With the summer months and warmer weather just around the corner, attention turns to our gardens, with the hope of hosting BBQs with our families and friends looking like it can soon become a reality.
However, nothing puts a spanner into your plans more than an uneven garden filled with bumps and lumps, leaving you desperately wondering how to level a garden and FAST.
Well, we’re going to break this down for you, including a step-by-step guide on how to level a garden using two different methods, what costs may be involved and also whether or not you need to obtain planning permission before you begin levelling a garden.
Wanting to find a quick answer? Use the menu below as a guide:
- What causes an uneven garden level?
- How to prepare for levelling a garden
- Can I level my garden without planning permission?
- How to level a garden: the two methods
- How to level a garden: what are the costs?
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What causes an uneven garden level?
When it comes to an uneven garden level, there are many different potential causes. It’s crucial you identify what is causing you to have an uneven garden before you start levelling sloped garden, otherwise, all your hard work will be wasted.
Below are the main reasons that you may have a sloping garden:
- Nightcrawlers – On an evening, giant earthworms will shift soil in their hunt for food, which results in movement within your soil. To try and solve this problem, you can keep the pH level of the soil fairly low
- Animals – Animals such as cats or foxes can be a big culprit when it comes to an uneven garden, as they will dig around your garden looking for food. By frequently seeding your garden, you will give it longer roots making it harder for these animals to dig it up
- Children – If you have children frequently playing on your lawn when the soil is soft, it can put pressure on your garden and cause long term issues for your soil surface
- Water logging – During the winter months when the weather starts to get wet and cold, surface water may sit on your garden for a long period of time. This will cause long term damage if you haven’t got your drainage correct
- Soil settlement – Objects that are underneath your garden soil, such as rocks or pipes, can affect the makeup of your garden, causing it to become uneven in level. To help battle this issue, excavating the lawn is probably your best option
How to prepare for levelling a garden
Before you dive straight in with levelling a garden, there are a few things you must do first in order to make sure you get the best end result.
Pre-water the lawn
A few days before you start levelling a garden, you will need to make sure it’s watered. If the soil is too hard, dry or powdery, you will not be able to level the garden correctly. On the flip side though, as you may expect, if the garden is over-watered, then it can be just as hard to work with.
Level at the right time of year
Making sure you choose the right time of year to level your garden is crucial, as you will need to make sure there aren’t going to be any cold and frosty snaps and that the soil has a sufficient amount of moisture.
Ideally, the best time of year to begin levelling a garden will be spring, with the hope the garden will be all done and dusted by the time the summer rolls around.
Check for low spots and drainage problems
Finally, before you jump into levelling a garden, you need to check your drainage system and also whether there are any low spots occurring as a result of poor drainage.
If this is the case, it is recommended to regrade your garden as well as levelling, to give you a garden that has a surface that slopes away from the property and avoids water gathering around your property and flooding.
Or, if you don’t want a garden that slopes away from your house, you could have a drainage system fitted underneath the grass, but this is going to be costly.
Can I level my garden without planning permission?
When it comes to doing work to your garden, there are certain things that will require planning permission. However, the good news is that for levelling a garden, no planning permission is required.
However, if what you’re doing impacts bushes and trees that are protected, then you will require planning permission. Also, if your property is a listed building, then again you will need to seek permission before you do anything.
If any of the work you’re doing to flatten out the garden level will impact your neighbours, it would be a good idea just to give them a heads up. Whilst you don’t HAVE to, it would just be nice to do so out of courtesy to avoid any conflict further down the line.
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How to level a garden: the two methods
When it comes to levelling a garden, there are two methods that you could use, depending on the severity of your uneven garden; patching up; and starting again.
We’re going to talk you through each of the two methods, step-by-step, to help you get a better idea of which will be the right one for you.
Method 1: Patching up
Essentially, patching up is exactly what it sounds like – focusing on filling in gaps, getting rid of high and low points and adding additional grass seed to the garden. This method will work best for those gardens that are slightly bumpy with just a few high and low points.
It requires minimal effort and is cheaper compared to the second method of levelling a garden.
The first stage of patching up is to identify all the spots that are above the level of where you would like your garden to sit. Remove these areas with a spade – don’t worry if you accidentally go a little too low, this can be fixed later.
You will also need to identify low spots in the garden and remove these with a spade. You will need to keep the top layer that you take out for the low spots as you will come back to use this later on.
The next step of levelling a garden involves adding good quality loose soil to all the areas you have dug out – both the high and low spots.
You will then want to compact the soil by standing on it. This helps to reduce the chances of it moving in future.
Once the soil is compacted, add some more loose soil to the top of each area. You will want to make sure you use topsoil for this. Then take a levelling rake, which will be larger and flatter in comparison to the average garden rake and rake the soil in one direction and then in the opposite direction.
This will help to make any dips visible, allowing you to add more loose soil where necessary.
Now you will need to add the bits of the surface you dug up and kept onto the areas where the surface was too low.
Then in all areas, you will need to sprinkle over good quality grass seed – you will need more of this on the areas where you didn’t put the grass back on top, as this will just be a blank area of soil.
You should then make sure you water all areas thoroughly and keep up with the maintenance of the grass as per the instructions on the grass seed packaging to ensure all your hard work doesn’t go to waste.
Method 2: Starting over
Starting over is for lawns that are too far gone for patching up to work on and will require more effort than method 1 and will be slightly more costly. There are some lawns that even this method won’t work for, in which case you will need to consult a specialist.
The first step of this method is to remove any large rocks, debris, clumps of soil, or weeds from your garden. This is because with this method of levelling a garden anything in the lawn currently will go underneath your new lawn.
If you have a lawn with a lot of weeds, then you will need to add an additional step in here where you will need to remove the top 5cm of your lawn and dispose of it before going onto step 2.
The next step is making sure that your lawn is soft enough to be able to get it level, so you will need to look to do this when the soil is dry, as moving wet soil will be a lot more difficult with it being heavier and therefore harder to move.
You will need to use a rotator to push throughout the lawn until it’s completely turned up.
This next step is the most important part of levelling a garden, as it’s the stage where the actual work on the garden level goes on. There are two ways you can go about doing this – the more cost-effective but less accurate way or the more ‘professional’ way; it depends on how exact you want your garden to be.
The less accurate way involves you setting up pegs with string lines that have been made level using a spirit level.
Split your garden into smaller sections with the string lines set slightly above where you want the garden level to be.
Then use a rake to work around the whole garden to make sure it’s in line with the string.
Alternatively, you can use the more professional method, but this will be more costly and will require you to get a laser level and a laser receiver. Whilst it’s more costly, you will get a higher level of accuracy on the garden level.
You will need to set up the laser level in one corner and then use the laser receiver and a tape measure to work out where you want the level of the garden to be compared to where it currently is.
You can then walk around the different areas of the garden with the laser receiver and tape measure to see where the level is at compared to where you want it to be. Use a rake to then shift the soil around and make sure it’s all at the correct level.
The final step is to lay the turf on top of your new garden level. This is a more complicated process than it sounds, so you may want to look for an in-depth guide, but as a quick overview, you will need to buy lots of turf and start from the edges and work inwards.
You will then have to roll your garden to make sure the turf is level and bed to into the soil and then make sure you water the lawn thoroughly.
If the weather is windy or dry, you will need to make sure you’re paying particular attention to watering the lawn, as in these weather conditions the turf can start to dry out and shrink, creating gaps between the soil and the turf.
You can also look into hiring land edging experts who can help you straighten out your lawn once you’re done leveling it. While leveling can be beneficial for your garden, it can be great for the aesthetic portion of your lawn and garden.
How to level a garden: what are the costs?
If you’re looking to get a professional in to level your garden, then this will naturally be more costly than having a go yourself.
The cost will of course depend on the size of your garden and how much work it’s going to need in order to get it level. For a garden of 40m2, you can expect to pay around £800.
However, if you’re looking into having some garden landscaping as well as working on the garden level, then the table below will give you an idea of how much you can expect to pay:
|Garden landscaping example
|Real grass (per m2)
|Artificial grass realistic installed (per m2)
|Levelling (per m2)
|Terracing (10m long, 1m deep)
|Flagstone paving (inc. base, supply and installation)
|£45-£75 per m2
|Decking (per m2) excluding handrails
|Brickwork (per m2)
Figures taken from Checkatrade
Well, that is everything you need to know about how to level a garden, including how to do it yourself, what causes an uneven garden level and what are the costs to get a professional in. Do you have a question to ask? Or maybe you want to have a go at writing an article yourself? Whatever it is, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today!
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Millie is a perfectionist with a passion for property and writing articles. You’ll find her researching the latest housing trends and the newest up and coming areas worth investing in. Read more about Millie here.