How to Level a Lawn

An uneven lawn causes drainage problems along with tripping hazards. We’ll show you how to level your lawn and keep it level.

In this article, we’ll cover:

Prepare Your Lawn for Leveling

You can prepare your uneven lawn for leveling with just three easy steps. It’s crucial to level your lawn on a dry day to avoid a big muddy mess. 

  1. Fertilize a few weeks before you begin leveling.
  1. Dethatch before the final mow – remove all the dead leaves, twigs, clippings, and other debris where the grass meets the soil.
  1. Mow the lawn just before leveling since it may be a few weeks before you’re able to cut the grass again, and you want to make it easy to remove turf in the higher spots.

Leveling the Lawn

Assess the severity of the problem before you dig in. A few low spots are an easy fix, but if your lawn has significant damage, it will take a few extra steps to smooth it out.

How to level minor unevenness

For the smaller bumps and ruts in your lawn, you can level it out with topdressing, a garden rake, a shovel, and a few DIY steps.

  1. Create your topdressing mixture. Mix equal parts masonry sand or play sand, compost, and topsoil in a wheelbarrow.
  1. Apply one-half inch of the soil mixture to the low areas in your lawn. Do not apply more than one-half-inch at a time, or you may suffocate the grass. You may have to apply more over time.
  1. Smooth the soil mixture evenly over the low spots with a garden rake.
  1. Work the leveling mix into the area with a rake or push broom.
  1. Water: It’s essential to add moisture to the lawn immediately to get rid of air pockets and help the solid settle. Don’t overwater, or the soil may shift.

If you have to cover up existing grass with the soil mixture, don’t worry. New grass growth will pop up through the soil soon, as long as you stick to the one-half-inch rule.

Pro Tip: If you’ve applied the top dressing to uneven areas that didn’t have much grass growing before you started, you’ll need to overseed those spots to help them recover.

How to level moderate unevenness

If you have numerous low and high areas or more of the lawn needs work, you can save it with a little more effort. 

  1. Scalp the lawn (remove more than one-third of the grass height) over the areas where you’ll be working.
  2. Smooth out any higher or uneven spots or divots in one of two ways:
  • Attach a wooden pallet to the back of a lawn tractor and drag it across those high spots.
  • For the hands-on approach, use a garden rake and shovel to work the ground until it’s all the same height.
  1. Remove the sod in areas you want to fill. Keep the sod pieces in a shaded location until you’re ready to replant them.
  2. Fill in the low spots with the topdressing mixture. 
  3. Water the area to release any air pockets and backfill with the soil mix until the areas are level.
  4. Aerate any compacted soil, which is common in high-traffic areas. Aeration allows the soil to breathe, and you can use the soil plugs to fill in low spots.
  5. Replace the sod you removed, or lay new sod. Make sure the roots make good contact with the soil. 
  6. Water the areas to keep the roots moist, not soggy, and limit traffic to give the grass a chance to root and grow.

How to level Severe Unevenness

If your lawn has more craters than the moon, you’ll need to:

  1. Regrade your yard. Grading is changing the slope and drainage of your lawn. This is best left to landscaping professionals.
  2. Prepare the soil for new grass seed or sod. Get a soil test and make necessary amendments to feed your new healthy lawn.
  3. Re-seed or plant new sod. Planting seeds is more economical but will take longer. Laying sod is a more expensive option, but it creates an instant lawn. This process is the most labor-intensive and costly. You may need to grow a new lawn from seed.

Pro Tip:  Do not use a heavy roller to lay down fresh sod or correct a bumpy lawn. A lawn roller can lead to further compaction and damage your healthy grass.

What Causes A Lawn To Become Uneven?

Knowing what causes your lawn to become uneven can help you fix it. Check your property for these possible issues:

  • Pests: Grubs, chinch bugs, and armyworms eat away at the soil, causing divots in the lawn. 
  • Wildlife: Animals such as gophers, voles, and ground squirrels are diggers.
  • Traffic: Motorized or heavy foot traffic can compress the ground under your lawn.
  • Hardscaping: Recent installations by you or your neighbors may cause changes in the landscape.
  • Fencing: Installing a new fence can alter the slope of your yard.
  • Broken Pipes: A leaking sprinkler system can erode the soil.
  • Activity: Pets and kids playing or digging in the yard may leave depressions.
  • Tree Roots: Tree roots can disturb the soil underneath, raising the ground level.
  • Freezing: The expanding and contracting of the ground causes changes.

How To Keep A Level Lawn

After you’ve done all the hard work to level your lawn, you’ll want it to stay level. Proper lawn care and maintenance can prevent unnecessary damage and prevent new dips and bumps from emerging.

  • Eliminate lawn pests (especially gophers, voles, and moles) and diseases quickly.
  • Dethatch and aerate regularly.
  • Winterize water pipes and sprinkler systems.

FAQ About Leveling Your Lawn

1. Why should I level my lawn?

An uneven lawn will not only lower your home’s curb appeal, it can also be dangerous. Dips and bumps could cause you to trip, resulting in injuries, and poor drainage leads to water damaging your home’s foundation. 

2. When is the best time to level my lawn?

March through September is the best time to level your lawn, when the grass is actively growing. 

3. Does the topdressing help my lawn?

Topdressing mixed with compost rejuvenates and strengthens existing grass, improves the soil, and combats other problems like disease and weeds.

4. When should I avoid leveling my lawn?

Avoid leveling if your lawn is suffering from drought, pests, disease, or when the ground is frozen or waterlogged. Address these issues before you begin.

Don’t let an uneven lawn get you down. If you don’t have the time or energy to level it yourself, rely on a local lawn care pro to get the job done for you.

Main photo credit: pxHere / CC0 1.1 

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!

About Wikilawn

Wikilawn’s mission is to provide the best resources and information to help you enjoy your outdoor spaces the way you want. Whether you are a DIY, lawn-loving, gardening guru, or someone who wants help in picking a local lawn care professional, we can smooth your path to a beautiful backyard!