How to level a lawn
When it comes to mowing the lawn there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to manoeuvre over lumps and bumps. A level lawn doesn’t just look great and make for easier maintenance, it can have a few other advantages too.
For gardens with drainage and water logging issues, levelling and grading the lawn can assist in encouraging water flow away from your property, whilst allowing more water to be absorbed into the soil adding needed nutrients.
What causes a lawn to be uneven?
There are a number of ways that your lawn can become bumpy or uneven. Here are some of the main culprits:
From your neighbourhood cats, to pesky foxes looking for food. Animals are a main cause of uneven lawns as they will happily stray into your garden in the months where your lawn is at its most vulnerable. There are steps you can take to prevent these critters from ruining your lawn.
The other animals (the kids!)
If kids are playing in the garden in when the soil is soft it can put a large amount of pressure on the lawn. This is of course not only bad for the health of the grass but will cause long term issues for the surface.
These giant earth worms can be a real nuisance when trying to perfect your lawn. These little insects can shift between 20 and 25 tons of soil per acre to the surface every year. A great tip to prevent this from becoming a problem is to keep the pH level of your soil low.
In the winter months the weather can play a big part in causing lumps and bumps in your lawn. If surface water is allowed to sit on your lawn it can cause long term damage, which is why getting your drainage right is so important.
Things that occur beneath the soil such as rocks, piping and other debris can affect the composition of your lawn. The best course of action to resolve this is excavate the affected areas to break up the rubble underneath.
Preparing to level your lawn
So if your lawn is looking uneven with a few too many dips, help is at hand. Before starting, the lawn will need to be checked thoroughly in advance to determine how much will require levelling and if there are any existing drainage problems. At times, uneven ground can be caused as a result of drainage problems or even damaged water pipes.
Check for low spots and drainage issues
If low spots are occurring in locations around water pipes seek professional advice before continuing. If drainage issues are discovered, it is recommended to re-grade the lawn as well as levelling, creating a surface that slopes away from the property to aid drainage and avoid flooding.
Alternatively an underground drainage system can be fitted using either gravel or flexible drainpipes. Other causes for bumps and hollows can be due to wear and tear, mole damage, drought or frost.
There are two main methods for levelling a lawn depending on the extent of damage to the area. All low spots across the garden should be checked for depth to help decide which method will work best. Both methods will require the same mixture used when top dressing a lawn.
This will consist of two parts sand, two parts topsoil and one part compost. These combined will fill out the desired areas whilst improving drainage, with the compost allowing for a nutrient rich soil to be formed.
Pre-water your lawn for levelling
Several days before you plan to level the lawn it will need to be watered to ensure that the soil is not too hard, dry or powdery when making the adjustments. Be careful not to over water as wet soil can be just as hard to work with as overly dry soil.
When to level your lawn
The best time of year to start your repairs is around spring, as this will allow your grass seed time to grow in whilst providing sufficient moisture for the soil to settle. As mentioned previously there are two main methods for levelling; one for shallow low spots and one for low spots deeper than 2-3cms.
Levelling shallow low spots on your lawn
For areas that are only 1-2cm lower than the rest of the soil, the top dressing mixture can be applied directly. Shake out a thin layer over the problem area and spread evenly using a garden rake until it is completely filled out and level.
Using your feet and the flat side of the rake, tamp down and compact the soil. Lightly water the soil to further aid compaction and leave to settle. Repeat this process for all shallow areas that need attention.
Once the soil has been left to settle for a few days grass seed can be distributed, followed by a further light dusting of topsoil mix, then pat down gently with the palm of your hand. For the first 48 hours the soil will need a light spray of water 4 times per day to assist in germinating the seeds.
Then water regularly and allow time for the grass seed to grow. Another application can be done if there are low or bare spots remaining after it has settled.
Levelling deep low spots on your lawn
For the areas that have sunk more than 2cm deep a different method to level your lawn will be required. For this you will need a squared-off shovel. Using the shovel, slice into the centre and beyond the edges of the bump or hollow in a cross shape. Try to keep the cut as even as possible to make it easier to lift without breaking.
Cut to about 4-5cm deep, then slide the shovel underneath to cut each section of the cross horizontally, keeping the shovel as flat as possible to maintain an even thickness of soil. This is where it is essential that the soil is not too dry, as it will crumble when moved. Gently peel back the edges of the turf until you can lay them flat without breaking.
For levelling a bump in the lawn, dig out the excess soil until level with the surrounding area, tread down and fold the flaps of turf back over.
To fill a hollow, use a garden fork to turn over the soil to about 5cm deep, removing any large stones and breaking down any large clumps. Tread down to compact the soil to reduce the chance of further sinking afterwards.
Fill the hole with your top dressing mixture until level with the surrounding area, then rake over to break the soil down before folding the flaps of turf back over.
At this stage you will need to tamp the turf back down, starting at the outer edges of the cross section and working towards the centre. Fill any remaining gaps between the cuts made with more top dressing to stop the edges from drying out. Lawn seed can also be sprinkled in the gaps to cover and fill them. Water regularly and allow for the grass seed to grow.
Once you have completed all the areas required, a wooden 2x4 and a spirit level can be used to check the grade and level of the lawn. So for those of you that thought it could only be done by a professional, follow these easy steps and you could have your own perfectly level lawn!
Check out our video tutorials for how to achieve a great looking lawn on our YouTube channel here.