If your once smooth lawn has formed bumps and ruts, you're probably wondering about the cause and how to make it level again. Most of the time, the bumpiness is caused by a natural occurrence such as the settling of the soil. Fortunately, you don't have to be a yard maintenance expert to fix the problem. If you're willing to put in a little extra work and have a bit of patience, your lawn will be back to smooth in no time.
You can regain a smooth lawn and remove the bumps by raking and filling any low-lying areas with soil.
Identifying Common Reasons for Bumpiness
Having bumps and ruts on your lawn can turn into a safety hazard. The last thing you want is someone to trip and fall, resulting in an unexpected trip to the doctor. This is why it's important to first identify the problem, fix that and then work on repairing the bumps and depressions.
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There are various reasons lawns can turn into a bumpy mess. Besides a natural settling of the soil, heavy lawn mowing equipment rolling over the grass in the same direction or soil thawing unevenly in spring (especially clay soils) can create fissures and bumps. Rainfall patterns or uneven irrigation can both cause a bumpy lawn. Additionally, pets digging in the lawn, children playing on the lawn while it's wet and soggy, or possums and moles digging and burrowing can also create bumpiness. Even beneficial earthworms can create bumps.
There's not much you can do about rain and digging animals, but you can use traps to try to discourage moles or call in an exterminator to help deal with the problem. Correct any gutters that are creating a pattern of water running off in one area, causing depressions. Keep activity off the lawn while it's wet and change mowing patterns to avoid creating new ruts.
Dealing With Light Bumpiness
When dealing with light depressions, mow the entire yard on the lowest setting, as this helps in identifying all the bumpy areas. Then rake the entire yard to help remove any thatch. This helps level any bumps and assists in getting air and moisture to the grass to keep it healthy.
Next, fill in the low-lying areas with topsoil, sand, or dirt from a nearby garden bed. Apply no more than 1/2 inch of soil to the areas at a time, rake it smooth, and level the soil. Applying deep layers can result in the turf dying in that location under the weight of too much soil. Repeat once the grass grows through the soil until the area is level with the existing turf. Next, aerate the soil with a core aerator, working in the direction you mow, and then repeating in a different direction.
Repairing Extreme Bumpiness
If your lawn is suffering more extreme bumps, you'll need to mow first and then remove the existing sod in the problem location to make your repair. Use a spade and cut out the sod, being sure to retrieve the root system. Using sand, topsoil, or soil from a nearby garden bed, fill in the depression, rake level, and then water to settle the soil and remove any air pockets. Replant the removed piece of sod and water the area again. If the grass is dead in the area, you can replace it with a new piece of sod or plant grass seeds.
Repairs of any type are best done in spring when everything is starting to grow again, but make sure you wait for dry weather and for the lawn itself to dry out if it has rained recently. Although rolling your lawn will flatten out bumps, it can also cause the soil to become compacted which can lead to additional problems. Keeping your lawn mowed, fertilized, and aerated regularly goes a long way in helping keep your yard smooth and bump-free.