How to Level a Yard? – Complete DIY Guide

There’s nothing like peeking through your kitchen window and enjoying a beautiful green and leveled yard. It makes you proud as you keep it tidy and healthy. You don’t have anything to worry about when stepping on it – and every visitor compliments you about it. 

But that only happens when it is leveled. What about the untidy and unattractive unleveled yards that can be harmful to step on? No one talks about them. And they can be extremely annoying to fix. 

Luckily for you, we know exactly how to level a yard without wasting too much of your time or effort.

You won’t have to stick with a terribly unleveled garden that makes your house look ugly. Instead, you can make it the most beautiful yard in your neighborhood. 

Want to know how to do this? Then keep scrolling! 

What Causes an Uneven Lawn?

Let’s start by explaining how uneven lawns happen. This will give you a better idea of how you can proceed in the future – and how you can fix the yard from its source.

There are several problems to consider, though. And some of them may be happening at the same time. So you’ll have to go through each one so you can spot the issue more quickly and fix them before repairing the lawn itself:

Drainage 

Probably the most usual reason for lawns to get uneven is drainage. But we don’t mean just any drainage, but the ones that break below the soil and make your lawn soil erode.

When this happens, the lawn starts to move in awkward ways, creating the bumps and lawn holes that usually make yards look awful. 

Before starting any leveling – be sure to investigate for any drainage issue and fix it as necessary. 

Sprinklers & Hoses

level a yard

Just like drainage problems, sprinklers and hoses can also be the culprit of your lawn looking untidy. And it happens for the same reason –water erodes the ground. 

But in contrast with drainage systems, the sprinkler or hose may be leaking, watering inconsistently (more in some places than others), or just delivering way more water than needed.

For any of those situations, you’ll have to check them up and search for leaks, clogged or damaged nozzles, and inconsistent sprays. Make sure to fix this before leveling the soil. 

Soil Settling

There’s almost nothing you can do to avoid ground settling – it happens with temperature changes, when heavy equipment stays for too long on the soil, and with freezing/thawing cycles. 

All these things erode the ground, creating bumps and depressions that make it look uneven. The lawn will look like a badly-installed carpet.

To avoid it, you should not place any heavy equipment or machinery on the ground for long. If it happens because of climate problems, there’s nothing you can do.

Animals

level a yard

When wild animals and pets start messing up with your lawn, then you’re likely to find pretty ugly bumps and uneven areas as well. 

It’s common for dogs to like digging and storing their toys or food. This leaves batches all around. 

But sometimes it is not dogs but foxes, skunks, moles, voles, raccoons, and even squirrels or rabbits. They will get into your lawn looking for food, damage it, and leave marks. This could promote a more uneven yard as well. 

You can always build garden fences, add sprinklers, or spray the lawn consistently with smells that scare them off. Focus on keeping animals away before fixing the uneven parts.

Nightcrawlers & Ants

level ground

Nightcrawlers are big earthworms that can grow up to several inches in size. The problem is that they can reproduce really fast and spread within 25 tons of soil. That’s enough to erode any lawn.

The best way to prevent nightcrawlers from growing on your lawn is to keep the pH level low. This will make the soil inhospitable for them in the first place. 

Similarly, ants tend to create massive boroughs below ground. And what’s the most typical problem with them? They erode the soil causing huge bumps in large areas. What’s the best to get rid of them? Use repellents and pesticides. 

Foot Traffic

lawn levelling

If you have a soft lawn, it is possible foot traffic can cause tons of damage. This damage may end up in erosion and bumps, depressions, or just uneven yards.

Whether it is kids playing on the yard, people walking on it to take shortcuts, and much more – traffic is always a considerable detriment for yards.

To avoid this, there’s nothing more useful than preventing people from walking on it. You can use garden fences or warnings telling people not to walk over it. 

Thin Lawn 

Sometimes exterior factors don’t damage the soil – it could be so that the lawn is so fragile that anything erodes it.

This often happens when insects or diseases attack plants. Heavy rains, wind, and even dryness may also weaken the soil. 

For any of these situations, the best you can do is protect the soil. In humid places, try safeguarding the yard from excess water. And in dry areas, keep it hydrated so the soil doesn’t erode. 

Debris & Buried Stuff

yard levelling

Last but not least, buried objects, residues, and debris can cause the lawn to look bumpy and uneven. Every time after cleaning your yard, doing construction work, or just sawing down trees – make sure to get rid of the debris.

Why is it Important to Have a Level Lawn?

So, did you find the cause of your uneven lawn? Then you’re ready to learn why it is so important to fix it.

Here are a few reasons to consider:

  • An uneven lawn is more useful as you can step on it with ease, place objects tidily, and let people walk over it safely
  • It makes it possible to play sports like baseball, croquet, soccer, and even volleyball that require an even yard
  • A leveled lawn is also easier to maintain, water, fertilize, mow and trim, and modify as needed
  • You can work on leveled lawns more easily (whether to build things on, fix drainage, install sprinklers, etc.)
  • Lastly, a leveled yard is more beautiful than an uneven and untidy one – and usually helps plants grow more robust, more healthily, and for longer. 

What’s the Best Time of Year to Level?

So, are you convinced that leveling up your yard is essential? Well, don’t rush and do it at once.

Doing it in the right season will be a lot easier and much more beneficial. That’s why gardeners and lawn experts recommend leveling up your yard in the springs instead of winter, summer, or fall.

Why? Easy – because the spring is when the grass and other plants start to grow. Once the summer arrives, the leveled soil has settled well enough so everything can develop freely and effectively. 

At the same time, you can prevent the usual problems coming from the winter or summer, when the soil can freeze or dry up and erode. 

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Level a Yard

After learning how to prevent uneven lawns, why it is crucial to keep it tidy, and when you should do it – then you can proceed with the leveling process. 

The following steps will make it easy and quick. Read them to the letter and proceed as explained next: 

1. Gather the Tools & Supplies

lawn levelling tool

 

The best way to start is to gather everything you need beforehand. This will save you tons of time and effort. And you can be sure there’s nothing left when working on the leveling process.

Here are the things you’ll need throughout the guide: 

  • A lawnmower
  • A thatch rake
  • A dethatching machine (Optional)
  • A shovel / boring spade(for digging)
  • A bow rake
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Sand bag
  • Topsoil bag
  • Compost bag
  • Soil tamper / plate compactor / water roller (Optional)

Once you have all these tools and materials, then you can start the yard-leveling process. 

2. Measure the Area

First and foremost, be sure to know how much yard area you want to cover. If you’re going to level up the entire yard because everything about it is messy, then you can skip this step.

Otherwise, you should follow these tips:

  • The area you’re measuring doesn’t have to be squared, rectangular, or circular. You don’t need perfect measurements. But it’s still recommended to have an idea of how much space you want to level up.
  • You can always use a string level or a long measuring tape. If not, you can mark the area with spikes, stakes, wooden logs, stones, or whatever you can mark it with. 

Once you have the area figured out – then leveling it up will take less effort and prevent any waste of time. 

3. Prepare the Area

Want a level ground in your yard? Then prepare it beforehand. What does this mean? You need to be sure there’s no problem first (fix the cause of the erosion if possible), then you need to make it as soft as possible for easy modification.

Here are a few steps to consider:

  • Start watering the garden at least 5 days before you start leveling up. This will soften up the soil so you can dig and modify it as necessary. Don’t make mud, though. Just be sure it is soft enough so you can work with it effortlessly.
  • Get rid of stones, rocks, gravel, and other similar stuff that could make it hard to modify the soil. Even if the ground is densely packed with them, remove them. You can use a shovel for that.
  • Remove everything else that could cause issues. From machinery and tools to debris, garbage, and just whatever that you don’t need. 

The whole purpose of preparing the area is to leave it as pristine as possible so you can work on it with ease and comfort. 

4. Mow & Dethatch the Lawn

level a yard

What’s the first thing you need to do before getting any dirt out of the ground? Easy – you need to clean it from excess grass.

Focus on this:

  • Mow your lawn. Use your preferred type of mower (riding, self-propelled, walk-behind). You should stay away from robot and hill mowers so you can work faster and more effectively in your uneven yard.
  • No need to cut the grass deep. Just enough so the grass doesn’t interfere with the leveling process. If you cut too much, then you may damage the grass, and it may die out. 
  • Then grab your thatch rake and start dethatching manually. Be sure to get rid of any organic material that’s dying or already decayed. From grass leaves to roots, tree or plant branches, and so on. 
  • If there’s too much thatch and a rake can’t do the job, then use a dethatching machine. Be sure to remove enough thatch so only a small layer remains. A ½-inch layer of thatch is enough so you can work comfortably, and the grass doesn’t get damaged over time. 

After mowing and dethatching, then your yard is ready for the nitty-gritty. 

5. Prepare a Topdressing Mix

level a yard

The yard leveling usually requires adding more ground. Especially on areas with depressions or that look sunken – topdressing becomes a necessary thing to cover the free space.

Topdressing refers to a leveling process that uses soil, compost, and sand mixed together to cover the sunken areas. For that, you will have to prepare the topdressing mix before pouring it (even before digging), so you can save time.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • If you’re leveling a sandy soil, then using sand alone can do the job (which requires little effort and time). This only works if you live in a pretty dry area where the terrain is more sand than it is soil.
  • For most terrains, you will have to mix the sand with soil and compost. The perfect combination is to add 70% of sand and 30% of topsoil and compost. Sand makes the soil more compact and sturdy, the topsoil adds softness and nutrients, and the compost works as fertilizer.
  • Even though mixing this way can be an excellent idea, we still recommend using the exact type of soil in your yard. If you’re planting a particular species of grass or plants and you need a specific kind of soil for that – then choose accordingly.
  •  To mix the sand, soil, and compost, you only need a shovel. Pour everything on a wheelbarrow or somewhere similar where you can mix, and start shoveling everything together. Be sure the mix is compact and well-blended.

Once you have the topdressing mix ready, then you should let it sit for a few hours. This will make it more compact, so you can eventually use it more easily. 

6. Dig & Fill Sunken Areas

level a yard

While the topdressing for the ground sits, you can start digging the parts you want to level. Remember, lawn leveling is about adding batches of soil to the parts that are sunken or depressed, so they look like the rest of the yard.

Digging and filling is not easy, and you should do it properly to get rid of the bumps/depressions.  Here are a few tips to follow:

  • Before digging on a small area with grass, remove the grass. You don’t want to add the topdressing later and find grassroots damaging the soil. Remove grass by digging the shovel about 2 to 3 inches into the ground and lifting the grass with its roots. Then pour the top mix and the grass over it.
  • For the smallest holes with little grass, you can pour dressing mix over them, and that would be enough. But if it is a large hole, then you may need to pack it down with feet/shovel and make sure it’s level. 
  • Try to cover all the areas that look depressed. This will give you a better chance of having a totally leveled yard.

After covering the depressed areas, then you can proceed by covering up the whole yard.

7. Spread the Mixture

lawn levelling tool

To level the yard, you’ll need to cover most of its area with the topsoil. This will help you have the same mix of sand, topsoil, and compost on the whole surface.

Here’s how to spread the mixture everywhere:

  • Pour the rest of the topdressing mix all across the yard area. Use a shovel to spread it around. 
  • Don’t apply too much of the mix, though. A layer of more than ½-inch may eventually prevent grass from growing further, making your whole ground look awful in the short and probably long term. So keep it modest so the grass can grow over it.
  • Finish spreading using the bow rake. Make sure it is even all around by raking the topdressing mix.  The grass blades or leaves should be visible (even just a little). This will prevent any suffocation and keep the grass receiving light and moisture.

By now, you’re almost finished. You’ve covered the depressions, added the mix and spread it around. Your yard should look all leveled up.

8. Compact the Soil (Optional)

level ground

In case you still feel like there are bumps and other unlevelled areas, then you can use a lawn leveling tool to compact the yard.

Here’s how to proceed:

  • A lawn-level tool can be a ground tamper, water-filled roller, or a plate compactor. These tools will go over the soil and compact it down with their weight.
  • You can use some water in the process to soften up the soil. Be sure not to moist the dirt too much as it may end up coming off after spreading it.
  • If you don’t want to compact the soil because it could damage the grass below, then you can use your feet instead. This will take more time and effort but will prevent damage that compacting tools can produce. 

After compacting the topdressing mix, you should enjoy a leveled and almost-finished yard. 

9. Irrigate & Let it Settle

To finish the whole process, you will need to water the yard. This is essential for the grass below to keep growing, and for the top mix to settle. 

  • We recommend using a hose for this process. Try spraying the top of the yard lightly. Pour just enough water so the grass below the topdressing mix can receive the moisture.
  • After watering, you should let the yard settle for about 48 hours. Then you should water it down again (if it hasn’t rained). And then repeat the process at least 5 times within 2 weeks.

After two weeks of watering and letting the soil settle, you should start seeing the grass growing up again, surpass the layer of dressing. And sure enough, the yard all leveled up without a single bump.

If that’s the case, then you’ve successfully leveled your yard. It’s time to enjoy it. 

Bottom Line

Learning how to level a yard won’t be a piece of cake. But it isn’t the hardest thing to do either.

As long as you follow the steps above, every tip and recommendation, and be sure to prevent the issue from the origin in the first place – then you’ll enjoy a leveled yard for years to come.

So, what are you waiting to start leveling the yard? You can do this in less than 5 hours if you have a small lawn. Don’t waste more of your time and get the job done!

Brice The Botanist
 

Growing up in Ventura, California famous for it's rich gardens. Brice has spent most of his life trying to help make the world greener. Studying Botany at CSRA, he's made it a lifelong passion to greenify every home.

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