Uneven lawns are not just unsightly, they also cause drainage issues, make mowing more difficult, and can even cause accidents. There are various reasons why your lawn may become uneven, from waterlogging to wild animals, and the damage caused can be mild, severe or somewhere in-between.
Thankfully, it’s easy enough to level your lawn without the need for a professional landscaper. However, depending on the extent of the issue, you’ll need to use a different method to level your lawn.
What causes a lawn to become uneven?
There are many ways in which a lawn becomes uneven, so identifying what’s causing it allows you to prevent it from reoccurring. Some of the most common causes for an uneven lawn include:
Animals – Wild and domesticated animals may be contributing to an even lawn in many instances. For example, foxes, cats, and dogs can all be quite a nuisance on a lawn, especially during the night when you can’t scare them off.
Whether digging or trampling the soil, animals are one of the leading causes for uneven lawns. Sometimes it’s difficult to notice this as it occurs during the winter when you’re rarely on the lawn, and before long the damage accumulates into various dips, craters, and holes.
People – While people aren’t going to be digging up your lawn, the constant friction and weight they expose the lawn to does often cause uneven sections to appear. This is especially true if children frequently play on the lawn, as the constant pressure takes it toll on the surface.
Waterlogging – Given how much rain the UK receives, many lawns become uneven due to them becoming waterlogged, especially over winter. When surface water collects on a lawn and remains there for some time, causing parts of the surface to sink.
Debris – Sometimes debris beneath a lawn disturbs the surface over time, causing it to become uneven. This is typically rocks and similar debris, which need to be removed to even out the lawn.
Why You Should Always Level Your Lawn
If you come across parts of your lawn that are uneven and wonder if you should take action, there are several reasons why you should.
The first is that an uneven lawn may be hazardous. Walking across a lawn with deep holes and crevices increases the chances of injuring yourself, such as turning over your ankle or tripping and falling.
While you may not be too concerned by this, if you have any young children then it is always worth addressing an uneven lawn to avoid accidents.
Another good reason to level your lawn is for easier garden maintenance. Mowing across an uneven lawn is quite the hassle, taking more effort to manoeuvre the mower. If you’re lawn is full of slopes and bumps, mowing it is only going to be more difficult to maintain.
For instance, if you’re mowing an uneven lawn, there is a chance you could cause significant damage to the turf. If you hit a low spot and the mower suddenly jerks downwards, the blade may cut into the higher section, causing a fair amount of damage to the lawn.
How to Level an Uneven Lawn
Before you start to level out a lawn, it’s important to inspect it first. This allows you to determine the extent of the damage and what approach to take to repair it. There are a few different ways to level an uneven lawn, so it always helps to know what method applies to your situation.
Inspecting the lawn
The first step to take whenever levelling out a lawn is to inspect it. Take the time to check out each dip in the lawn, getting a rough estimate of how deep each section is and the extent of the damage that has been caused.
You are mainly looking for how deep each section is and how many dips there are in total. This should make it easier to even out, as you know exactly what to fix and the necessary approach to take.
Levelling Out Slightly Uneven Lawns by Topdressing
- Equal parts dry topsoil and sand
- Compost (optional)
- Container for mixing
- A rake
If you inspect your lawn and notice that the dips are only mild, then you can use the method known as topdressing. This is relatively straight-forward although will take some time for the results to show.
Start by combining equal parts dry topsoil and sand into a large container such as a wheelbarrow. If you want, you can add some compost as a fertiliser, although this is entirely optional. This mixture will encourage new growth on the uneven sections of the lawn.
As this is for minor dips, only add ½ inch of soil into the uneven sections across the lawn. This is a slow and steady process, so don’t make the mistake of overfilling the holes in the hopes of a quick fix.
After each area is filled with the topsoil mixture, take the rake and evenly distribute it. Using your foot or the flat end of a brush, push down on the newly added topsoil to make it compact.
To finish off, water the treated spots and add some fertiliser to encourage a healthy growth. Compact once more and then leave the areas for a few days.
The aim is for the newly applied soil to eventually disappear, being replaced by new growth of grass that will be even. However, there is no guarantee of this, which why you should check on the progress each day.
If there are no signs of growth – which may happen with unhealthy lawns – you need to apply new grass seeds into the area.
In either case, you want to repeat the topdressing process every few months. The goal is to slowly add small layers of soil that will even out the lawn over time, but you want new grass to grow before you attempt to further level it.
This process should take between four and six weeks to complete. After this, repeat the topdressing process, which will slowly but surely even out the lawn over time. Always make sure you add no more than a ½-inch of topsoil!
Levelling Out Deeper Sections of an Uneven Lawn
- Shovel & Rake
- Equal parts topsoil and sand
Unfortunately, topdressing only works in lawns with slight dips, so anything that’s deeper than 2-3cm requires a different method. The reason for this is quite simple – topdressing takes far too long with deeper sections of an uneven lawn!
As nobody wants to spend half a year trying to even out their lawn, there is another option available that does require a bit more effort. The results tend to be much quicker mind you, so it’s certainly worth the effort!
In fact, many people with uneven lawns need to use a combination of both methods, as the lawn has some sections that are deeper than others.
The first step for this method requires a bit of digging to remove the turf from the uneven section of the lawn. If the lawn is dry, water it before digging up the turf, otherwise it may break, and need replaced.
If possible, use a flat-headed shovel to get an even hole in the lawn. Dig around the edges of the dip first, and then slide the shovel horizontally to get an even cut as you remove the turf.
Try keeping the shovel as flat as possible – this makes the soil beneath the turf even.
If this section is over 1sqm, you’ll need to cut up several sections, otherwise the turf may break up – you need them for later!
Once the turf has been dug up, apply a mixture of equal parts topsoil and sand (the same mixture used for topdressing) into the newly dug hole.
Water the soil as you apply it to the hole – this helps to get rid of air pockets – before raking it to make it more even.
The goal here is to create an even base for the soil beneath the turf, so make sure it’s as even as possible before you roll the turf back on.
Gently reapply the turf (or sections of turf) to the now even soil below. Once the turf sits evenly, give the area a good watering and add some lawn fertiliser for good measure.
Now, your lawn should be nice and even!
Levelling Out Bumps and Protrusions
Not all uneven lawns have indentations, with many suffering from the opposite – bumps and protrusions. There are various reasons why this occurs, with a prominent example being older lawns compacting and thinning over the years, usually from freezing and thawing.
Thankfully, you can remove bumps from a lawn using similar methods for levelling out deeper dips.
Start by digging around the raised turf, going a few inches into the soil. You’re looking to create strips of turf that you can easily peel off from the lawn and then be rolled back on later.
Place the shovel a few inches below the turf, trying your best to get a clean and even cut. Gently pull the turf back, making sure the grass roots are separate from the raised soil. Roll each section of turf back as needed, making sure you keep it moist to avoid breaking it.
Now, you should be left with the raised soil below the turf. Take the shovel and remove as much soil as needed to create a level surface, breaking up as you do for easier removal.
Once the surface is level, slowly roll the peeled back turf onto the lawn, tamping it with a shovel once it is in place. If there are any gaps between the turf, you may want to add some seeds to help treat the area.
Also, the soil attached to the turf will probably make the lawn uneven when reapplying the turf, so place it down and see how much you need to remove, then gently shave off the excess soil.
Once the turf sits evenly, start to water the treated area daily. If it’s warm, there is a good chance you’ll need to water several times a day.
Things to Remember When Levelling a Lawn
- Using brand new tuff after levelling out a lawn is a good idea, as it is much easier to lay back on than older turf. However, finding new turf that matches the rest of the lawn is often difficult, so keep this in mind.
- Always water your lawn a for several days before you plan to level it out, as this ensures the turf is moist, making it easier to remove without breaking or crumbling. This is especially important during droughts and summer months.
- Spring is usually the best time to level a lawn. The weather keeps the lawn moist while the grass is in growing season, giving topsoil the best conditions to settle.
- Continue to monitor your lawn after levelling it. Check daily and ensure the lawn is watered with a garden hose or sprinkler regularly and consider using lawn feed to encourage faster recovery.
- Do not use anything but clean topsoil and sand when repairing a lawn. Never use sand on its own.
- Never level your lawn during winter, as the grass becomes inactive so will not regrow, making the entire process pointless. The best time is spring, although you can also repair during summer and the early stages of autumn.
If you are in the market for a new mower you can read our buying guides on choosing a petrol mower, cordless battery or electric mower.