How to level a garden like a true pro

December, 2023
Darren Spalding

There are many benefits to levelling your garden. For one, it will stop water and nutrients from running off the sides of raised beds or growing containers. It can also make weeding much easier, prevent erosion and keep plants from toppling over if they grow too close together. Not only is this a more aesthetically pleasing look for gardens but it saves on time and money as well!

A well-levelled garden not only offers your garden curb appeal but also protects against soil erosion. By using the right tools, you can quickly level your garden to be the envy of your neighbours.

Tools you'll need to level a garden

The following tools and supplies will be needed to level your garden.

  • String & rods
  • A three-foot Carpenter’s leveller or string and line
  • A Flat shovel
  • 2x4 scrap lumber
  • A classic gardener’s rake
  • Garden water sprinkler
  • Earthmoving and compaction equipment
  • A wheelbarrow is a useful device for transporting sand.
  • Wear protective gloves and shoes

Our guide to levelling your garden

Mark out the area you will be levelling

One of the first steps in either setting up a new garden or installing a lawn is to determine how much area will need to be brought up or levelled down.

To calculate the elevation, you can use either a string line or a carpenter's level.

For the string line method:

  • Put four poles in the ground to form a square around an area you want to level.
  • Tie a series of strings all around the rods, and keep them tight.
  • Bring a string line to the one adjacent corner and check that it is level.
  • Use a measuring tape to find out how much ground needs levelling, either by adding or removing soil from one side.
  • Take note of where the ground is most uneven and the difference in measurement between these areas.

For the carpenter’s level method:

  • Use a carpenter's level to measure over large distances in your garden
  • The bubble on the spirit level will show you the degree of slope in your garden.

2 . Water the ground you are working on

If your garden already has grass, you'll need to remove it so that the ground is level. Sprinkling water on over the area before digging up and removing will make this more doable.

When possible, allow the ground to be watered over a few days so that it is able to absorb enough water. However, be careful not to provide too much water so that the ground is too wet and difficult to work with.

Lightly moisten the soil without wetting it too much so that when you scoop out the grass to replant, it doesn't become dust.

3 . Remove the grass

You should first remove grass from the area you're about to level if your goal is levelling a large surface. To remove the grass, gently push a flat shovel into the ground 3 to 6 centimetres deep and slide it horizontally.

Perform the same action on every inch of the garden to ensure that the grass is removed across the whole area.

4 . Add a layer of top soil

Once you remove the grass, you can work on levelling your garden. In most cases, this involves filling low spots with dirt to bring them to level with the rest of the garden.

Not all soils are created equal, and for a good garden, you'll need the right kind of soil. Sand with manure mixed in will go a long way to levelling your garden just so.

Gather the grits and dirt and spread it evenly throughout your soil with help from a rake.

If you have a large area to cover, it's worth renting out some equipment to help with the levelling process, smaller areas will be fine using a rake or shovel.

5 . Flatten the soil

Next, press the soil down to protect it from erosion. If you have a small garden, you can do this by stomping on the ground or using a rake. For larger areas you will need equipment for flattening the area, tools such as compactors can be rented from local hardware stores.

Give a full 3-week settling window to a new layer of soil before planting anything. Sprinkle a small amount of water during the settling period especially in dry times. As much as you will want to jump straight in and get to work on your lovely new base, it's worth giving the soil time to settle.

How to level Low Spots

The above method is one of levelling deep spots. If your garden has a moderate amount of unevenness and does not need much levelling, you may be able to simply level those areas with grass still intact. If your garden has slightly lower spaces, fill these areas with a mixture of sand, soil, pear until you're all level!

How To Level High Spots

You can level higher areas in your garden to bring them down to the same height as other areas.

Use a shovel to dig out the sand inside of an area and leave the grass intact. Repeat this until you're able to remove 1-2 cm of dirt from the high spot compared to adjacent sections. You'll then be able to place the removed intact grass to bring it down to a similar level as the surrounding areas.

Moisten the area with water and leave it to settle for a couple of days, if everything goes to plan you can get everything back in place at the correct level.

Making sure everything is level

Personally, this step is a little bit overboard for me, however, I can understand why some people would want to go through this process to make sure everything is perfect.

Use the level to determine if the ground is at an even height. Use more topsoil, pack down soil or remove some dirt until it's in the desired state of being levelled.

Further tips

Work on a gradient

It is important to maintain a drainage system in your garden so that it will not flood. Sloping the soil prevents water from being trapped and helps balance the natural slope of the land with one inch of height difference on every four feet (1 cm per 1 meter).

Check for drainage issues in low spots

In order to prevent your low spots from recurring, you should first consult with a drainage specialist to find the underlying cause of the problem. Once you have found and remedied this issue, working on levelling up the low spots can be a much more effective approach.

Time your levelling project correctly

The best time for garden levelling is in spring, giving the plants in your yard plenty of time to grow. This also happens to be the right season for rain and drizzles to do their work on the soil.

In summary, when levelling your garden, it is important to use a variety of equipment and be patient. You could start by consulting with a drainage specialist or simply move on to levelling the low spots in your garden with help from a rake or shovel!


Can you level a garden yourself?

Of course but one of the most important tasks before you start gardening is to decide on a slope for your garden. Measuring the rise and run will help you determine what kind of drainage system - if any - you need.

How much does it cost to level a garden UK?

Hiring a professional for levelling out your slope will depend on the size and scope of work that needs to be done. However, expect to spend anything from £1200-1500.

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