How to TOP DRESS your lawn to make a FLAT LEVEL surface
How to Level Your Yard
Bumpy yards can be an eyesore and, if you're working on a backyard project, can get in the way of your progress. If your yard is uneven, you may want to level it for aesthetic or practical purposes. While this process can take time, you don't have to be a professional landscaper to level your yard. As long as you take careful measurements and have plenty of patience, you can make your yard flat and smooth!
Measuring the Uneven Areas in Your Yard
Remove your grass turf if you are leveling the entire yard.If your yard is extremely bumpy and your grass is full of weeds, you may need to replace the lawn entirely. Dig up the existing turf with a shovel or kill it with a chemical herbicide or organic alternative to get rid of the grass quickly.
- At least 2 days before digging or excavating, you should request utility locates. In the U.S., you can call the national Digline at 811. This is a free service.
- Some grass may have roots up to 1 foot (30 cm) deep that will need to be removed.
Mow any existing patches of lawn you plan to level.If you are not leveling your whole yard, you do not need to remove your grass entirely. Mowing the area down will help you see the raised and lowered areas clearly as you work. It will also allow you to apply topsoil directly to the ground later on.
- If you notice uneven areas while mowing, mark them with a small sprinkler-marking flags.
Find areas in your yard that you want to level.Look for uneven areas in your yard that could use leveling. Drive a stake into the 4 corners of the area that you choose. Tie string around the tops of the stakes to make the area you plan to level clear while you work.
- If you are leveling your entire yard, plan to finish the project over a period of several days rather than an afternoon.
- Don't worry about precise measurements while marking off the yard area. The area does not need to be even or perfectly rectangular.
Use a line level to determine the highs and lows of your yard.Attach the line level to the string to measure the highs and lows of your area. As you string the level along the line, watch the bubble on the line level's cover. If it is in between the 2 lines, the ground is level. If it is shifted to the right or left of either lines, the ground is uneven.
- Take measurements every 4–8 feet (1.2–2.4 m) as you go around the perimeter of the area, marking which areas will need to be raised or lowered later on.
Record areas that need raising or lowering on a piece of paper.If you notice a raised or lowered area as you level that you had not measured, use your line level to measure it before working on it. Refer to your notes any time that you can't remember which areas in your yard need to be leveled during the process.
- Making a to-scale drawing on graph paper can be very helpful as well.
Leave your string and stakes up while you're working.As you level your yard, you will need to continue taking precise measurements. Leave the stakes and strings up as you work. If the stakes tilt or fall over while you work, prop them back up in case you need to use your line level again later.
Leveling High and Low Areas
Dig out the raised areas of the yard with a shovel.Remove the higher mounds in your yard with a shovel, working slowly to prevent removing too much dirt. When you have reached the approximate height of the flat ground near the raised area, stop digging.
- Digging out the raised areas can be approximate, as you will finish leveling the area later on.
Fill in the low areas with dirt until they are level if your yard is bare.Use the same kind of dirt as the soil surrounding your low areas. If you removed dirt from the raised areas, use it to fill your low areas. If your yard only had low areas with no raised areas, buy a similar kind of dirt to fill in the dips.
- Be sure to remove rocks, dirt clods, and other debris from the soil you use to fill in low areas.
Mix a top dressing in a wheelbarrow to fill low areas if your lawn is grassy.Base the amount you mix on how deep your lawn depressions are and how large the yard you're leveling is. The dressing should be made from 2 parts sand, 2 parts topsoil, and 1 part compost. Continue mixing the dressing with a shovel until the 3 soils are evenly blended.
- Check the pH balance of the dressing before applying it to your lawn and make any necessary adjustments.
- If you don't mix enough top dressing at first, you can always make more later.
- If you are mixing a large amount, you may want to rent a small cement mixer.
Cover the low grassy areas with the top dressing.Use a shovel to apply the top dressing and pack it tightly into the hole. Remove the sod covering the grassy area in depressions any deeper than 3 inches (7.6 cm), as the dressing may suffocate the grass at that depth. If the depression is shallow (1–3 inches (2.5–7.6 cm)), you do not have to remove the grass before applying the dressing.
- Over a 3-4 week period you can add another 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) of top dressing as the grass begins to grow up through the first layer.
Making Final Adjustments
Use a line level to mark any remaining uneven areas.If your yard is still uneven, string the line level along the 4 stakes and watch the bubble on the line level's panel. Record any high or low areas. Continue smoothing out the top soil with the rake or removing raised areas with the shovel until you reach even levels.
Use a rake to roughly level the bare areas of your yard.Rake the area to spread the dirt around evenly and blend together the even, high, and low parts of your yard. After your area begins to look even, use the string level to measure the area. Continue raking until your level records an almost or fully even area.
Use a 2x4 board to finish leveling the ground if it is bare.If you cannot completely level your yard using the rake, take a 2x4 board and tape a carpenter's level onto its top. Watch the reading on the carpenter's level—if the bubble dips to the right or left of the line markings, the ground is still uneven. Push the 2x4 board along the ground to lower any raised spots and fill the low spots with dirt. Check the level as you work so you can make the ground as even as possible.
- Simple carpenter's levels can be purchased at most hardware or home improvement stores.
- Buy a 2x4 board that is approximately the same length as the area you are leveling. If you are leveling the whole yard, purchase a large 2x4 board and move it along the area you are leveling as you work.
- Alternatively, you could rent a water-filled lawn roller from a home improvement store to help you level your yard.
Grow new grass from seedlings if you only partially removed the grass.If your yard is grassy and you did not have to remove any turf, then your work is done. If you did, however, then you will need to grow new grass from seedlings. Spread grass seeds over the areas you leveled, then cover them with peat moss to help the seeds retain moisture. Avoid stepping on your grass seedlings for the first few weeks to prevent trampling them underfoot.
- Water your seeds daily to keep them moist, but avoid watering so much that puddles form.
- You could also mix grass seeds into a top dressing and spread 2 to 3 inches (5.1 to 7.6 cm) over thin or bare areas. Follow the guidelines on the package to use the right amount of seeds for the area you’re covering.
- New grass seeds need plenty of care and maintenance to keep healthy.
Grow new grass from sod if your lawn is bare.If you stripped your entire lawn, lay sod on the ground and grow a new lawn. Roll out tight rows of sod over the bare ground, keeping the gaps between rows tight. Fill in the lines with soil or peat moss, then walk over the rows with a lawn roller to ensure contact between the sod roots and dirt.
- Water your sod at least once a week, and mow the area whenever it grows taller than about 3.5 inches (8.9 cm).
- The best time to level a yard is in the spring, summer, or early fall—in late fall or winter, the ground may be frozen and difficult to work with.
- Wear gardening gloves and clothes that you don't mind getting dirty in as you level the yard.
- Drainage issues can be the root cause of uneven yards. You can take steps to amend your soil to improve the drainage. If you keep fixing your yard and notice consistently uneven ground, call a home repair service to evaluate and repair potentially damaged water pipes.
- To keep your lawn healthy and vibrant, you should fertilize it properly every year, aerate and dethatch the lawn, keep up on insect and weed control, and use proper mowing practices.
Video: Level Your Lawn Low Spots Like a Pro - Tool for Sand Soil Or Peat
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