Question of the Week Number 2: February 22, 2018

“Neil, our lawn has uneven spots. How can I get them smoothed out?”

Lawns are rarely perfectly smooth. That’s because we didn’t rake things out properly as we planted seed or sod initially. Or there might have been erosion, or a tree might have died and its stump and roots might have rotted. Sometimes cars run over our grass and leave nasty ruts.

Photo courtesy

When the lawn surface is uneven…
We’re often called on to smooth out the surface, and it’s not exactly easy when it’s done after the fact. Here are my guidelines.

For low spots that are 1 inch or less, you can use dry brick sand (the type you would use to mix mortar – or use in a child’s sandbox). Using your shovel, scatter it over the low area and rake frequently with the back of a garden rake to filter it down through the grass onto the soil’s surface.

For low spots that are greater than 1 inch deep, use a loose sandy loam topsoil or loamy garden soil mix. Dig the existing sod in an area slightly larger than the low spot. Fill the depressed area with your soil mix. Smooth the new soil, then plant the sod back in place. Firm it atop the new soil and water immediately to keep it from drying out.

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I prefer to use a mix that does not contain a lot of organic matter, since that organic matter will decay over a period of a couple of years and could put you right back into the depressed setting you faced before.

For humps and bumps, dig the existing sod and set it aside. Remove the excess soil so that you will be able to place the sod back in the hole at the proper grade. Firm it down with your feet and water it immediately.

All of this adjusting of the lawn’s surface is best done in late April or May, once the grass has greened up and is growing vigorously.

Note that I have not used the term “level” in this discussion. You don’t want your lawn to be level. That would bring about poor drainage, even to the point of inviting water into your house or garage. Your goal should be to establish a smooth grade away from your home.

Thanks to the folks at Toro for the use of their photo. They have prepared a page on their website giving similar guidance for smoothing a lawn’s surface. Here is a link to that page.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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