or simply filling them in. If your problem is more serious, you may need to resort to more aggressive treatment, such as re-grading.
Removing Minor Irregularities
It may be possible to flatten minor bumps (less than 1″) by stepping on them during the spring months when the ground is soft. A roller filled with water can also be used. Fill the roller about a third of the way with water and roll it over the lawn. If the surface still isn’t smooth, add a little more water and repeat the process until it is. However, be careful not to overdo it, as rolling will compact the soil, which can lead to other issues.
Topdressing is the least invasive method for leveling mildly uneven areas. I was able to address the majority of the unevenness in my front yard by topdressing, but I plan on doing it again this spring with a leveling rake, which I believe will improve my results. These are the fundamental steps:
- You can mow the lawn on the lowest setting that your mow have.
- Dethatcher or dethatch the lawn with a garden rake.
- Make a batch of leveling mix in a wheelbarrow. Compost-based mixtures are ideal for this.
- Using a shovel, apply scoops of soil mix to low areas of the lawn.
- Spread the top dressing evenly with a rake. Apply 1/4′′-1/2′′ of the soil mixture to the low areas. To avoid suffocating the grass, only 1/2″ of material can be applied at a time.
- Work the soil mixture into the grass as thoroughly as possible with a push broom (or leveling rake). When finished, you should see mostly grass.
- Water the grass to help it stay in place; and
- Keep an eye on the situation. If the surface is still uneven, repeat these steps until it is level (once the grass has had a chance to recover). You can gradually correct small low spots and depressions by sprinkling top dressing over them.
What is the best top dressing for lawn leveling?
For a lawn leveling top dressing, there are two options: sand or a sand-soil mix. Pure sand is the quickest and easiest leveling material. Sand has excellent structural and leveling properties, aids drainage, and can cling to clay in the soil. Be aware that too much sand can cause your grass to become parched and thirsty because water will pass right through.
Sand-soil mixes, on the other hand, are available in a variety of compositions or can be mixed yourself. 30% soil or organic compost and 70% sand is a common mix. The compost/soil adds nutrients and beneficial bacteria that your lawn requires. Sand by itself provides no nutrients or microbial value.
The best top dressing for your application should be determined by your existing soil (as determined by a soil test) and the extent of your leveling. If you need to overseed areas of your lawn after leveling, use a soil-mix to promote seed germination. If you’re just levelling and don’t care about nutrients, sand is probably your best bet.
Small Holes Filling
Small animal holes can sometimes be repaired by simply filling the disturbed soil back in and topping it off with topsoil. If the holes are small, the existing grass can grow over them. Fill slightly larger holes with topsoil, pack it down, and make sure it’s level. Overseed with grass that is similar to what is already growing in your lawn.
Feed and water the seed regularly. Check out my article on overseeding by clicking here. I recommend using an ant hill spray like this one. After attempting several methods to remove a large ant mound, I used a spray that worked on the first try and did not harm the grass.
Leveling a Slightly Uneven Lawn
What if your lawn has a few really low spots (an inch or more deep)? Topdressing is probably not the best option for these spots because it can take a long time to work (because you have to go 1/2″ at a time). Instead, consider removing the sod, repairing the underlying cause of the sinking, and then backfilling with new soil that has enough extra soil to allow for settling. The sod that was removed can be replaced. Take the following steps:
- Remove the sod from the low spot (if the area is larger than 1 foot square, cut it out in multiple chunks to make it easier to move without breaking) and set it aside. I recommend not making the strips any wider than 18″. Pull them up gently, separating the roots from the soil. To keep the strips moist, roll them up. If you’re in the sun, move them to a shady spot;
- Fill the hole with enough topsoil that when the sod is replaced, the area will be level.
- Add water as you shovel the soil into the hole to settle it. This will eliminate air pockets;
- If the sod is still in good condition, replace it with new sod or seed; and
- Thoroughly water the grass. I would not recommend starting this project right after a heavy rain. The soil will be thick, damp, and difficult to work with.
Repairing a Severely Uneven Lawn
Finally, if your lawn resembles the surface of the moon, you will most likely need to take more drastic measures. Topdressing or sod cutting will most likely not be enough to solve the problem. It is possible that you will need to regrade the area and establish a new lawn. As you can see from the photos, this was the case for me in my backyard.
A portion of the yard sloped towards the house, and the other half was too steep to be usable. The majority of the work was done by hand, which I found to be the best option for a yard this size. I was able to be far more precise than a machine. As you can see, I had a tractor, but it was mostly used to remove an old patio and dig the foundation for a new one.
How to Regrade Your Landscaping
The ground should always slope away from your house, according to the first rule of grading. Every ten feet, it should drop at least two or three inches. A lawn’s maximum slope should be no more than twelve inches per four feet. If the drop exceeds a foot, consider building a small retaining wall or covering the slope with a ground cover or ornamental grass. Here are the fundamental steps:
- Set stakes in the ground to create a slope line for the yard to drain properly. A transit level, on the other hand, is a more accurate way to measure the slope of your yard. This is my preferred option. They are reasonably priced and can be rented from your local equipment rental store. To get the measurements, you’ll need two people.
- Once you’ve determined your slope, begin removing topsoil from problem areas. Scrape away high areas and fill in low areas to adjust the subsoil. Depending on the size of your yard, extensive grading may necessitate the use of larger machinery. This type of equipment can be rented or hired through a landscape contractor.
- Spread 2-inches of topsoil over the first 2-inches of subsoil. This will reduce the likelihood of drainage issues between the two layers of soil.
- Finally, spread the remaining topsoil, which should add at least four inches.
- Once your final grade is determined, you can either lay sod or start grass from seed. The finished grade (after amendments and new grass) should match the existing fixture level (walkways, patios, and the established lawn).
Considerations for New Grass
If you’re going to use sod, make sure it’s thoroughly rolled to help stabilize the lawn and reduce footprints in the coming weeks. Water thoroughly to help the grass reestablish itself. Fertilizer should be added to encourage root growth.
Keep as much foot traffic away from newly sodded or seeded areas as possible, and put up some sort of barrier to keep people and pets from stepping on it for at least a couple of weeks.
When is the best time to Level?
Carefully plan your repairs. Try to time basic repairs for the spring. This will give your grass time to grow in while also providing the moisture required to help set the soil. Although spring is the best season for moisture, it can also be the worst. Because of the snow melt, the ground is usually very soft, which can result in new bumps if there is too much traffic. Leveling should not be attempted in the winter when the grass is dormant.
Once your lawn is level, you can take preventative measures to avoid adding new bumps or depressions. As a result, the two most important things you can do are as follows:
- When mowing the lawn, change your cutting pattern in between cuts to avoid creating ruts from your lawn mower wheels; and
- When the lawn is wet, keep foot traffic off of it.
After reading this article, I hope you appreciate my lawn leveling obsession and have learned something new. Maintaining the level of your lawn is an ongoing process, but with a few simple steps, it’s really quite simple and can make a big difference in the quality of your lawn. Keep an eye out for more leveling updates! Also, all of the tools and products I use are listed in my recommended gear section.
Q1. How to flatten a lawn without a roller?
Determine the center of your dip and cut a cross through it with a spade or a lawn edger. Lift the edges carefully and slide the spade under the turf (I say “slide,” but it’s more like “lots of shunts”). Repeat this process all the way around, then fold back the turf and fill in with garden soil.
Q2. Best equipment to level ground?
Here are some Yard Leveling Tools & Equipment:
2. Hand rake.
3. Thatch rake [or dethatching machine]
4. Plastic leaf rake.
5. Large push broom.