Certain areas of your lawn may start to become uneven over time due to a variety of reasons like settling or poor drainage issues. There are actually many benefits that come from leveling your lawn—it doesn’t to mean you need to rip everything up! In fact, you can simply apply a layer of top dressing to your lawn to even out its surface in most cases.
How to Level Your Lawn
Step 1: Mow
Start out by mowing your lawn at a short height, but not short enough to scalp it. You don’t want to expose the stems of the grass blades because your grass will quickly dry out. Mowing at a shorter height allows you to accurately see how uneven your lawn is so that you can determine how much top dressing to apply. Mow a little shorter than your grass’s recommended mowing height which you can find here.
Step 2: Dethatch
Now that you’ve mowed your lawn pretty close to the ground, you can examine how much thatch has accumulated over time. Thatch is a layer of dead vegetation, earth, twigs and other types of debris located on the ground below your grass. 0.25–0.50 inches of thatch is okay, but anything more than that amount will prevent the grass from obtaining nutrients, water or oxygen.
If you decide you need to dethatch, remove it by running a thatch rake over the surface to pull it up. Check out Why Dethatching and Aeration Matter for more information.
Step 3: Broadcast Soil Mix
You can now begin making applications of topsoil mix to your lawn by broadcast spreading it over your lawn with a shovel. When you top dress a lawn, you will spread a mix of soil or soil compost and fine sand.
You should first start by mixing the topsoil and sand so that it is fully blended. Good quality topsoil contains a rich mixture of nutrients that are necessary for your lawn’s health. The sand will help to maintain a leveled yard over time as it doesn’t compact easily whereas the soil and compost contain helpful nutrients that helps your lawn thrive.
The applied organic material will eventually work its way into your soil profile and amend/improve the quality of your soil. Learn more here.
Step 4: Evenly Spread Topsoil Mix
Rake the mix out on your soil for an even spread. Apply up to 0.5 inches of leveling mix on top of the low areas you want to level out. If you see that you need more top dressing, repeat this process when your grass begins growing over the top dressing or when the top dressing mix is no longer visible. Be sure to never completely cover your grass blades with soil because it needs sunlight to grow.
Step 5: Water Your Grass and Topsoil
After the ground has been sufficiently leveled with topsoil mix, it is a good idea to irrigate the ground that same day. Many times, air pockets or unsettled areas remain unseen from above ground. Watering the lawn helps the soil settle again so you can anticipate how leveled your lawn really is.
If areas still seem to look unleveled, go back and add more topsoil or try shifting some of the soil around to create a smooth, leveled surface again. Don’t over-irrigate to the point that your soil becomes muddy.
The Benefits of Applying Topsoil
Adding topsoil or top dressing to your soil is a great way to level the landscape out—but it actually serves as a soil amendment as well! When you add organic matter to your topsoil mix, it works to improve the soil’s health—especially if you have a clay-like soil.
It also improves the soil structure and water hold capacity, which is really helpful if you have a lawn with drainage issues. Drainage issues can sometimes be the reason for having an uneven lawn in the first place.
The organic matter in the topsoil helps with soil microbes, which also affects soil structure, protects lawns from stress and breaks down nutrients in to soil to release them in the root zone of your lawn. In fact, applying a bottle of Lawnifi® Maintain (also included in the Lawnifi® Spring, Summer and Fall Fertilizer Boxes) to your newly laid topsoil will help soak the topsoil and nutrients into your lawn.
Sod University has another blog on leveling your lawn, but this addresses the need for leveling a lawn before installing new sod. If you are about to install new sod and need to level your lawn beforehand, read Leveling Your Soil and Preparing for Installation.