How To Level a Garden: Step-by-step Guide (2020)

A well-manicured lawn, colourful flowers and birds chirping on the trees – life sounds complete bliss. It is every homeowner’s desire to have a picture perfect garden. It all starts with levelling the garden.

If you don’t have level ground you are likely to be frustrated every time the lawnmower refuses to glide over the blades of grass. You may have also have issues getting the best our of your lawn spreader to fertilize your lawn as well.

You can scan though all the inspirational garden images that you find on the Internet and there would be one thing in common – the gardens are perfectly levelled and there are no bumps and slopes in between.

To achieve a garden that others envy you need to start by levelling it. This brings us to the first question – how do you level a garden lawn?  It might involve hard labour and getting your hands dirty, but the outcome is surely priceless. 

Why is Levelling a Garden Is Important?

Before we get into the step-by-step guide of levelling a garden it is important for us to understand importance of having an even garden without bumps and slopes.

The first and the most important reason is surely the usability. If you have an uneven garden it will be of little use other than growing plants and trees. You’ll be out constantly with the weed killer, trying to keep the plants at bay. Walking over it or your kids running on an uneven garden is fraught with risks.

A flat lawn is a more functional lawn, allowing you to make use of a retractable washing line which would be handy for the warmer seasons, as would a hammock stand. A game of garden cricket, football or playing around with a Frisbee is only possible when you have a level garden. 

You may also been an avid bird watcher, and a flat lawn would allow you to set-up a bird table and fill it with niger seeds of sunflower hearts bird food. The additional benefit is that birds often find their way to unwanted moss, eradicating the need for a moss killer and letting nature take care of itself.

Second and without doubt another important reason is the aesthetic beauty of the garden. If you have one with slopes and bumps it turns into an eyesore. Set up a garden storage bench, kick back and enjoy the beauty of your back garden. You can even do this from the comfort of your conservatory should you have a recliner conservatory chair and a suitable pair of binoculars.

Think about the winter months and you will see layers of snow accumulating in certain areas of the garden while other places seem to resist it. When it rains, your garden can turn into a swamp, none of which is desirable. This is even worse if you’ve recently built a greenhouse and rely on a greenhouse heater to keep the plants inside growing.

As water rests over the surface for long it can also lead to diseases in your garden which can become hard to control. There are people who have seen their months of mowing get literally drenched in water once the skies open up. 

Finally as and when you undertake the task of lawn mowing, it would become a huge challenge. You won’t be able to cut the grass evenly and the odd of peeling off the turf is high.

Working your lawn mower around your garden would be similar to driving on a road full of potholes. The risk of damaging the lawn, the lawnmower and inflicting wounds on a bumpy lawn remains high.

What Causes Slope To Occur In The Garden And What Causes A Garden To Become Uneven

Before you pick up your tools and get started with levelling the garden it is important for you to understand the root cause of the problem.

So what causes slopes to occur in a garden or for them to become uneven in the first place? There are several reasons that can cause bumps and pits in a lawn that was perfectly levelled few years back. Let us ta a look at some of these reasons – 

  • The topsoil in your garden may be extremely thin and prone to erosion. As the soil erodes during the dry months the bumps and slopes become prominent during the wet months. However you are less likely to notice this problem in a dense and thick lawn. 
  • Soil in your garden may heave due to freezing during late winter months and this might leave behind bumps. In many cases these bumps aren’t noticeable to the naked eye and only when you walk in the garden you are likely to sense the bumpy ground underneath. 
  • Earthworms are common in garden and they play a very important role in enriching the soil in your garden. But their castings also cause the garden to become bumpy. While you must deal with this scenario make sure you don’t turn them away from your lawn completely. 
  • The absence of proper drainage system in your garden and accumulation of water during heavy showers can also aggravate the problem of bumps and slopes in the garden. Every spell of rain can make this problem more acute. 
  • If you have pets at home especially cats their activity during certain seasons of the year can also cause uneven surfaces in your lawn. It is important to restrict their activity in the lawns when the grass is in its most vulnerable state. 

Uneven Garden Undoes a Conservatory

Over the last few decades conservatories have become very popular in the United Kingdom and we are seeing more and more people adding conservatories to their homes.

A beautiful garden and a conservatory complement each other and increase the curb appeal of your property. But a conservatory is more than just a glasshouse in your property.

It is a part of a larger environ in your house and needs to be in perfect union with the garden outside. As you sit comfortably on a set of replacement cushions for your conservatory furniture, you should also be able to admire the beautiful garden outside. It may be a case of wanting to keep wildlife away from your flowerbed though, so picking up a mesh bird netting may be worth doing.

This is where we must ask you these questions – Are you seeing a picture that you’d like to share in Instagram? Are you seeing something that you can take pride in?

If bumps and pits are the first thing you notice in the conservatory your entire experience of having a conservatory is spoiled. The pits and bumps in your garden that may otherwise not be visible when you are walking in the garden are prominently visible from the conservatory.

Your whole investment in a conservatory can go waste if you don’t have a picturesque garden outside. This is why it is important for you to start levelling the garden. 

Steps to Level a Garden Lawn?

We have already discussed the reasons behind an uneven lawn and how it can spoil the aesthetics of the landscape. Now we are ready to get started with levelling the garden. It is important that you take up such a project at the right time. Spring is surely the best time of the year as far as levelling a lawn is concerned.

You can also undertake this project before the onset of the winter but try scheduling it for spring. This will ensure grass seeds have enough time to grow and also not leave you with a bumpy lawn or barren piece of land in your garden for too long. Now that you are ready to hit the ground here are the steps you need to follow to level your garden lawn- 

  • Start With A Lawn Audit: Before you get going with the business you need to first carry out an inspection of the lawn. This step will help you determine the amount of levelling your lawn would require and also identify drainage issues if any. Lack of a plan and discovering new problems midway through the project can further complicate it. As we have mentioned previously in many cases an uneven lawn often results from drainage issue.
  • Adjust the Gradient: If you have identified drainage as a major concern it is important for you to adjust the gradient to ensure water gets drained out during heavy showers.
    Here you might need to remove the grass before you start with the levelling. You can do so using a shovel and by doing so you will be creating a barren land with only the top soil. However you should get into this step only when your lawn resembles the surface of the moon.
    For home gardens you can follow a 48:1 ratio of grading where for every 48 inches or 4 feet of the garden there is a 1 inch fall which will prevent water from accumulating in the garden. Along with the gradient you can also work on an underground drainage system using drainage pipes and gravel if the drainage issue is a major concern and reworking the gradient on your entire lawn sounds an expensive affair.
  • Pre-water the Lawn: Once you are done with removing the grass your lawn is likely to be dry given the time of the year (we are assuming you are taking up the project during spring).
    You need to water the lawn for few days as this will help you get rid of the dryness and powdery texture of the soil. However keep this minimal as too much will result in mud which is equally tough to work with as is the case with dry soil.
  • Levelling Shallow Spots: For the shallow spots of the lawn which are usually 1-2 cm lower than the adjacent area of your lawn you can pour in a top dressing mixture (peat, sand and topsoil) and shake it up using a garden rake till you have levelled it to the surrounding area of the lawn.
    Follow it up by tapping it with your feet or the flat end of the rake to compact it. Watering this part will help in further compaction. Once this settles you can pour in the grass seeds and wait for these seeds to germinate. 
  • Levelling Deep Spots: If you are dealing with deep spots that are more than 2cm deep you will need to adopt a different approach. You will need to remove the grass and the top soil and reach depth of about 4-5 cm using a shovel.
    Remove any stones and break down the clumps that you dig out. Compact the soil below using a manual hand tamper and by doing so you will prevent further sinking of the surface. Fill this with a top dressing mixture and compact it using the same steps we followed fir shallow spots. Once the soil has settled down you can pour in the grass seeds.
  • Levelling Bumps: Levelling bumps is rather easier. Mark the bump you wish to remove using the shovel and create incision deep enough to lift the turf. Next you need to remove the excess soil using the shovel till you are able to achieve an even surface compared the adjacent areas.
    You need to do this slowly to avoid creating further spots in the adjacent areas. Once done lay the turf back over and gently compact it to the top layer of the soil with your hands.

How to Level a Garden before Turfing

There are many who prefer laying a turf over planting grass seeds as it offers an instant lawn that can be used straight away. In case you have missed the spring deadline to level your garden turfing would be a wise choice. While buying turf may cost you more than plating grass seeds it is definitely the easier way out for many gardeners. Let us now take you through the basic steps of levelling your garden before you lay the turf: 

  • Clear The Soil: You need to get rid of all the stones and weeds that you have in the soil. You can spray a weed killer days before you start this process if the problem of weed is acute. You need to allow enough time for the weed killer to work its magic as may be prescribed the manufacturer. 
  • Till the Soil: If you wish to have a beautiful garden it pays putting in extra effort while you are tilling the soil. It is also known as rotavate and you should go to a depth of about 6 inches and make sure the soil is of coarse consistency breaking all the lumps. Use the shovel to achieve the right consistency in the soil. 
  • Fertilize the Soil: The health of your turf would depend on the quality of the soil underneath and hence you should fertilize the soil with compost or rated manure. Make use of your tiller to spread and mix the manure evenly with the soil.
    Spring fertilizer or those that are rich in nitrogen would be your best choice as they replenish the soil with the necessary ingredients. But you can also opt for those that come with potassium and phosphorous along with nitrogen for better results.
  • Work on the Gradient: Drainage is one of the most important elements of a perfect garden lawn and you need to be careful with the gradient. There should be no scope for water to rest on the surface of the lawn after heavy rains. You can follow the same steps for creating a drainage system as we have mentioned previously in this post.
  • Level The Soil: This is perhaps the most important step in the process and you should either opt for a lawn roller or do it with your feet. However experts suggest you to do the process with feet. While the process would be time-consuming you will be able to achieve an even spread when you are doing it manually. Even if you make use of a lawn roller inspect the whole lawn carefully after you have levelled it with a roller. The last thing you want to be left with is bumps and pits in your lawn after this stage. 
  • Rake The Site: After you are done with the levelling you need to rake the entire lawn gently. Go slow with the process to ensure you are raking only the top layer of the soil is raked and loosened as this will allow you’re the roots of the grass to transplant firmly. 
  • Lay The Turf – In the final step you need to start unrolling the strips of turf in the garden starting around the perimeter. Don’t use small pieces around the edges as they are prone to perishing. While laying the turf you must make sure the underside of the turf is in full contact with the soil underneath. Gently tap every strip of the turf to help it contact the soil. 

Once you are done with this you will have a beautiful garden lawn that is even and drains out within few hours of a heavy shower. It is now the time to invite the birds in your garden. Unless you hear the birds chirping in your garden your whole experience of owning a beautiful garden is incomplete. Why not invest in some conservatory dining furniture so that you can look out of the window at the lawn you have just laid.