How to Level Rough Ground by Hand

Leveling rough ground is done through the cultivation of the soil. Over time, soil becomes compacted and air beneath the surface is diminished. Water has a difficult time filtering through the hard soil, and nutrients no longer reach the depth required for roots to thrive. Cultivation is the process of breaking up the soil's surface and creating even, smooth ground for planting or installing hardscape such as patios or walkways. Cultivating small plots by hand is ideal; using a power tiller can upset the balance of the soil and accelerate the compacting process.

Boot pushing shovel into ground
credit: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images
Over-cultivation may destroy valuable earthworm populations.

Step 1

Outline your plot with stakes and string to create a boundary for the cultivation. Hammer stakes into the ground at each corner of the area to be cultivated. Tie one end of the string to the top of a stake, then tightly wrap it around the top of the stake two or three times. Pull the string along to the next stake and wrap it around the top as before. Continue in this manner until you reach the first stake again; knot the string around the top.

Step 2

Dig up the soil. Start at one corner of your plot and insert the shovel about halfway into the soil. Pull it up and turn the soil upside down. Use the tip of the shovel to break up any big clumps of soil. Move back a step and repeat; continue until the whole plot has been turned over.

Step 3

Hoe the area. Use chopping motions with the hoe to further break up the soil. Roughly level the ground as you go, moving high mounds of soil to lower areas. Break up any clumps larger than a golf ball.

Step 4

Rake the area to further level the ground. Move the rake forward and backwards over the land, spreading the soil evenly across the area of the plot. Use the teeth of the rake to break up any clumps that remain. Use the back of the rake to level areas that are particularly uneven.


Kristen Bailey

Kristen Bailey has been writing about home improvement, motherhood, music, education and art since 2001. She has a Bachelor of Science in education and teaches at an elementary school.