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Repairing Bumps In Your Lawn

Repairing Bumps In Your Lawn

uneven green grass

uneven green grass

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 on Lawns

A large dog aggressively digs a hole in a green yard in her search for a gofer.

A large dog aggressively digs a hole in a green yard in her search for a gofer.

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.

Venture beneath the surface of your perfectly manicured lawn, and you'll discover a bustling world teeming with activity. This hidden realm, filled with animals, mammals, and insects, plays a pivotal role in the health and appearance of our gardens. Understanding the underground interactions can transform the way we view and care for our lawns.

The Earthworms: Nature's Tillers

Let's start with a creature often hailed as a gardener's best friend: the earthworm. These industrious little architects tunnel through the soil, creating intricate networks of passages. These tunnels are not just marvels of natural engineering; they are crucial for aeration, allowing air and water to flow more freely through the soil. This process helps roots breathe and grow stronger, ultimately leading to a healthier, more resilient lawn. However, the very action that benefits the soil also leads to the creation of small mounds on the surface, which can disrupt the flatness of your lawn.

The Moles: The Unseen Sculptors

Now, imagine a mole, the elusive sculptor of the underground, in its relentless pursuit of worms and other tasty morsels. In doing so, moles excavate soil and push it upwards, creating characteristic molehills. While moles are a sign of a healthy ecosystem beneath your lawn, their earthworks can be a headache for gardeners striving for a pristine, flat lawn. These raised areas can lead to uneven growth patterns, as the grass atop molehills may become more susceptible to drying out or burning in the sun.

European mole crawling out of molehill above ground, showing strong front feet used for digging underground tunnels

European mole crawling out of molehill above ground, showing strong front feet used for digging underground tunnels

Beetles and Grubs: The Root of the Matter

Beneath the green, a drama unfolds as beetle larvae, commonly known as grubs, make their home in the soil. These grubs have a voracious appetite for grassroots, gnawing away at the very foundation of your lawn. While invisible from above, their feasting can have devastating effects, leading to yellow, patchy, and weakened areas where the grass is easily uprooted. The presence of grubs can also attract other wildlife, such as birds and badgers, turning your lawn into a dining ground as they dig for a grub feast.

Ants and Their Homes

Picture this: a sunny day, a gentle breeze, and you're out enjoying the verdant expanse of your lawn. But as you look closer, you notice small mounds of soil disrupting the smooth green canvas. These are the works of one of nature's most industrious creatures – the ant. Ants and their nests play a fascinating role in the ecosystem beneath our lawns, with impacts that are both beneficial and challenging for gardeners.

The Benevolent Builders

Ants are remarkable architects, constructing intricate networks of tunnels underground. In doing so, they inadvertently take on the role of miniature gardeners. Their tunnels aerate the soil, providing vital oxygen to plant roots. This process also improves water drainage, preventing the waterlogging that can be detrimental to grass health. Furthermore, ants contribute to nutrient cycling, breaking down organic matter and enriching the soil. Thus, their unseen labor can create a more hospitable environment for a lush lawn to thrive.

The Challenge of the Mound

However, there's another side to this story. The very activity that benefits the soil structure can lead to the formation of small soil mounds on the surface – the visible signs of ant nests. These mounds can disrupt the uniformity of your lawn, creating irregularities in the landscape. When mown over, the soil from these mounds can smother the grass, leading to patches where the lawn struggles to grow. Additionally, large ant populations might indicate an overly dry soil condition, suggesting a need for improved lawn hydration practices.

Coexisting with Our Six-legged Gardeners

Managing the presence of ants and their nests in your lawn is all about balance. Often, a healthy and diverse garden ecosystem can keep ant populations in check. Encouraging natural predators like birds can help manage ant numbers. If ant mounds become too disruptive, gently redistributing the soil from the mounds during damp weather can minimize their impact without harming the colony. It's also beneficial to maintain a well-hydrated, well-fed lawn, as healthy grass is more resilient to the effects of ant activities.

In essence, ants are much more than picnic invaders; they are tiny engineers contributing to the health of our gardens in unseen ways. By understanding their role and managing our lawns with care and knowledge, we can appreciate the complexity of life beneath our feet and enjoy a healthier, vibrant outdoor space. Remember, gardening is not just about tending to what we see above ground but also about respecting and fostering the vast, interconnected web of life that makes our green spaces flourish.

The Solution Lies Beneath

Fear not, for understanding these underground dynamics empowers us to take action. Managing the population of grubs through natural predators or eco-friendly products can protect your lawn's roots. Encouraging biodiversity ensures a balanced ecosystem, where each creature plays its part without overrun. Aerating your lawn can mimic the beneficial effects of earthworm tunnels, promoting healthy growth without the unwanted mounds.

In the grand tapestry of your garden, every thread—from the smallest insect to the most diligent mammal—plays a vital role. By appreciating and managing the delicate balance of underground activity, you can maintain a vibrant, healthy lawn that thrives year-round. Remember, the key to a beautiful garden lies not just in what we see above ground but in understanding and nurturing the hidden life beneath.

Freezing Follies

close-up view of frost covered grass

close-up view of frost covered grass

Winter frost can freeze the moisture in the soil, leading to an upward thrust that forms a bump in the turf; this is often referred to as 'frost heave'.

Imagine stepping out into your garden after a frosty winter's night, noticing the ground slightly uneven underfoot, and wondering, "What's going on with my lawn?" This phenomenon, known as frost heave, can be quite the puzzle for gardeners across the UK. But fear not! With an engaging story, vivid descriptions, and some handy facts, we're going to unwrap the mystery of frost heave together.

At its core, frost heave is a natural process that occurs during the colder months. When the temperature drops below freezing, the moisture in the soil begins to freeze from the top down, forming layers of ice. This might sound ordinary at first, but the magic – or rather, the mischief – starts when deeper soil layers continue to send moisture upwards. This moisture freezes upon reaching the already frozen upper layers, creating ice lenses. These lenses grow over time, pushing the soil and anything above it – including your beloved lawn – upwards. It's a bit like baking a cake that rises in the oven, except this is one cake you'd rather not see in your garden!

The effects of frost heave on your lawn can be both fascinating and frustrating. Imagine you've planted a glorious array of bulbs, anticipating their bloom come spring. However, frost heave can push these bulbs to the surface, leaving them exposed to harsh winter conditions and hungry animals. Likewise, the roots of grass and other plants may be pushed upwards, disrupting their connection to deeper, nutrient-rich soil layers. This can lead to patches of your lawn looking less than lush and vibrant.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Understanding frost heave gives you the power to combat its effects. One effective strategy is to ensure your garden has proper drainage. This reduces the amount of water in the soil that can freeze and contribute to heave. Mulching can also be a gardener's best friend, offering a protective layer that insulates the soil, keeping temperature fluctuations in check and reducing the risk of frost heave.

In essence, while frost heave might seem like a formidable foe, it's a natural process that, with a bit of knowledge and preparation, can be managed. By taking steps to protect your garden, you can ensure that when spring arrives, your lawn and plants emerge as vibrant and healthy as envisioned. Remember, gardening is not just about battling the elements; it's about understanding them and working in harmony to create a beautiful, thriving outdoor space.


Natural Settlement of Lawns

Worker doing the artificial grass installation and checking tilt with the level

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'.)

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 of the hollows.

Watery Woes

Wet lawn after rain in winter without snow

Wet lawn after rain in winter without snow

Imagine stepping out into your garden, the sanctuary where greenery meets the sky, only to find your once-smooth lawn transformed into a bumpy terrain, reminiscent of a miniature landscape of hills and valleys. This scenario, often a result of the clandestine drama beneath the surface, is intriguingly tied to one of the most basic elements of nature – water. But not just any water, we're talking about the consequences of poor drainage, a common yet overlooked culprit behind the bumpy lawns that perplex many UK gardeners.

Poor drainage can lead to accumulations of water beneath the soil surface. Over time, this can cause soil expansion, resulting in the downward displacement of the topsoil and thus, bumpy lawns.

The Tale of Underground Tides

Underneath the verdant beauty of your lawn lies an intricate network, a hidden world where water plays a pivotal role. Proper drainage ensures this water journeys through the soil, quenching roots and moving on, leaving behind a stable and healthy foundation for your grass. However, when drainage falters, water lingers, an uninvited guest that overstays its welcome. This is where our story of watery woes begins.

The Ripple Effect of Stagnant Waters

In areas where water accumulates, the soil experiences a phenomenon akin to a sponge swelling with moisture. This expansion doesn't happen uniformly, causing certain patches to rise, while others remain unchanged. Over time, as the water eventually finds its way deeper into the earth or evaporates, it leaves behind a legacy of upheaval - pockets of expanded soil that slowly contract, but never quite return to their original form. The topsoil, the stage upon which our garden dramas unfold, is gently nudged downwards, displaced by these underground movements, leading to the undulating surface that challenges the ideal of a perfectly flat lawn.

Transforming Watery Woes into Gardening Wins

The solution to this aquatic puzzle lies in understanding and then mastering the flow of water through your garden. Here are steps to turn watery woes into a symphony of well-drained harmony:

  1. Conduct a Symphony of Soil and Water: Begin with a simple test to understand how water moves through your soil. After a rainy day, observe how quickly puddles dissipate or perform a percolation test by digging a hole, filling it with water, and watching how fast it drains. Sluggish drainage sings of potential issues.

  2. Crafting Channels of Relief: Consider implementing drainage solutions such as French drains or installing drainage pipes, especially in areas known to hold water. These subterranean channels guide excess water away, preventing the accumulation that leads to soil expansion.

  3. Elevate with Elegance: In spots notoriously prone to water logging, raising the garden bed slightly can offer a simple yet effective remedy. This slight elevation allows gravity to assist in the drainage process, reducing water retention.

  4. The Alchemy of Soil Composition: Amend your soil with organic matter or sand, depending on its type. This adjustment improves porosity, encouraging water to seep through more efficiently, thus preventing the unwanted swelling that disrupts your lawn's harmony.

By addressing the root cause of poor drainage, you not only smooth out the bumps but also create a healthier environment for your lawn to thrive. It's a testament to the power of observation, understanding, and creativity in gardening, turning challenges into opportunities for growth and beauty. So, the next time you gaze out upon your garden, remember that even the watery woes beneath our feet can lead to lush, vibrant landscapes above.

Do Not Plant Trees too Close to Buildings, Driveways and Lawns

Tree roots grow into a field of grass

Tree roots grow into a field of grass


In the grand tapestry of your garden, where every shrub, flower, and blade of grass plays its part, trees stand tall as the majestic anchors, bringing structure, shade, and wildlife. Yet, like all good stories, there's wisdom in weaving these elements together with care. When planning your garden's layout, it’s essential to consider the dance of time and space, especially when it comes to planting trees.

The secret? Give them room to grow, not just for their towering canopies, but for their roots beneath. Planting trees too close to buildings, driveways, and lawns can lead to a tangle of challenges down the road. The roots, in their quest for water and nutrients, can venture far and wide, potentially disrupting foundations, breaking through driveways, and creating uneven lawns that resemble more of a fairy tale's enchanted ground than the smooth green carpet we desire.

Therefore, as you plot the locations of future trees, envision their growth over the years. Allow ample space between them and structures or pathways, respecting their invisible boundaries below the soil. This foresight ensures that your garden remains a harmonious kingdom, where every plant and structure coexists in balanced beauty. Remember, in the world of gardening, patience and planning today lay the groundwork for tomorrow's paradise.


Ah, the majestic trees that grace our gardens, offering shade, beauty, and a haven for wildlife. Yet, beneath the serenity of their canopy, a hidden challenge lurks - the roots that weave through the soil can turn our lush lawns into landscapes dotted with bumps and uneven terrain. But fear not, my fellow gardening aficionados, for with understanding and a touch of ingenuity, we can coexist with these ancient sentinels and maintain the pristine lawns we cherish.

Unearthing the Root of the Matter

Tree roots grow in search of moisture and nutrients, often extending far beyond the reach of their branches. There are primarily two types of roots to watch for:

  • Surface roots that sprawl close to the soil's surface, seeking oxygen and water, especially in compacted or poorly drained soils.
  • Deep roots, which anchor the tree and search the depths for moisture during dry periods.

These roots can cause bumps in your lawn as they grow and push against the soil, especially in cases where the lawn was established after the trees were mature.

Planning for Harmony Between Trees and Lawns

Preventative Measures for Future Growth:

  • Choose Tree Species Wisely: Opt for species known for less invasive root systems if planting new trees.
  • Consider Root Barriers: Installing physical barriers around the root zone can guide roots deeper into the soil, away from the lawn's surface.
  • Regular Watering Techniques: Encouraging deep watering practices can help roots grow downwards rather than spreading outwards.

The Art of Restoration: Smoothing Your Lawn's Surface

Tools You'll Need:

  • A shovel or spade
  • Topsoil and compost
  • A lawn roller or tamper
  • Grass seed or sod matching your lawn
  • Mulch (optional)

Step-by-Step Guide to Addressing Bumpy Lawns Caused by Roots:

  1. Assess and Plan: Begin with a gentle exploration of the affected area to determine the extent and depth of the roots causing upheaval. Consider the health of the tree and the potential impact of any intervention.

  2. Gentle Reshaping: For shallow, non-structural roots, carefully excavate around them, removing just enough soil to reduce the bump without damaging the roots. Remember, the tree's health is paramount.

  3. Enrich and Fill: Mix topsoil with compost to create a nutrient-rich fill for the excavated areas. This encourages grass growth while providing some nutrients to the tree roots.

  4. Level and Compact: Use the back of a rake to level the added soil, then gently compact it with a roller or tamper to remove air pockets, being mindful not to compact too tightly around the roots.

  5. Reestablish the Lawn: Sow grass seed over the filled areas, following up with a thin layer of soil or compost. For immediate results, consider laying sod cut to fit. Water gently but consistently to encourage germination and establishment.

  6. Mulching Option: In areas where grass struggles due to heavy shade or extensive root systems, consider applying a layer of mulch instead. This creates a visually appealing solution that reduces lawn maintenance.

Cultivating Coexistence: Tips for a Thriving Garden

  • Monitor Moisture Levels: Ensure adequate watering for both trees and lawn, adjusting during dry spells to prevent roots from seeking moisture near the surface.
  • Regular Feeding: Both your lawn and trees will benefit from an appropriate feeding schedule, tailored to their needs.
  • Aeration and Dethatching: These practices encourage a healthy lawn by improving soil structure and reducing competition for water and nutrients.

With these steps, you can maintain a harmonious balance between the towering trees and the verdant lawn that lies beneath them, proving that with a bit of care and creativity, we can indeed have the best of both worlds in our garden sanctuaries.

How to Level Your Lawn - Our Step by Step Guide

The mole repellent netting. Laying lawn and anti-mole netting.

The mole repellent netting. Laying lawn and anti-mole netting.

Leveling Lawn Tips


Judge and estimate how much Top Dressing Mix you are likely to need by running your straight edge length of timber over your lawn, this will show the gaps under the timber.

Prepare a Top Dressing Mix, I use equal parts of sifted top-soil, sharp sand and peat.

Mix well with a garden spade ideally in a wheel barrow.

Filling in the Hollows

Vole ruts on a green lawn

Vole ruts on a green lawn

Leveling Lawn Tips

Apply the top dressing mix to the area, gently rake, filling in the hollows. 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 to a rough level by screeding the straight edge back and forth.

Compact the Soil

Leveling Lawn Tips

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!)

Lightly Rake Level

Leveling Lawn Tips

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.

Scatter the Grass Seed

Leveling Lawn Tips

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.

Rake and Protect with Netting

Leveling Lawn Tips

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.

Final Step

Leveling Lawn Tips

Care for your New Lawn - New lawns are like babies. They need more care and attention during the first few months and years of life. Many lawn fail because of lack of care in the first few days, weeks or months. New lawns take time to become established. Turfed lawns - whilst they look instant - are not much different to seeded lawns in that respect.

Watering, careful cutting, sparse feeding, and leave off with the lawn weedkiller for the first year or so. Give the lawn time to become established before inhabiting it with garden furniture, play pools and play equipment.