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How to level a garden

If you want to know how to level a garden, you’re either suffering from a sloped design, an uneven lawn, or you’re looking to lay decking, a patio or install features like ponds or rockeries. Thankfully, we’ve put together this how-to guide, which is going to teach you how to level your garden.

If you want to know how to level a garden, you’re either suffering from a sloped design, an uneven lawn, or you’re looking to lay decking, a patio or install features like ponds or rockeries.

Thankfully, we’ve put together this how-to guide, which is going to teach you how to level your garden in a few easy steps.

Some benefits of levelling your garden include:

  • Minimisation of soil erosion, which is great for the planet!
  • Improves drainage and directs water runoff away from your home
  • Allows your lawn to absorb more nutrients
  • Gives your garden a pleasing aesthetic
  • Boosts your home’s value

It’s worth noting that correcting severe slopes or landscaping gardens for decking or other complex features will require a professional to level your garden to avoid making costly mistakes. In these cases, it’s not just a matter of levelling out a garden.

There are several steps involved to make sure the finished result lasts. Any missteps can ruin your experience, dampen the end result, and even cause injuries to you, your family and guests.

If you’re wondering, check out the cost of a garden landscaper in our cost guide.

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How to level a garden

If you’re still up for the job and you’re a confident DIYer, then read on for our top tips.

Tools you’ll need to flatten a garden

How to level a garden for a patio

Before you get started, you’ll need to assess your garden and work out what tools will work best

For mild to medium issues, you’ll need:

  • A spirit level
  • Stakes and string for measuring purposes
  • Soil compactor
  • Shovel
  • Rake
  • Grass seed
  • Any other materials for your garden design
  • Materials for a retaining wall of your choice
  • Topsoil

For more severe slopes, you might need:

How to level a garden for paving in 6 steps

Step one: Measure the slope

Take your stakes and place one at the top of your slope and one at the bottom. Tie the string around the bottom of the stake at the top and around the top of the stake at the bottom. Use a spirit level to make sure the line is straight.

At the bottom post, measure from the ground to the top of the string. This number (aka, the rise) will be the height of your retaining wall.

Careful: If measuring isn’t quite your thing, then it may be best to work with a professional. It’s important to ensure your area is measured correctly before doing any of the hands-on work.

Step two: Remove any turf

Use your shovel to remove any grass and either compost or dispose of it environmentally.

It’ll certainly be a workout if you’re using a shovel – turf is tougher than you think!

Step three: Build your retaining wall

Using the strong materials you’ve chosen, such as bricks, timber, concrete or cinder blocks, build your retaining wall at the bottom of the slope to the height you measured.

Top tip: If the rise is taller than two feet, we recommend building two tiers/terraces.

Step four: Build up the soil

After your retaining wall has settled, start piling on the topsoil, starting against the wall and building upwards until it’s level with the top of the slope.

Top tip: Mark the steak with the rise measurement and check the soil reaches this height at every step of the way. This will ensure an even and flat surface.

Step five: Compact the soil

When your soil is level, it’s time to compact it. This help to remove oxygen and stops lumps or bumps from appearing over time. For this step, you’ll need to run your compactor across the soil until you’re happy with the result.

Warning: If your soil isn’t compacted or level then your paving will have a really untidy finish. Unfortunately, once you’ve set your paving out and it’s uneven and ugly, then you will need to go back a few steps to try and level the ground. You may need to go back to step 1 & 2 to ensure the ground is even, or remove some of the soil to level, or buy more soil to fill more.

Step six: Lay your patio

Leave your new levelled lawn to settle for 24 hours before laying your patio.

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How to level a garden before turfing

How to level a garden before turfing

Use the above step-by-step guide (leaving out step-six), then follow these instructions:

  1. Rake the soil to create a fine tilth
  2. Water the soil and use seeding topsoil or pre-turf fertiliser
  3. Lay your turf as soon as it arrives
  4. Bed in the turf by ‘tamping’ it down and pressing lightly
  5. Cover any exposed edges with soil to stop it from drying out
  6. Water regularly

For a more comprehensive guide, check out our blog: How to lay turf: Keeping it green for a step-by-step run through.

How to level a lawn

Lush green lawn

Step one: Prep your lawn

The best time to level your lawn is in the springtime. This time of year is ideal because it will encourage your grass to grow and there won’t be as much chance of rain or drought.

Be sure to rake your lawn to sweep away any excess dirt or debris before you begin levelling it.

Step two: Make your levelling mixture

We recommend using topsoil, sand and compost in a ratio of 2:2:1 to level a lawn that has low patches.

This should make the perfect mixture to fill in any gaps but provide enough moisture for your grass to grow.

Step three: Determine the bumpiness of your lawn

Inspect your lawn to see how much levelling is required. Depending on how deep some of the sunken patches are will determine your mixture and method.

Read carefully below to complete the job to a high standard.

Step four: For patches 1-2cm deep

  1. Sprinkle on your mixture to the sunken patch or patches of lawn and smooth out with a rake
  2. Compact the soil down with your feet and repeat these steps until all the patches are smoothed over
  3. Allow the soil mixture to settle for a few days and if it sinks down, top it up. If the weather is sunny and dry, water the area to keep it moist
  4. Once you’re happy with the new level of your lawn, sprinkle over a layer of grass seed
  5. Water it gently three or four times a day for the first couple of days to encourage germination. Once the seeds have sprouted, keep watering the grass every day until it’s fully established. Fill any patchy bits with more grass seed and repeat

Step five: For patches 2-3cm deep

  1. Be sure to water the area you wish to level out in advance so the lawn is pliable and doesn’t disintegrate when you try and move it
  2. Use a shovel to get underneath the roots of the grass that is not level so that you can lift each section, taking care not to break the roots
  3. Peel back the layers to expose the soil underneath. Use a fork to turn the soil and get rid of any big lumps and stones. Top it up with soil mix and compact it with your feet
  4. Use a rake to level the surface and apply more soil mix if needed
  5. Fold the flaps of turf back into place and fill any gaps with extra soil mix. Sprinkle with grass seed and water the area regularly over the next couple of days to make sure the grass and your new lawn is healthy

How to level a garden with a mini digger

Mini-diggers are great for breaking through the tough ground in order to level the earth or lay foundations. It’s recommended for accessories like pergolas, ponds, gazebos, sheds or greenhouses.

Most digger hires come with the option of hiring an operator too, which we highly recommend if you’re not familiar with how to use one.

Check out our mini digger hire cost guide for more information.

How to level a garden slope

There are three ways to do this.

  1. Follow our step-by-step instructions above
  2. Hire a mini-digger and operator
  3. Use a shovel, a rake, a spirit level and a compactor

The easiest way to level a garden is to wet it first (not too much!) and use hardy tools such as a rotavator and compactor. Bear in mind you’ll need a good eye and lots of patience to get this right.

Top tip: You need to make sure your garden has proper drainage. To do this, add weep holes to the bottom of your stone or concrete retaining wall/s. This allows water to easily drain out of the soil. And don’t forget to factor in the extra pressure that rainfall will cause. Your wall needs to survive the storms and soil gets heavier when it’s wet.

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FAQs

How do you level an uneven garden?

Fixing an uneven garden is easier than levelling it. For this, you merely cultivate the soil by breaking it up to create a smooth surface ready for new turf, a patio, decking or anything else you desire. Using a shovel or rotavator, dig up the earth so it’s all churned nicely. Then use a rake to level it out. Water and either seed or lay new turf.

Check out our How to lay artificial grass: Turf chores guide for more information.

How to level a garden for a shed?

How to level a gardenDepending on the severity of your slope, use this guide to help you. Your shed needs a solid and even foundation to sit on, so be sure to either level your lawn using shovels and rakes or hire a professional to do it for you.

How to level a garden with a rotavator?

  1. Clear your garden
  2. Remove weeds
  3. Turn on your rotavator and let it churn. the soil for you
  4. Add or remove the right amount of soil to create an even surface
  5. Rake and water

What is the easiest way to level a yard?

In all honesty – to hire a professional for the job!

It’s not easy to flatten a garden. A fair amount of labour is involved in whatever type of levelling you do. However, less complex jobs are simpler and easier to do yourself, while others will require a landscaper or mini-digger operator to help.

How to flatten a garden without a digger?

  1. Use a shovel and lots of elbow grease
  2. Invite your friends over for a garden levelling party
  3. Hire or buy a rotavator
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