Garden Advice

How to Flatten a Bumpy Lawn

Is your lawn full of bumps, lumps and indentations? Then you probably get quite frustrated every time you need to cut the grass. We can also only imagine the nightmare of dodging low spots and protruding mounds when playing ball with your kids, in between constant mind-the-bump warnings. It’s not fun, is it?

Well then, this post is for you! We continue our lawn maintenance series with an expert guide on how to level a lawn. You’ll learn about the different methods of evening out your grassed plot, depending on the extent of the issue.

Table of Contents:

The importance of levelling the lawn

A lush and perfectly level front lawn boosts your property’s curb appeal. The same goes for your back yard’s grassed area. A well-maintained, healthy-looking garden that is free of depressions, bare patches, and lumps helps you sustain the value of your property.

Check out all the other benefits of having a level garden, as well as the problems you can experience with a bumpy lawn.

The benefits of a level lawn

  • Easy lawn maintenance and care
  • Better nutrient and water absorption
  • Unobstructed drainage
  • Aesthetic appearance
  • Safe and enjoyable outdoor activities

The downside of a lumpy lawn

  • Unattractive overall garden look
  • Decreased property value
  • Hindered maintenance
  • Localised waterlogging
  • Lawnmower repair issues
  • Risk of lawn scalping
  • Unsafe outdoor environment

What causes bumpy lawns

The list of reasons for lumps and indentations in a lawn can be quite a read, so we’ll cover the most common ones below. Here’s why you may be dealing with an uneven lawn:

  • Earthworm activity.
    These critters can be beneficial but their movement and activity also result in the castings they leave behind on the surface, which cause a rough-looking lawn.
  • Nature’s play.
    Erosion, soil movement and settling are natural processes that can affect your lawn’s appearance.
  • Animal intruders.
    From moles and squirrels burrowing underground to your own dog digging the lawn as if its life depends on it, animals are often the culprits behind a moon-like grassed landscape in your garden.
  • Drainage issues.
    Rainfall or intentional irrigation can cause lawn unevenness if proper drainage has not been put in place.
  • Tree roots.
    Your wavy-looking turf in spots can be caused by the roots of an old tree growing nearby.
  • Insect invasion or lawn disease.
    Ants’ mounds, other insects’ activity or disease problems with your lawn could be the reason behind a lumpy lawn.
  • Faulty irrigation system.
    Broken underground irrigation piping or drainage works will affect the soil texture under your lawn, as well, resulting in depressions in places.
  • Foot traffic.
    Walking on a soft lawn may affect its evenness in spots, as well as cause brown patches and minor indentations.
  • Seasonal changes.
    Repeated freezing in the winter and thawing in the spring can “disturb” and lift the soil. This way, bumps and small holes can form on the lawn surface.
  • Buried objects and rocks.
    Your lawn may appear rough and bumpy due to underground rocks or buried objects (pieces of wood, building material, etc.) coming up to the surface.

When is the best time to level a lawn

Spring is the recommended time of the year to consider levelling the lawn and performing other turf repair tasks. Before the growing season starts, new grass seeds (if you need to overseed in areas) will have the best chance to root and establish.

Also, sufficient moisture is required for any added soil to settle and springtime provides this aspect, too. Still, overly wet weather can sometimes be a problem in the early months of the year, so choose a dry spell to complete the remedial job.

How to prepare the lawn for levelling

In order to decide on the best way to level a lawn, be it topdressing, lifting and refilling, or re-grading, you first need to, determine the extent of the issue and the possible root-cause behind the bumps and low spots on your turfed area.

In other words, it will be a waste of time to start filling in holes, while leaving drainage problems unaddressed.

So, you’ll need to fix things first and, in some cases, eliminate the reasons, whether it’s pruning exposed tree roots, applying an anti-pest product or digging out buried items and stones before moving on to the actual lawn levelling task.

Also, it’s a good idea to water the lawn a few days ahead of the job, if necessary, to ensure that you’ll have an easy time making the amendments. The soil needs to be workable, which means it shouldn’t be too dry or overly wet.

When and how to level a lawn with topsoil

The rule of thumb is to level the lawn by using the topdressing method only if you’re dealing with slight indentations, which are no deeper than 2-3cm. This means that you can’t fix animal holes or more significant depressions by adding a topdressing mix.

Why you should not use plain sand only

Some folks rush and distribute pure sand over the low-lying grassed area in the hope that this will do the job. But adding sand alone can do more harm than good. Unfortunately, it can contribute to further drainage issues, especially if the soil is on the clay side. Besides, sand dries out quickly in the hot summer months and can cause drought-like damage to the grass.

What is the ideal topdressing mix?

Well, the best approach is to use a topdressing mix that contains sand and soil of similar properties or such that match those of the existing ground. You can also add a bit of compost if you need to boost the nutrient composition of the mix and, subsequently, that of the soil itself.

What proportions of sand and earth (and possibly compost) you need to blend will depend on what type of soil you have and what you want to achieve. Sand helps with drainage when mixed with topsoil and some organic matter. But if your garden is covered in rich loam, then adding some excess soil from a nearby flowerbed will do.

How to topdress small depressions in your lawn

The process is quite straightforward. Just follow the steps below:

  1. Gather necessary tools

    You will need a shovel, a levelling rake, a wheelbarrow and a topdressing mix.

  2. Cut the grass

    Trim the turf by using the lawnmower on its lowest setting and dethatch the grass if necessary.

  3. Mix the topdressing material

    Mix in the topdressing material of your choice in the wheelbarrow and, using the shovel, sprinkle it over where it’s needed.

  4. Distribute the mix evenly

    Use the levelling rake and evenly distribute the mix (about a ½-inch layer), making sure that you don’t stifle the grass.

  5. Overseed if needed

    If the grass is growing thin at this stage, you can overseed and fertilise lightly.

  6. Water well

    Water if the forecast is for dry weather in the coming days.

Remember that you may not immediately achieve the desired result. Repeat the process in approximately one month.

How to fill small animal burrows and level out insect mounds

Holes, tunnels, and burrows often spoil a once perfectly even turfed area. You can fill these with topsoil and then overseed straight after without much hassle. You can, of course, also use up the mound of earth next to the hole (dug out by the animal) and mix it in with the topsoil. The grass will grow in no time, leaving you with a great-looking and level lawn.

You may also like:
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How to Get Rid of Moles in the Garden

What about ants mounds and earthworm castings?

Ants mounds. Miniature mounds, all over your lawn, can be the doing of colonies of tireless ants. We don’t recommend just disturbing their homes unless you deal with the insects, first. You can use food-grade Diatomaceous Earth, which is not toxic and won’t damage the surrounding grass, but will kill the ants. Once done, level out the pile of earth and distribute it evenly over the grassed surface.

Earthworm castings. Worms that live in the soil feed on plant matter and earth minerals. They excrete what they’ve ingested in the form of castings, which are full of nutrients. You can safely flatten these castings and spread the earth evenly with a rake onto as large an area as possible. You see, the concentrated nutrients in the earthworm castings may burn the grass if distributed only over the immediate spot.

How to flatten a moderately uneven lawn

Deeper lawn ruts and uneven spots (more than 2-3 cm deep) can be fixed by the lift-and-refill method. Or in other words, the surface depression can be evened out by carefully cutting out and lifting the piece of “green carpet” over the indentation and sweeping some topsoil underneath. Be careful not to damage the roots too much when cutting and removing the low-lying sod. Place the turf back, fertilise lightly, if need be, and water.

If for any reason, you believe that the “re-installed” turf won’t establish properly, due to damage, just overseed the newly-formed brown patch and again, apply some lawn feed and irrigate gently. Within a couple of weeks, you’ll notice new grass growth, for sure.

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As you can see, with a bit of patience and effort, you can restore the former glory of your lawn.

Here are some final tips and takeaways:

  • Fixing your bumpy lawn is best done in early spring. In some cases, the job can be completed in the summer in the right conditions.
  • Sometimes, the turf may be on a slope or littered with deep ruts and large depressions, where the above methods won’t be of much help. In such cases, you’ll need to think about re-grading the surface and establishing a new lawn.
  • If you employ the use of a lawn roller to flatten mounds and earth castings, don’t forget to aerate the turf, as well, to avoid soil compaction.
  • Always address the reasons for your bumpy lawn first, before proceeding with the levelling task.
  • Don’t forget to use the same type of grass seed (shade-/sun-loving) if you need to overseed during the lawn levelling process.
  • If you lack the tools or don’t have the time to do the job, you can always count on the Fantastic lawn care experts, of course!


Did you find this post helpful? Do you have any tips on how to level a lawn?Please, feel free to share your thoughts and comments below!

Header image source: Deposit Photos / Author:

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