A bumpy lawn is an eyesore at best and a tripping hazard at worst. But you don’t have to endure it.
In this guide, we’ll run you through the A to Z of levelling a lawn, from using the right materials and tools to preparing your lawn, levelling it and caring for it.
Levelling a horribly bumpy lawn without heavy equipment doesn’t take long and is a straightforward process. First, mow the grass and remove the thatch layer. Next, spread a lawn levelling mix of 50/50 soil and sand over the lawn. Then water the lawn to allow the levelling mix to settle down.
Ready to level a bumpy lawn? Let’s start from the very beginning.
What causes a bumpy lawn?
Many factors can lead to a bumpy and uneven lawn. Heavy foot traffic, digging animals, earthworms and waterlogging are just some of them.
- Foot traffic: Heavy foot traffic in certain areas of your lawn can cause soil compression.
- Uneven thawing: In spring, bumps may appear on your lawn when the frozen, dense soil thaws unevenly.
- Water logging: Waterlogged areas with mushy and wet soil can put pressure on top of the lawn and cause depressions.
- Earthworms: Earthworms are beneficial for your lawn—they help decompose thatch. But their constant burrowing can create an uneven lawn. Lawn earthworms are especially active in moist soil.
- Digging animals: Animals digging through your lawn can also cause unwanted lawn bumps. So, keep an eye on your cats, dogs and neighbourhood foxes.
- Soil settlement: If your lawn is old, it may gradually take on a bumpy and uneven appearance.
- Garden equipment: Heavy gardening equipment can also cause holes and ruts. For instance, if you mow your lawn in the same pattern, you may notice ruts developing over time.
When to level a lawn
The best time to level the lawn is in spring, once the fear of frosts has passed. That’s when the cycle of freezing and thawing is over. Plus, the grass is actively growing and does well with a nutrition boost.
What’s more, you can level a bumpy lawn by hand and reseed the bare patches once your lawn has come out of winter dormancy.
Levelling a lawn with topsoil or sand
Now, how to start levelling your lawn? Can you put soil on top of grass to level it? Or do you need a mix of sand and compost?
The answer depends on how deep the bumps and ruts are. You can do minor levelling with topsoil or sand. You can simply spread a thin layer of either topsoil or sand over the lawn without smothering the grass.
If you need to level some deeply sunken areas in your lawn, you’re better off filling them with a soil mix. We recommend using a 50/50 soil levelling mix of sand and compost. The sand will provide good drainage while the compost will add nutrients to the lawn and promote grass growth.
How much material do you need?
To determine how much material you need, simply use this formula: apply 1 ½ cubic yards of material per thousand square feet.
Remember, when you level your lawn, you don’t want to smother your grass. So, make sure you don’t apply more than half an inch of material.
That said, what material should you use for levelling? UK gardeners can use sand to flatten a bumpy lawn. We recommend USGA topdressing sand for this purpose. This is very fine, hydro-washed, and free-draining sand which helps break down the layer of thatch.
Preparing to level your garden soil for grass
If your lawn looks uneven with a few too many dips, you’ll need to prepare it beforehand. This includes checking for low spots, fixing drainage issues and pre-watering before levelling.
Take a closer look at how you can prepare to level your garden soil for grass.
1. Check for low spots
Start by checking for horribly bumpy or low spots on your lawn. To do so, use a pressure-treated piece of wood with a string attached to its ends and drag it across your lawn. You’ll be able to inspect your lawn very quickly and notice all the areas that need extra work.
2. Fix any drainage issues
If your lawn has drainage issues, you’ll need to fix them. Re-grade the lawn and ensure it slopes away from your property to avoid waterlogging. You can regrade your lawn by alternating raking and rolling.
3. Pre-water your lawn
You will need to water your lawn a few days before your plan to level it. This will ensure that the soil is not too dry, hard or powdery for new adjustments.
How to level a bumpy lawn by hand in 5 steps
Levelling a lawn by hand might sound like a lot of work, but you can achieve it by following our step-by-step guide on how to level a lawn.
Start by mowing the lawn. Next, dethatch and aerate it. Then prepare a 50/50 lawn levelling mix of soil and sand. Spread the mix evenly across your lawn and run the sprinklers to let it settle well.
Take a closer look at how to level ground for grass.
Step 1 – Mow the lawn
Begin by mowing your lawn lightly. This will make it a lot easier to level. Plus, it will allow the levelling material to reach the surface of your lawn.
At the same time, make sure you cut the grass short without scalping it, otherwise, the grass might dry out.
Step 2 – Dethatch and aerate
Next, remove the layer of dead and drying grass using a garden rake. Dethatching will help restore your lawn’s health. It will also improve overall soil drainage.
Remember to also aerate your lawn. Break up the surface of the soil with an aerator or spading fork. This will loosen the soil and allow water and air to get into the compacted soil, otherwise, you risk a perched water table as water runs through the freshly laid soil and hits the compacted area underneath.
Step 3 – Prepare your levelling mix
Make a levelling mix of 50/50 soil and sand. If you’re using garden soil, make sure it doesn’t contain any chunks of wood or sticks. If it does, you can use a mesh screen to refine it first.
Get your hands dirty and mix the soil and sand in a wheelbarrow. The sand will provide good drainage and maintain a level lawn while the soil will add nutrients to promote grass growth.
Step 4 – Spread the levelling mix
Use a shovel to apply the levelling mix over your lawn. Take care not to apply more than half an inch of the mix at a time as any more will smother the grass.
Then use the flat edge of a garden rake to spread the mix. Keep working the mix evenly until you see the grass blades poking through the soil.
Tip: After spreading the levelling mix, walk on it. This will compress the lighter sand for a level garden.
Step 5 – Run the lawn sprinklers
Finally, generously water your whole lawn. This will help the levelling mix to settle into the roots of the grass and fill any air pockets.
You can also look for water pools and runoffs at this step. Reapply the levelling mix if needed.
What to use to level a yard
From a garden rake to a lawnmower, here’s a list of tools you’ll need for your yard levelling project.
A lawn aerator has spikes to create holes in the surface of the soil. This improves soil drainage and allows air and water to reach the grass roots.
You’ll need a lawnmower to cut the grass short before you begin with the levelling work.
A levelling rod is a simple piece of wood with a string attached to its ends. It will help you determine which areas of your lawn need levelling.
A simple garden rake is an effective tool to spread the levelling mix over the lawn.
Use a thatch rake to remove the dead and drying layer of grass from your lawn.
Use a shovel for digging the lawn and applying the levelling mix.
You will also need a wheelbarrow to mix equal parts of sand and soil. Plus, you can use it to carry your levelling mix wherever you want.
How to fill large low spots in your lawn: raising lawn level more than 5 cm (2 inches)
If certain areas in your lawn have sunk more than 2 inches deep, you’ll have to do a bit of extra work to raise the lawn level. Simply topdressing it will not do the job.
Use a squared-off shovel and slice into the depression. Go 1.5 to 2 inches (4 to 5 cm) deep to get under the grass roots. Cut the section horizontally and gently lay it flat without breaking.
After filling any low spots in the lawn with the levelling mix, fold the turf back into its place. Fill any remaining gaps with the mix to keep the edges from drying out.
How to flatten high spots in your lawn
To get rid of high spots on your lawn, use a garden hose or jet washer. The pressure of the water will help cut through the soil and allow the existing grass to settle lower in the right place.
Yes, it’s as simple as it sounds. Once you have shaved down the high spots, gently step over the newly levelled grass to help it settle.
Lawn levelling aftercare
Good yard levelling aftercare practices will keep your lawn looking good for a long time. Plus, they will help to prevent the formation of horrible lumps and bumps.
- Water your lawn regularly to help the grass grow thick and lush again.
- Watch out for weeds. They may overtake the young and frail grass shoots.
- Keep pets and other animals at bay. They may dig up the freshly levelled lawn for their pleasure.
- Regularly de-thatch, aerate, and feed your lawn to keep it looking nice and green.
- Avoid using heavy machinery on your lawn that may cause depressions.
Top tips for levelling uneven lawns
Follow these key tips to make your lawn levelling quick and easy. That means no disappointments and no surprises.
- Make sure the levelling mix you use is entirely dry. A wet mix will be clumpy and might make your lawn even bumpier.
- Use a 50/50 mix of sand and soil for levelling.
- Opt for fine sand instead of all-purpose sand for a flat surface.
- Mow the grass as short as you can. When the grass blades are short, you can massage the levelling mix into the surface easily.
- Start your levelling project in spring, but only once the grass is robust and fully grown.
- Apply fertiliser to your lawn about a week before you start levelling.
- Use a pull-along wagon or wheelbarrow to haul the levelling mix around.
Got some more lawn levelling-related questions? Take a look at these frequently asked questions. They may clear some of your doubts.
What if some of the ruts are dead grass? Is it ok to mix seed into those areas as well?
Yes, it’s okay to mix seeds into dead grass. This process is called overseeding and it helps fill up thinning or bare spots.
How would you determine if you have a high spot that needs to be removed?
You will need a levelling rod with a string attached to its ends. Drag the rod across your lawn to check for bumps and high spots.
I have an area where a large tree was removed right in the middle of my grass. If I used the 50/50 sand and potting soil, could I add grass seed to it and expect good results after aerating?
Yes, a 50/50 sand and potting soil mix is great for grass seeds. The potting soil will provide enough nutrients to the seeds while the sand will ensure proper drainage.
How to fill large low spots in your lawn: raising lawn level 4 or 5 inches?
To raise your lawn level by 4 to 5 inches, we recommend lifting those turf sections. Add soil under them and then reinstall the turf.
Levelling a lawn isn’t rocket science, but it does take a good amount of patience and thorough understanding to get right.
Proper lawn levelling will improve your curb appeal and prevent water damage in the long run. Plus, it contributes to overall lawn health.
Level your lawn the right way so you can keep enjoying your vibrant green living rug with family and friends. Your eyes will like it, too!