How to Level a Garden

Written by  John Davies
Last updated: July 5, 2023

A garden is our way of letting a bit of nature into our homes and lives. Though we love the great outdoors, most of us aren’t overly happy with the condition of our own garden. If we have drainage issues or pipe problems, our garden will look worse for wear. In other cases, moles and other creatures dig up your yard. And as any parent will tell you, children can do even more damage! When left unattended, your garden can develop unsightly and even dangerous divots. When the surface of your garden is uneven, water can pool and make the garden look a bit of a state. Non-symmetrical watering patterns can kill your plants by giving them more or less water than they need to survive. Homeowners sometimes wish to level their garden before they go ahead and start building something. If you want to build a gazebo or deck, do so on stable and level ground. Garden sheds and the like also do not fair well on uneven ground. We’ve all seen them, you may even have one yourself. A garden shed on an uneven surface don’t tend to last long. Therefore, a sustainable and pleasant outdoor area requires a level surface. Luckily, garden levelling is not a particularly difficult process. The job can be completed quickly and efficiently by anyone with minimal fuss and without purchasing expensive tools. Follow these instructions as closely as possible. Garden levelling is one job you do not want to have to repeat. Once you have spread the seeds, it is a shame to undo all the work and level the ground beneath them. In some cases, you will want to level an entire garden or lawn. A new start is often required when you are planting a brand-new garden on uncultivated land. If your garden used to be level and something happened to alter it, you will need to locate the problem before you begin. Otherwise, all of your hard work will be for nothing, and the problem will reoccur down the road. Tools You Need:

  • A wheelbarrow. Preferably one of medium size.
  • A square bladed shovel. Preferably with a long handle.
  • A standard rake.
  • A carpenter’s level. Standard sized.
  • A 2.4 meter-sized 2 x 4 lumber piece.
  • Water filled garden roller.
  • A strong pair of gloves.
  • Topsoil and fertiliser.
  • Sand.

How To Level A Garden The Easier Way?

The first and most crucial step in the process is to make sure the soil areas you wish to work on are moist. Dry soil is not pliable enough, and you will expend too much effort digging into it. Aside from breaking your back, the hard ground may also damage your tools. However, overwatering is counterproductive as well. Soaked earth is slippery and is just a pain to deal with. It is also too heavy to work with comfortably. Therefore, try to make the surface evenly moist to a depth of roughly 15 centimetres. Before you start, keep in mind that you do not want to create a completely flat surface. Instead, it is preferable to maintain a subtle slope in one direction to provide for better drainage. The key is a slope and not a ramp!

How to Measure the Slope on Mostly Flat Surfaces

First place stakes around the area you wish to measure and eventually level. If you have already tilled the garden or it mostly consists of a roughly even garden, you will want to use a carpenter’s level. The recommended method for levelling your garden in most cases is through the use of a spirit level. The main issue you will face on this kind of surface is locating significant low spots. A carpenter’s level is handy in this situation because of its versatility. This tool is an aluminium bar, with three settings indicated on it. The respective settings are designed for horizontal levelling, vertical levelling, and finally, for 45-degree angles. Luckily, you do not have to measure each small patch of land separately. You can place a 2 x 4 lumber underneath the level before measuring. Just make sure that the lumber piece is completely straight before applying it. Then check that the surface covered by the 2 x 4 is indeed level. This will help you find all the shallow low spots. Look closely at the instrument when you measure a specific piece of land. Pay attention to where the ‘bubble’ on it is in relation to the two lines. If the bubble is centred between the lines, the area is level. If it is not, you will need to straighten it out.

Using a Hammer to Calculate the Slope

If you do not own a carpenter’s level or do not want to use one, you can do the job just as well with a hammer and string. However, you will require a line level for this job. First, install a stake into the lowest point in the yard using your hammer. Then do the same at the highest point. Then place a line level on the string. Adjust the strings carefully until you can see the exact amount of soil you need to add or detract to even up your garden. Perming these tasks will guarantee that the line between them is as even as possible. Subtract the lowest part’s height from the highest, and you will know the exact contours of the slope.

Physically Levelling the Soil

Once you know how much soil you need to remove, you are ready to begin levelling your garden. 1)    Make sure to wear your gloves and protect your hands. Levelling is not a process you want to engage in bare-handed. 2)    If you are working on a lawn covered surface, remove the grass’s higher parts with a shovel. Then set it aside. You will then replace it once the soil beneath once you have levelled it with the rest of the ground surrounding it.

3)    Make sure to cover the ground with not only the topsoil but also manure or fertiliser. The better the initial condition of your lawn, the better it will look in the long-run. 4)    Now use the rake to spread the soil and the fertiliser evenly on the ground. It is a good idea to add sand to this mixture. As sand does not compact as easily as soil, it helps maintain an even garden. If you have set grass aside earlier in the process, now place it atop the mixture. It is very important to compact the soil as much as you can. 5)    Keep an eye on the soil to make sure it remains even throughout the process. The string and line level are the best way to make sure a new slope does not emerge as you work. 6)    If you are sure the ground is level and the topsoil and fertiliser have been evenly spread, use the water-filled roller to pack the dirt. You can use your foot if the area is small, although it may not be as efficient. Make sure not to pack too much of the soil and fertiliser so as not to choke the lawn. A depth of roughly one centimetre should be sufficient. You can always add more later if necessary.

compacting soil with feet

Packing the ground properly is particularly important if you have seeded the ground. After you have planted or seeded the soil, the rollers pressing process keeps the seeds in the ground and aids their germination. If you plan to build a structure of some sort on the level ground, use soil and sand. 7)    Once you have completed the process, let the lawn sit for at least 48 hours without anyone walking on it or working it. When possible, let it sit for longer. It is advisable to mist the lawn when there is no rain. At this point, you should have also planned for a drainage system to make sure your garden will stay how you want it for the long term.

How Long Does It Take To Level Your Garden?

The downside of the DIY approach to this job is that it can take a significant amount of time to complete. The amount of time spent on this task can vary wildly. The two main factors involved are the levelling area’s size and how symmetrical you want the surface. However, as a rough estimate, you may be looking at 2-4 afternoons of work to complete the project. Nonetheless, you can cut time by convincing (or forcing!) friends and family members to help you out.

How Much Does It Cost To DIY Or Hire A Professional

If you do any outside work, maybe most of the supplies needed to level your garden are already in your possession. If you are starting from scratch, the total cost for all the supplies required should not exceed £250, for a small patch of grass. Additionally, most of the supplies needed for this job are useful for maintaining your lawn and garden in the long-run. Therefore, it certainly makes financial sense to do this project on your own. Hiring a professional to level your yard can get quite expensive. The average quote for a 50 square meter area is £650-£750. The quoted price is the cost for a job requiring the most basic types of lawns and fertiliser. Better quality turf could cost a great deal more. There are often other hidden costs, depending on the condition of your garden.

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