Gardening Advice

How to Level a Lawn the Right Way

Nick Beer /

Is your lawn far from perfect-looking, due to bumps and dips, patchiness and what not? You make sure that the grass is nicely trimmed, as well as probably take care of various aspects of lawn maintenance, like feeding and watering your turf at the right time. And still, it just doesn’t look right. What’s more, your kids trip now and again when playing, you struggle with navigating your lawnmower around depressions and mole mounds… Well, it sounds all too familiar.

Hence, we’ve come up with this guide on how to level a lawn, just in time, when spring in Australia is in full swing, considering that this is often the best time to level out a lawn.

So, if:

  • Your lawn is full of shallow dips and small bumps here and there;
  • Your turf is really uneven and needs to be levelled;
  • You’re after some professional garden levelling tips;

Then, read on. You’ll learn about what may cause your turf to be on the bumpy side, as well as you’ll get some tips on how to topdress, level out and overseed your slightly to moderately uneven lawn.

Table of contents:

What causes an uneven lawn

So, why is your lawn uneven in the first place? There could be more than one reason for your turfed area not to be perfectly flat. From natural earth movement, due to seasonal changes, soil specifics and micro-climate shifts to wildlife and pet activity, protruding tree roots or buried rocks coming to the surface, the causes for the rippled appearance of your grassed space can go on and on.

Now let’s check out a few in more detail.

Drainage issues

Your lawn might be on the uneven side, due to problems with rainwater draining properly. This can be also closely related to the type of soil you have and whether you’ve done anything to improve its texture if it’s a bit clayey, for instance. Over time, standing pools of water will affect the quality of your turf, the thickness of the grass in places, etc. Also, if you have an underground lawn sprinkler system installed, which leaks here and there, this may result in low spots, as the structure of the soil will be inevitably affected.

Pests and lawn diseases

Worms and insects can be definitely beneficial for your lawn and soil underneath, which both, in effect, form a micro-ecosystem. However, your grassed area can be invaded by pest insects that disturb the natural balance of this system, in terms of grass growth and soil health, resulting in patchiness, thinning of the turf in spots, as well as depressions in the ground. Not to mention the unsightly chimney-shaped mounds of funnel ants or termites that can simply destroy the perfect look of your green “carpet”. Various lawn diseases or the invasion of weeds and moss can also cause a rippled appearance and thatchiness of your lawn.

Heavy traffic

We can all imagine what a football playing field looks like after a game, right? Well, expect the same if your 3 sons and their friends kick the ball on your lawn every weekend. It’s bound to get damaged. On that note, incorrectly used machinery and manual tools, (aerators, dethatchers, lawnmowers, scarifiers and the likes) can also become the culprits behind a lawn, full of dips and bumps.

Animal activity

Both pets and wildlife animals can turn your lawn into a moon-like landscape. So, it’s a good idea to rule out first the presence of wild animal intruders by inspecting your lawn closely for any strange looking mounds, burrows, tunnels and holes. When it comes to pets, you can easily catch your dog or cat red-handed, relentlessly digging your turf to get to something of interest at all costs.

Soil settlement

Seasonal shifts, coupled with dense types of soils (clay), can cause bumps and indentations in your lawn. Although frosty wet nights are not so common in the colder months in many parts of Australia, just be aware that freezing and thawing are natural processes that affect soil structure. On that note, droughts or the lack of sufficient watering of your lawn for prolonged periods of time can also affect your lawn’s health and that of the soil underneath, resulting in cracks, air pockets in the ground and dips on the surface.

Buried objects and tree roots

Natural soil movement can displace rocks and stones, moving them near to the surface of your lawn. Furthermore, some trees, as well as climbing perennials like ivy and grapevines, grow strong roots horizontally, which can protrude above the ground. So, if you have such plants near your lawn, their roots may be the reason for your lawn’s bumpy appearance.

What topdressing to use when levelling a lawn

But first things first. What kind of topdressing material should you use to level out your lawn?

Well, there are different mixtures available on the market, of course. What our experience shows, however, is that filling small dips and low spots in your turf with 1:2:2 of compost, topsoil and sand works best. This is a universal topdressing mix that is suited for any type of soil. You can also try using topsoil mixed with sand, or a mixture of compost and sand. Don’t be tempted to use sand alone to fill depressions and dips. Sand has no nutrients whatsoever and overseeding the bare patch afterwards won’t be a success.

Note that you can add your grass seeds to the topdressing material or disperse them over, once you’re done with the levelling.

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How to level a lawn step-by-step

The way you approach lawn levelling will largely depend on the cause behind your uneven turf and on what issues you have and need to deal with – bumps, animal mounds, shallow dips or deep depressions. On that note, determining and eliminating the reasons behind the imperfect look of your grassed area is really where you should start, in order to level out your lawn once and for all.

So, repair irrigation system leaks, place ant repellents and other deterrents that will keep pests and wild animals at bay, first. Then, get some topdressing material and the right garden levelling tools, and follow the below-described tips that are applicable to your particular situation.

Depending on how badly your turfed area suffers from dips and bumps, you’ll need to use some of the following gardening tools.

Lawn levelling equipment:

  • Levelling rake
  • Shovel
  • Push broom
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Turf cutter (for seriously uneven lawn)

Steps to level a slightly uneven lawn by topdressing it

That’s right, topdressing your lawn is in effect a good way to level slight irregularities, such as tiny bumps and dents throughout your turfed area. This is best done in early to mid spring. Make sure that the soil is soft and slightly moist before proceeding to the following steps:

  1. The grass should be cut first with a mower on a low setting.
  2. If needed, remove thatch and moss.
  3. Then, use your wheelbarrow, where you can mix your topdressing levelling material.
  4. Then, with a shovel, evenly distribute the mixture over the lawn.
  5. Spread the topdressing with a levelling rake or a push broom.
  6. Finally, water your lawn.

Repeat the process if necessary.

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How to level out a lawn with shallow dips

If your lawn looks good on the whole, nice and flat, but has the odd shallow dip here and there, you won’t find it hard to level it out. Use a topdressing mixture of your choice and simply fill the low spots. Tamp the levelling material down gently, then sprinkle the area with grass seeds and water them.

Small holes that have been dug out by your naughty labrador, for example, you can fill up with the same soil that has been disturbed, mixed with a bit of compost. Depending on the initial damage, you may want to overseed the area, as described above if you think that the grass’s natural ability to spread via its ribosomes won’t restore the perfect look of your lawn.

Levelling a lawn with deep depressions

Now, let’s see how to level a lawn with topsoil, when using a topdressing mixture simply won’t work. This method is ideal for levelling out a lawn with deep dents that are covered in grass. In such cases, you’ll need to consider a completely different approach.

You will basically have to remove the sod with a turf cutter, first, and then fill the low spot with topsoil. You can add compost, too, to add extra nutrients to the soil if you like. When done with this, water the area. Then, carefully place back the turf that you’ve just cut out and water the again.

If for some reason, you couldn’t cut out the sod in one piece, then, your best bet would be to overseed the bare patch or cover it with new turf.

Holes and barrows, dug out by wild animals, you can fill with topsoil and then, overseed. Again, water the seeds straight away.

Of course, don’t forget that you need to eliminate the cause behind your uneven lawn, be it to repel pest intruders that have been disturbing the soil underneath, or fix drainage problems or leaking underground irrigation system pipes.

Never try to level out your lawn after a heavy rain. The soil will be too wet to work with and you won’t get the results you’d expect.
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How to level a bumpy lawn

Bumps on your lawn can be caused by different things, as we’ve already mentioned above. For instance, buried rocks may come up near the surface, due to natural soil movement and settlement processes. In such a case, dig out the object, fill the hole with topsoil and cover the patch with grass seeds.

With ant or termite mounds, you’ll need to spray them first before removing the excess soil. Of course, it’s wise to get some professional pest control help if you suspect that you have wood destroying insects on your property. After all, the appearance of your lawn will be the last thing you should worry about, when a termite colony can put your very home at risk, right?

Unfortunately, you can’t do much about a rippled-looking section of your lawn if the reason for this is the roots of a nearby old tree, growing horizontally underneath the turf, near to the surface. Removing the tree and correcting the lawn by digging out the roots and covering the area with soil, sounds just a bit drastic. However, if your bumpy lawn has been “troubled” by an invasive plant like a ground ivy, you better act and remove it, and then, level out your lawn with topsoil before overseeding the patch. The ivy removal job is best left to the professionals, as you may accidentally make the situation worse if you attempt to get rid of the plant yourself.

Aftercare for your lawn

It is important to take care of your lawn and do a range of essential seasonal lawn maintenance tasks to make sure that the grass is lush and healthy at all times. But you should give even more attention to your turfed plot if you’ve done some remedial levelling work on it, like removing bumps, filling holes, cutting out sod and overseeding the bare patch afterwards, etc. So, make sure that water regularly the newly seeded grass to help the seeds germinate quicker. Also, watch out for weeds that can overtake the young and fragile grass shoots. It’s a good idea to feed your lawn, too, if levelling work has taken place. Of course, you can always resort to professional lawn care help, if you feel out of your depth maintaining your turf yourself or you simply lack the time to take care of your garden on a regular basis.

Preventative measures

Finally, it’s good to sum up now how to prevent issues with your lawn so that it’s always nice and flat, like a vibrant green living rug that draws immediate attention. Whether you need to keep pest animal and insects at bay, maintain your underground irrigation system in good order, or regularly aerate, dethatch, feed and topdress your lawn, prevention measures and good lawn care are key to ensure that bumps and shallow spots don’t spoil your turf’s appearance in the future.

Last but not least, be extra careful when using lawn machinery and never work on your lawn after a prolonged wet spell of weather. Wait for a few days until the soil and grass dry out a bit. The same goes for walking or kids playing “rough” on your turf. Heavy foot traffic will damage the even surface of your lawn, so keep those activities to a minimum, especially when the soil is too soft and wet.

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  • There could be more than one reason for the rippled, bumpy appearance of your lawn.
  • Addressing the causes behind your uneven lawn is your first course of action before proceeding to leveling it out.
  • Topdressing your lawn and using topdressing material to fill shallow dips is a good way to repair slight irregularities on your grassed patch.
  • You can use topsoil and compost to fill deep depressions in your turf.
  • Always water your lawn after overseeding levelled out bare patches.
  • Regular lawn maintenance is an important preventive measure against dips and bumps appearing on your lawn.

Have you tried to level out your lawn yourself? Any tips to share with our readers? Then, please use the comment section below!

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ed staarink
ed staarink
2 years ago

I thought I’d mention my lawn is uneven due to my lawnmower sucking the dirt out during the drought season

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