How to Level a Garden without a Digger

How to Level a Garden without a Digger

Have you ever levelled your garden without any major or big tools? How did you go about it? If you never have, here’s a simple levelling process that you can apply to level your garden without having to call in a Bobcat or hire a professional digger.

A garden is one of the most beloved parts of many homes in the UK. And with the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the global economy so hard, it’s your high time to stay as frugal as you can. One way of doing this is to consider levelling your garden without a digger since hiring one costs money. In short, you can still have a well-maintained garden at a lower cost.

Besides adding a curb appeal to your home, a well-levelled garden helps reduce soil erosion and enhance drainage. And you can level your garden with the tools you already have in your home and make your garden the envy of your neighbourhood.

Gardening is essential in many homes as it provides households with fun and low-cost way to grow their own food. The vegetables you get from your home garden are fresher than the ones you buy from the grocery. This will ensure your family is healthy and free from some deficiency diseases caused by a lack of eating fruits and veggies. Gardening is also a good way to help reduce your stress since you spend most of your time there outside interacting with the revitalizing and rejuvenating mother nature.

Why level your garden?

Before we discuss the procedure of levelling your garden, it’s important to understand why you should have a flat garden. An uneven garden is often full of slopes and bumps and quite an eyesore. . 

Setting up a flat garden will help restore your garden’s beauty and that natural flair of mother nature. Other than promoting the aesthetic appeal of your garden, there are other benefits of having a levelled garden, which includes:

  • You will have more space to work with since a sloped area is not comfortable to sit on and may even cause soil erosion or flooding problems. By levelling this slope, you will have enough space for relaxing.
  • It’s easier to maintain your garden when it has no slopes or hills. For instance, it’s a bit challenging for lawnmowers to reach steep inclines even if they are self-driven. With a levelled ground, it’s much easier to carry out the overall mowing process.
  • A levelled garden helps plants or grass to grow faster since they can absorb essential nutrients and moisture quickly.
  • An uneven lawn is not ideal for your children to play on as it offers limited spaces and it’s prone to many hazards such as falling. But you don’t have to worry about such hazards with a levelled garden as it helps to eliminate all these risks.
  • An uneven garden can turn into a swamp during heavy rainfall since it doesn’t have better drainage. This may also lead to stagnant water, which may become breeding grounds for harmful insects such as mosquitoes. Again, during the winter months, you will notice that snow will accumulate in low spots and remain intact in other areas.

What makes your garden uneven?

It is essential to understand the source of the problem before you start looking for the remedy. The big question is, what causes your garden to have bumps and slopes, yet you levelled it some time back? Some of the reasons include:

  • Your garden may have a thin layer of topsoil that is prone to erosion, especially during the rainy months. This problem is hard to notice in a thick and dense lawn.
  • Your garden soil may heave as a result of freezing during the winter months, which is likely to leave some bumps behind. You can’t see those bumps in naked eyes if you are at a distance, and you will only notice them when you walk into the garden.
  • Earthworms’ castings make your garden have bumps despite the vital role in enriching your garden soil. Therefore, be careful and seek advice on how to deal with these earthworms without having to eliminate them from your garden.
  • Water accumulation and lack of a proper drainage system can cause slopes and bumps in your garden. Heavy rains tend to amplify this problem.
  • Your pets, more so the cats, can cause uneven gardens if they indulge in certain activities during particular seasons. It is advisable to restrict them from your garden.

What tools do you need for levelling your garden?

Now that you understand the importance of having a levelled garden, the next step is to figure out the tools you can use to level your garden. Of course, having the right tools play a crucial role in any job, and without them, you can’t perfectly execute the task. 

Many homeowners get discouraged from levelling their gardens since they think they require special tools. In this case, to level a garden without a digger, here are some of the basic tools you require:

  • Rods/stakes and string
  • A shovel
  • A gardener’s rake
  • A spirit level
  • A water sprinkler
  • A wheelbarrow
  • A soil compactor
  • A two by four lumber
  • Protective gardening gears such as gloves and shoes
  • Turf, grass seeds, or plants seeds (Optional)

How to level your garden without a digger

Now that you understand the root cause of the uneven garden, let’s get into the overall process of levelling your garden without a digger. The process can feel a bit tedious, but you will eventually enjoy the fruits of your hard work. The best time to level your garden is in spring. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to level your garden:

Step 1

Whether you want to set up a new lawn or a new garden, the first thing you’ll want to do is to mark the focus area that requires levelling. In this essential step, there are two methods that you can apply: the carpenter’s method or the string method. Either method will show you to which extent you need to raise or lower the ground. We will look at each of them to enable you to choose the most appropriate method for you.

  1. String method – follow these steps.
  • Put the four stakes/rods into the ground in a square shape to trace the area to want to level.
  • Use the string to link the four stakes/rods and tighten the string.
  • Ensure the squared area is accurate as possible by taking measurements from each side using a tape measure to see the adjustment you need to make for better levelling.
  • Take short notes to ensure you are consistent throughout the job course. This involves quoting the high and low spots and the variance between these two spots.


  1.       Carpenter’s method
  • Get a piece of lumber and place it along the levelling area.
  • Use a spirit level to see how much the ground is uneven.
  • This method appears more straightforward, and it is preferred by many gardeners

Step 2

If the area you want to level has some grass, you’ll want to first remove the grass for better levelling. To make your work easier, use the gardener’s sprinkler to dredge some water over the levelling area. By doing so, digging and pranking grass will be less strenuous.

It is essential to leave the ground for some days to ensure the soil absorbs water fully. Don’t over-sprinkle the water to avoid the soil becoming muddy and heavy, making it challenging to dig. Just a little water to get the ground saturated is good enough.

Step 3

This step only applies to people who want to level an area with grass. You can skip this step if you are levelling a new garden.

Use a flat shovel to take out grass from the area you are levelling. Plunge the shovel into the ground and slide it horizontally to remove the grass and the topsoil layer. Don’t push the shovel so deep but ensure it is deep enough to eliminate the grass that is around 3 to 6 centimetres deep.

Continue doing this until you are through with the levelling area while ensuring even thickness to come up with a flat slope.

Step 4

Now, this is the actual garden levelling process once you are through with removing grass and topsoil. Here you will need to fill the low spots with soil to ensure these areas are at the same level as the rest of the garden. Remember, not any soil is ideal for this step.

The most recommended type of soil is the nutrient-rich soil that comprises a mixture of soil and manure and sand. This soil is more beneficial to your garden since it has a lot of nutrients for your plants to feed on.

After you have poured the soil on the ground, it’s now time to do the real thing. Use a rake to spread the soil evenly throughout your garden.

Step 5

Once you are through with levelling, the next step is to compact the soil to prevent natural erosion. You can do this using your foot without any unique tool or equipment if the levelling area is small. This is done by stamping over the levelling area until the soil gets compacted.

However, if the area you want to level is large, you may require having ground-flattening equipment like a soil compactor. In case you don’t own this tool, you can hire from your nearest hardware store or purchase one since it’s not that much expensive.

When you are through with soil compacting:

  1. Don’t plant immediately.
  2. Give the new soil at least three weeks to settle before planting.
  3. Regularly water the soil during this time, especially if there’s little or inadequate rain..

Step 6

This step comprises levelling shallow spots that are lower compared to other garden parts. You need to add a mixture of soil that consists of pear, soil, and sand and spread it across the shallow areas until they appear on the same level as the rest of the garden. You may also have some areas that are a bit higher than the wanted level. You can bring down these high spots to ensure that your entire garden is flat.

Sprinkle some water into those recently levelled parts and leave them to settle for a few days. If you have attained your desired level, then you can plant new seeds or set up the turf.

Step 7

If you want a highly-levelled garden, you can use a level to make the necessary adjustments until you acquire your desired level. A carpenter’s level is ideal for checking whether the ground’s height is even.

If you notice low spots, add some topsoil and compact it. In case there are high spots, lower them down to ensure your garden is entirely flat. After you are done, it’s now the best time to plant grass and install turf or other plants.

Additional Tips on Levelling your Garden

These are extended tips that will help you to level your garden more appropriately.

  • Have a wet spot – you can’t escape having to dig out the soil for you to attain your desired levelness. To ensure that levelling and digging are less strenuous, splash some water a few days before the actual digging. The water should penetrate the round 4-6 inches, and the soil should not be too muddy since it may be challenging to work on.
  • Have a proper gradient – despite how you want your garden to be flat, you should not do this at the expense of a better drainage system. Therefore, ensure your garden is slightly sloping to enable excess water to have its way out. Your garden should have a 1-inch slope to prevent flooding.
  • Time your project correctly – ensure you level your garden during the spring season to allow plants and grass to grow effectively. This time is ideal since there is enough rainfall that allows the soils to settle down slowly.

How long will it take to level your garden?

It’s not easy to determine the exact time you would take to level your garden. This is because the time taken depends on some factors such as:

  • Your garden size – if your garden is small, you will take less time and more time to level a large area.
  • How many people are assisting you – if more people lend you a hand, the work will take fewer days and vice versa.
  • How steep the slope is, or what kind of levelling do you want? Do you want a raised garden or lowered garden? Levelling a raised garden will take up more time compared to a lower garden.

Benefits of hand levelling compared to using a digger

Gardening is not all about making your yard look good; it also has other benefits. When you do the job yourself, there are more benefits gained compared to using a digger. Most of them relate to your health, which is more crucial. Other benefits include:

  • You save cash – it is so expensive to hire or buy a digger. Sometimes it’s not economical at all to hire one if you have a small area to dig.
  • Burn a lot of calories – while doing basic gardening jobs, you can burn up to 330 calories within an hour. This will have a ripple effect on you, including helping you lower your BMIs ( Body Mass Indexes).
  • Building strong bones – when you are working outdoors, you expose your skin to the sun, helping your body get vitamin D which allows the body to absorb essential minerals such as calcium which results in strong bones.
  • Better levelling – sometimes machines are not so perfect. If you are after a well-levelled ground, manual levelling can give you better results.

Disadvantages of manual levelling

As we all know, everything that has some benefits must also have some drawbacks, and this applies to levelling your garden without a digger as well. Some of these disadvantages include:

  • It’s time-consuming – manual levelling takes more time compared to a digger.
  • Some tools, such as soil compactors, are not readily available unless you hire or buy.

Essential Points to note

Before you start to level your garden, always remember the following things:

  • Ensure your garden retains a slope that allows excess water from the rains, snow, or ice to get out of the garden.
  • Sprinkle the area you want to level with water one or two days before the actual digging to ensure you dig with ease.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes to ensure your toes are safe from being cut by the shovel.
  • Protect your hands by wearing gloves.
  • A string level can be used in any setup distance, whether from a few meters to more than a hundred meters.


Using a digger may be one of the simplest and quickest techniques to flatten your garden. However, it isn’t a feasible choice if your main focus is to save some cash. Working on the project yourself is a viable option as long as you have the right tools and willingness to do the job.

You probably wanted to hire someone to level your garden, but since you have seen how easy it is, you have already changed your mind as you can now comfortably do it yourself. However, perfection doesn’t come easily; it takes time. Be patient with yourself, and your garden.

Leave a Reply