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Ok! Let's get one thing right, straight away. You do not get a level lawn by using a roller. Using a roller, simply gives you hard bumps and hard hollows - and all the bits in between.

In fact, unless you are going to carry out all of the other operations necessary for a first class lawn, you can get rid of the roller altogether - although I might concede that it is useful for a light run over before the first cut after the winter.

In actual fact, a lawn rarely if ever, 'grows' a bump! There are no logical reasons for a lawn to rise up in places to provide you with a bump! What generally (always) happens, is that the lawn sinks over time - sometimes taking a few weeks as is the case with new lawns, or sometimes over a period of several years, as soil naturally sinks in places as a result of natural earth movement (rare) and underground roots and organic matter decomposing.

Most lawn bumps and hollows are cause by natural soil settlement or erosion over years in the case of mature lawns, and over just a few weeks with a badly prepared surface for new lawns.

Animal Activity

Sinking of the lawn can also be as a result of animal actions - not least moles or even ants burrowing under the lawn. In both cases, soil is removed. As in the case of moles, the soil is burrowed away to make tunnels, and deposited on the surface in the form of molehills. In the case of ants - to a lesser extent, the soil is bought up to the surface to form ant hills - thereby making room for the ants nest underground.

Natural Settlement of Lawns

New Lawns

  • More often than not, there is not enough care taken with the soil base preparation before seeding or turfing a new lawn. Rarely is the compacting carried out properly, so this results in the lawn becoming uneven - sometimes in a matter of a few weeks - especially after heavy rain.

Mature and Established Lawns

  • The main cause of unevenness in established lawns, is the natural decaying action that takes place below the soil. Sometimes just a few isolated roots from a dead tree. Sometimes a larger hollow as the result of a tree stump or similar being buried below the soil. It rots away over time, and soil sinks to take its place - lowering the turf in places at the same time.
  • Another cause, is where drainage ditches or similar have been dug out and the infill not compacted properly. Or even waterways finding a new route, and then washing away soil - again resulting in sinking and uneven surface above.

Usually however, it is simply an 'uneven' lawn that is the problem; so take the easy way out, and bring the hollows up to the level of the bumps.

Result = Even Lawn!

(For small hollows - which materialise as 'large bumps', simply carry out the last stages of the article on 'Top Dressing Lawns'.)

Level the lawn with a straight edge timber

As you can see here, the lawn has 'hollows' of about 2 inches (remember them?) deep. (50mm). If you are a lateral thinker, then I suppose you could say that the lawn has 'bumps' which are 2 inches high! As we are dealing with hollows; it has 'hollows' and not bumps. It is much easier to view the hollow and bumps in the lawn by the use of such a straight edge. Sometimes a length of batten will be enough to determine the depth pf the hollows.

The straight edge timber is good for initial spreading of soil compost

The hollows can be filled up to the level of the bumps, with the use and application of a suitable top dressing mix. Now we need a decent straight edge length of timber. (4x1in (100x 25mm) will be suitable - as is used in the picture. Use the straight edge to spread the top-dressing mix (described in the Top-Dressing article) to a rough level by screeding the straight edge back and forth.

The soil is trodden to compact it

Once level, then compact the soil by treading with heels, until firm enough not to leave a foot imprint! Do this when the top dressing and soil underneath is dry and not soaked - as is sometimes the case with hollows. (If you do it on sodden soils, then you will need to read about 'compaction' in the lawn aeration article!)

A further spell with the rake and it is finished

Once the top dressing has firmed down, you will probably need to add a little bit more in stages until you get the top dressed hollow up to the level of the high spots. Rake to final level with as wide a rake as possible. Finish off the raking using the back of the rake as a screed tool. This should give you a good firm level surface on which you can apply your grass seed mix.

Seeding the bare patch on the lawn

Spread the desired mix of seed at a rate of approx. 'a good handful per square yard'. Really scatter it about to ensure an even spread. Try  to get the same type of seed mix as your existing lawn. Basically a 'normal' lawn will consist of Rye and meadow grasses. A fine lawn will normally consist of fescues, browntops and creeping meadow grasses. Don't be over worried - simply opt for a 'general mix' or a 'fine lawn' mix. Even if you can get the mixture absolutely right - highly unlikely - the newly dressed areas will take on a different appearance to the established lawn. After a year or so, it will all be virtually the same, for your normal maintenance schedule will have a large bearing upon how the lawn ends up.

Lightly raking in the grass seed

Rake in lightly; protect with netting against birds; water when dry; and be patient for about 2 weeks. Hey presto, the grass starts to grow, and you now have a lawn that is (should be) more level than it was.

The top dressed lawn hollows are now sorted

Large areas are best done with some help!

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