How to level a garden

How to level a garden

A lopsided garden can make using your outdoor space a little awkward. Whether it's slanted BBQs and garden furniture that won’t sit quite right, or a miniature hill that you’re forever tripping over — it’s no wonder you’re looking for ways to flatten the ground somehow. When considering how to level a garden, many homeowners feel overwhelmed by the task and end up getting a professional in to do the work instead. Not only is this expensive, but there are plenty of tips and tricks available on how to level a sloping garden yourself.

Keep reading and we’ll teach you how to flatten a garden without a professional landscaper. After that? It’s just about picking a sunny weekend, rolling up your sleeves, and getting stuck in with the right tools!

How to level a garden slope

A well-landscaped garden can add value to a house, but the same can’t be said for a gardening project that’s abandoned halfway through! This brings us to our first pro tip: it’s a good idea to have everything ready to go before you get started. That way you won’t get 80% of the way through before you realise you haven’t got what you needed to finish the job.

Here’s our handy checklist of tools:

  • Gardening gloves
  • Hand trowel or fork
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Spade
  • Rotavator (used to break up soil)
  • Rake
  • Fresh soil
  • String line spirit level OR levelling laser beam
  • Grass turf/ grass seed

Now the one thing we’ve not put on this list… is a digger. If you’re dealing with a really substantial slope in your garden, let’s say the type that children might roll down or a dachshund might struggle to walk up — you may need a digger to take some of the earth out from the top of the slope first. But if your situation is a bit less extreme, here’s how to level a garden without a digger.

Step 1: Clear the area

Grab your gardening gloves and a hand trowel. You’ll need to make sure your lawn is clear of rocks, stones, and other debris. These things will cause problems later on and they can even be dangerous if they rebound off the rotavator. It’s also a good idea to pull up any weeds — the rotavator will only shred and scatter them around to grow up through your new lawn. Chuck anything you pick up into your wheelbarrow, that way it’s all out of your way for when you get started with Step 2…

Step 2: Rotavate the land

If you don’t personally own a rotavator, that’s okay, we’re not surprised — it’s quite a niche item. You can easily hire one online or from a local gardening centre. A quick Google search of “garden rotavator hire in (insert town or city)” should see you right.

Once you’ve got your hands on one, here’s how to flatten a sloping garden with it:

  • Move in strips across the desired patch of land to break up the dirt.
  • Move back and forth over each strip 2 or 3 times before moving on.
  • Overlap each strip as you start on the next.
  • Once you’ve covered the entire area, go back over it again at a different angle (horizontal if you were working vertically before and vice versa).

How much of your garden you need to rotavate will depend on what the problem is. If you’re dealing with lumps and bumps, you can use the rotavator to break up those specific areas. But if you’re looking for how to flatten a garden completely, you might well need to rotavate the whole thing.

Step 3: Add or remove soil

So your garden’s probably looking like a real mess at this point, but trust us — stick with it! You’ll want to grab your spade next and start shovelling dirt from the higher sloped areas onto your lower areas. You can also get rid of excess soil from those higher areas using your wheelbarrow or add fresh soil to the lower areas, etc… Whatever works best for you.

This is maybe the toughest bit in terms of the energy required, and you might need to stop for a cup of tea halfway through, but eventually, the area will start to appear more level. Once you’re happy with how it looks, crack on with step 4…

Step 4: Check the level

When it comes to checking your garden level, it’s really up to you how seriously you want to take it. On the one hand, you could eyeball it — go back up to your house and see how it looks from afar. On the other hand, you could get a more accurate measurement by using a spirit level on a string line or a levelling laser beam. That last one sounds pretty sci-fi, but it’s essentially just a green light that shines in a straight line.

But if you’re not keen on investing in either of those and are wondering how do I level my garden without using any fancy equipment? Here are some quick tips to make sure you don’t end up with a wonky garden.

  • Don’t judge it alone — have a friend or partner come and assess the garden level with you.
  • Use tent pegs and string to track the garden horizontally and vertically — this might give you a better visual of any lumps or bumps.
  • Walk the perimeter of the garden and check out the level from every angle.

Step 5: Lay fresh garden turf

Hurrah! If you’ve gotten this far then you’ve done an epic job — congrats. You’ll now want to unroll some fresh turf mats across your newly levelled garden. Start at one edge of your garden and place each turf mat alongside the next. Before you know it, you’ll have a flat, grass-covered garden! Quick note: Don’t worry if the turf looks a bit odd to begin with — the mats just need time to grow and connect with each other.

A few final tips…

Levelling your garden is a challenge, but with a bit of sweat and elbow grease, you should have no problem getting the job done. It might even get you in the mood for some other home improvements…

Mud everywhere? Why not check out ‘How to clean a patio’.

Or why not continue the DIY inside with our article on: ‘How to decorate a flat on a budget’.

Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.