Are you looking to even out those slightly low or a tad too high spots in your garden? Gardens have always been a popular part of homes in the United Kingdom.
A well-levelled garden not only adds curb appeal; it also minimizes soil erosion and helps to improve drainage. With the right tools and a little of getting your hands dirty, you can level a garden to the envy of your neighbours.
Tools for levelling a garden
These are the tools and supplies you will need to level your garden:
- Rods and string
- 3 foot Carpenter’s leveller and/or string line
- Flat shovel
- Long 2 by 4 piece of lumber
- Gardener’s rake
- Garden water sprinkler
- Earthmoving and compacting equipment
- Wheelbarrow for transporting sand
- Protective gloves and shoes
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Level Your Garden
Follow these easy steps to even out low and high spots and achieve a perfectly levelled garden.
1. Mark the focus area
Whether you are looking to set up a new garden or to install a lawn on bare ground, the first step is to determine the exact area that needs to be brought up or levelled down.
To undertake this step, you can use either the string line or carpenter’s level method. Both methods will tell you how sloppy the ground is and by how much it needs to be lowered or raised.
For the string line method:
- Insert four rods into the ground in a square around the area you want to level out.
- Tie a string all around connecting all four rods. Be sure to keep the string tight.
- Bring a string line to any of the four sides to check that the string is level.
- Use a tape measure to check the height from the ground to the string on all four sides to see how much you would need to adjust the ground to make it level.
- Take note of the low and high spots and the difference in measurement between these spots.
For the carpenter’s level method:
- Place the carpenter’s level on a long piece of lumber to measure over a long distance across your garden.
- Keep an eye on the bubble on the spirit level, which will show you the level of slope in your garden.
2. Water the ground
If your garden already has grass on it, you will need to uproot the grass to level the ground underneath it. Before doing this, sprinkle some water over the area you are working on. This will make digging and lifting out the grass easier.
You want just enough water to lighten the soil without making it crumble into dust when the grass is scooped out.
3. Remove the grass
It is best to first remove grass from the area you are looking to level out especially if you want to work on a large area. If you are starting a garden from scratch on bare land, then this step is not necessary.
To remove the grass, you will need a flat shovel. Push the shovel into the ground about 3 cm to 6 cm deep, slide the shovel horizontally and lift out the soil.
Repeat this process throughout the garden making sure to lift out soil of an even thickness to avoid worsening the sloppiness problem.
4. Add a layer of soil
After removing the grass and exposing the ground, you can start the actual process of levelling the garden. What you will be doing here is filling low spots with soil to bring these areas to par with the rest of the garden.
Not just any soil will do. We recommend levelling your garden with nutrient-rich soil consisting of the usual sand and soil mixed in with manure. Pour the soil mixture on the ground and spread evenly throughout the garden using a rake.
Pro Tip: Shovels and rakes are better suited to smaller levelling jobs. Rent small earth moving equipment if you need to dig out and level a larger garden.
5. Flatten out the soil
Next, compact the soil to protect it from erosion. For a smaller garden, you do not need special equipment; simply stomp your foot over the area until it is well levelled. You can also get this done using a rake.
If you are working in a larger area, you will need special ground-flattening equipment such as a compactor. See if you can rent this tool from your local hardware store.
Once compacted, allow the new layer of soil to settle before planting anything. We recommend giving the new soil layer a settling window of about 3 weeks. During this time you can sprinkle a small amount of water over the area especially over the summer when there isn’t much rainfall.
6. Level out shallow spots
The above method describes the process of levelling deep spots. If your garden is only slightly uneven and requires light levelling, you might not need to remove any existing grass.
To level spots that are lower than the rest of the garden, add a topsoil mixture consisting of sand, soil, and pear. Spread the soil mixture over the shallow area until it comes up to the level of the adjacent area.
7. Level high spots
Sometimes, you might have areas in your garden that are a bit too high than is desirable. You can level these high spots too and bring them down to the level of the rest of the garden.
Using a shovel, dig out the sand and leave the grass intact to install back later. Repeat this process and remove the sod until the high spot comes down 1-2 cm lower than the surrounding area. This will allow you to replace the dugout grass and bring it to a similar level as the adjacent garden.
8. Check for level
If you are looking to have a perfectly levelled garden, plan to do some adjusting until you get to your desired level.
Use the carpenter’s level to determine if the ground is at an even height. Adjust by adding a little more topsoil, compacting the soil, or removing soil until the garden is as levelled as you want it to be.
Check out these additional recommendations to help you get the most out of your project.
Start with a wet spot
At one point or another, you will have to dig out some soil to achieve the desired levelness. To make digging and levelling easier, mist the target area with water a few days before starting the project. Ideally, you should wet the soil about 4 inches to 6 inches deep so that it is neither too soggy nor too dry to work with.
Work on the gradient
As much as you want to level your garden, you should not do so at the expense of a proper drainage system. Your garden should be slightly slopped to allow excess water to run off. The rule of thumb is to have a 1-inch slope for every four feet of the garden to prevent flooding.
Check for drainage problems around low spots
The methods we have explained above will help to level low spots but the levelling problem will reoccur if the cause is a drainage issue in your homestead. Low spots around water pipes are a tale-tell sign of drainage problems and you should consult with your local drainage specialist first.
Timing your project right
You are better off carrying out your garden levelling project in the spring to give the grass and other plants time to grow. During this time, there is usually just the right amount of rainfall/drizzles for the soil to settle.
You do not have to be a gardening connoisseur to level a garden. However, this is definitely not a quick project to pull off.
For a truly levelled and attractive garden, you will not only need the right tools, but you will also require a good eye to check for levelness, and time on your hands to allow the soil to settle before you can install the new garden.
Have you tried levelling a garden? How did that go? Let us know in the comments section below!