From uncomfortable mowing experiences to sprained ankle risks, bumpy lawns can be simply annoying or outright hazardous. Uneven turf is inevitable on older properties, as turf settles over time and is invaded by burrowing animals and growing tree roots. Consider these tips for leveling your lawn.
Has your lawn become bumpier than it used to be, scattered with random sunken and raised areas? Though it frustrates homeowners, uneven turf is normal in older lawns. Between settling soil, drainage issues, thinning grass, burrowing animals, and spreading tree roots, every lawn changes over time.
Assess the Problem
Is your lawn just slightly bumpy? Do you have small sunken areas here and there? Or do you see deep depressions and holes in your turf?
From uncomfortable mowing experiences to sprained ankle risks, lawn leveling issues can range from slight annoyances to outright hazards. The degree to which your lawn is sunken or raised will determine what you do to fix it.
Top-dressing May Be All You Need
A slightly uneven turf—like one that might keep a soccer ball from rolling smoothly–does not require drastic measures to level it out. Chances are, top-dressing will probably fix the issue.
Top-dressing is the process of applying a sand-soil-compost mixture to your turf to fill low spots. The sand will raise sunken areas without compacting the existing soil, while the topsoil and compost will provide nutrients for healthy grass to grow.
If you plan to top-dress, keep these points in mind:
- Top-dressing mixes must be weed- and nematode-free; sterilized top-dressing is ideal. If your top-dressing mix is contaminated, you could be introducing weed seeds, diseases, or nematodes into your lawn.
- Do not apply more than ½ an inch of top-dressing at a time or it could smother your grass. Use a rake to spread the mixture evenly.
- Be prepared to top-dress low areas several times over the course of a few months to get the desired results. Give yourself five or six weeks between applications. Store extra mix somewhere other than on your lawn or it will block sunlight and kill the grass underneath.
Give Your Lawn a Lift
If your lawn has any small, sunken spots with healthy grass growing, you may add soil under the turf to level out the area. The process is simple:
- Using a flat spade or manual edger, make vertical cuts along the edges of the sunken area.
- Remove the patch of turf.
- Spread a layer of topsoil, enough to raise the turf level, while lightly watering the soil to remove air pockets.
- Replace the patch of turf and water the area well.
- Water as needed and monitor this area as the grass recovers from being removed and re-installed.
For Those Ankle-Eating Holes
For depressions or holes that are deeper than two inches (the ones that cause a sprained ankle if you’re not careful), your best bet is to remove the turf, fill the hole, and plant new seed or plant grass plugs . As you fill in the depression, walk over the area and apply some water so that the new soil is slightly compacted. Spread the topmost layer without compacting it and sow new seed. You will end up with an even lawn and new, healthy grass.