Lawn levelling: why it’s needed and how to do it

June 8th 2021

An uneven lawn isn’t just unsightly, it’s unhealthy. If all you ever do to your garden grass is mow it, a lawn that started smooth will eventually develop various bumps, dips and other imperfections. These often manifest themselves as weeds, moss, bare spots or damp patches.

It’s a natural process, and it’s all so gradual you hardly notice. Then suddenly, you see Wimbledon or the greens at Augusta on TV and find yourself thinking, “didn’t my grass used to look like that?”

At HSS, we’re ready to provide the equipment you need to bring some lawn order to your garden. But we’ve also picked up quite a fund of gardening knowledge and lawn levelling wisdom over the years.

So, before we hire you a rotavator or a lawn aerator, let’s explore the leading causes of patchy and uneven lawns. Then we’ll point you towards some simple remedies.

Why lawns become uneven 

uneven lawn
(Credit: Dorin_S)

Like everything in life, lawns can be complicated. The process of moving from flat to flawed involves a variety of factors, including:

  • Frost
    • Different places thaw at different rates because they’re sunny or shady, for example. This process can cause the ground to buckle ever so slightly.
  • Feet
    • Some places are walked across frequently, others hardly ever, resulting in uneven wear and tear.
  • Animals
    • Whether it’s the local fox, neighbours’ cats or your pets, their activity affects the grass and the ground it grows in. Even birds pecking for food have a slight impact.
  • Rain
    • Some exposed places get wetter than sheltered ones. Others drain better because of variations in the soil or the presence of thirsty tree roots. Wet spots get depressed when walked on and are also prone to moss growth.
  • Gardening
    • Even giving your garden some TLC can be counterproductive. If your mower isn’t well-maintained, it can rip lumps out or create bare spots — an open invitation for weeds.
  • Little problems escalating
    • A slight depression becomes a puddle, making the area around it wet and soft.

How to level a lawn with small uneven patches 

If your grass is mostly fine except for a few places, you can tackle the problem areas one by one. Here’s a simple way of fixing an uneven lawn, sometimes described as “sweeping the dirt under the carpet”:

  • Using a sharp-bladed spade, cut through the uneven patch with an H-shaped incision and peel back the turf.
  • Fork over the base soil, remove the excess or add new topsoil to raise the level.
  • Tamp the soil down firmly and replace the turf.
  • Check that the patch of lawn is now level, lift the turf again and adjust if necessary.
  • Brush a sandy topdressing into the crevices where you made the incision.
  • Tap the turf edges with the back of a rake to bed them.
  • Water the patch using a fine-rosed watering can.

Levelling with topdressing

Topdressing is an effective way to level a larger lawn area by spreading a mix of topsoil, compost and fine sand over the grass. The compost adds nutrients to the soil, and the sand promotes good drainage.

Here’s our six-step guide to topdressing:

  1. Spread a half-inch layer of topdressing mix over the low areas (any more will smother the grass).
  2. Rake the topdressing to spread it evenly.
  3. Use a stiff broom to brush the area back and forth, working the topdressing into the earth.
  4. Water the area gently; too much will wash away the levelling mix.
  5. Monitor the area to check that the grass is coming through.
  6. Repeat the process if the grass isn’t level.

Levelling larger sections of lawn

If the dips in your lawn are too deep or extensive for patching up or topdressing, the answer is to fill them with a mix of good soil and sand or compost, then reseed that whole section.


Fill the holes with soil, then gently compact and water them. Leave a layer of looser soil at the top, then sprinkle seed over it. Then do whatever the packet instructions say to nurture the new grass.

Rip it up and start again

If your lawn is too far gone, or if you feel like ‘Lawnado da Vinci’ and want to create a masterpiece, here’s how to go about it:

  • Go over the old grass and remove all weeds, stones and debris (this is important because whatever’s left on there now will end up underneath).
  • If you have clay or clay-rich soil, add sand to create better drainage.
  • Hire an HSS rotavator and use it to turn over the whole lawn.
  • Choose a time when the garden is reasonably dry, as wet soil means harder work.
  • Add, move or remove material to create a level piece of land.
  • Dig in some good quality topsoil or compost to give your new lawn a fertile base.
  • Let the top of the soil be slightly higher than the height you want for the lawn, allowing for compaction and settling.
  • Make sure the lawn area is level. Use string lines between pegs, then a spirit level to check that the lines are not sloping.
  • Lay new turf or seed over the entire area and bed it gently using an HSS roller.
  • Invest in a rotating sprinkler to keep the turf well-watered without having to walk on it.

Now you know how to level a lawn. Whichever of these approaches you take, you’ll be transforming your scruffy old patch of grass into a jewel of perfection, so don’t forget about the setting.

At HSS, we offer a wealth of hirable equipment for taking care of your whole garden, from breakers to hedge trimmers to stump grinders and wheel barrows. There’s also a fund of constantly updated advice and ideas in the HSS blog.

And, of course, you can contact your local branch at any time if you’re not sure which equipment to choose or if you need a quote.

Let’s get that lawn sorted!

About the Author

Laila Naqvi

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