Pile of Dirt

If there has ever been a time to remain frugal, it’s now. With the global pandemic having affected the worldwide economy, more and more people are looking for ways to save money.

One of the problems is that, as spring rolls in, homeowners are wanting to create a beautiful, well-maintained outdoor space at a fraction of the cost. But some of the equipment you might need, such as a digger, isn’t cheap to hire. So, how do you level a garden without a digger? Is it possible?

When you put your mind to it and are prepared to be a little innovative, anything is possible. If you are looking to level your garden without the aid of a digger, you can do this with tools that you may already have in your garden and a little bit of hard graft.

As with anything, there is a process that you should follow to achieve the best results, but we’ve got you covered. In this guide, we will be talking you through exactly what you need to do. So, let’s get started!

Why Should You Level Your Garden?

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that one of the main reasons you might level out your garden is to boost its aesthetic appeal. An uneven garden doesn’t look terribly pleasing to the eye but there are other benefits to levelling your garden that you may not have thought about

  • Maintaining your garden becomes much easier without hills or slopes. A lot of lawnmowers struggle to get up steep inclines even if they are self-propelled. For this reason, a lot of people like to even out the ground to make mowing much less strenuous.
  • When the grass is flat, it is far easier for it to soak up moisture and important nutrients that will help with its growth.
  • If your home has a sloped or uneven lawn, you may find that space is limited. If you have children, a flat garden gives them more space to play without hazards and you will have more areas to place seating and relax.

Do I Need Special Tools To Level My Garden?

One of the things that put a lot of homeowners off levelling out their gardens is the belief that a whole host of special tools may be required. We are looking to achieve a flat garden without a digger so that takes one of the most expensive and cumbersome pieces of equipment out of the equation.

For the most part, you will already have everything you need to flatten out your lawn. However, depending on the size of your garden, you may wish to hire a soil compactor, if you don’t already have one. Here’s a list of everything you will need:

  • String and stakes or a piece of 2 x 4 lumber
  • Spirit level
  • A shovel
  • Water
  • A rake
  • A soil compactor; this only applies if you have a larger garden
  • A wheelbarrow
  • Protective gardening attire such as gloves and gardening shoes
  • Grass seed or turf (optional)

Steps For Levelling Your Garden Without A Digger

When you come to level out your garden, you must be prepared to put in a degree of hard work, but your dedication and effort will pay off and you will be the proud owner of an attractive, level garden.

Step One – Plan

Depending on what you are looking to achieve, whether that be laying a new lawn or creating a patio area, you will need to mark out where the work will take place. When levelling a lawn, you will need to decide whether the area needs to be raised or whether it requires levelling down. In most cases, you may find that both are needed.

In any case, you have a choice of two methods for measuring; the carpenter’s method or the string method. Both will have the same results so it boils down to personal choice.

If you have opted for the string method, you will need to take four stakes and insert them into the ground in a square to mark out the area you wish to level. Now connect these stakes with a line of string and pull it tight.

You’ll now need to measure any areas that need to be levelled to work out how much needs to be done. You should take measurements on each side of the square to ensure accuracy. It is also important to make notes so that you can remain consistent throughout the course of the job.

Alternatively, if you are using the carpenter’s method, you will take a piece of lumber and lay this along the area you want to work on, using a spirit level to determine how uneven the ground is. A lot of people find this method simpler, but as we have mentioned, it is down to your preference.

Step Two – Soften the Ground

Depending on whether the area has grass on it, you may need to remove the grass in order to complete the levelling. However, if you are going to be doing this, you will benefit from thoroughly watering the area first. Doing this will aid in digging and make the task far less strenuous.

If you have time, it can be advantageous to water the area over the course of a few days to ensure it is fully saturated. That being said, you should also avoid applying too much water to save ending up with a muddy mess that is almost impossible to dig.

Step Three – Remove the Grass

This step applies to anyone who is going to be removing grass from the area. If you are beginning a new garden, then feel free to skip this step.

When taking out the grass, you will need a flat shovel. It is important not to go too deep but deep enough that the grass and its roots are removed. Place the shovel into the ground between three and six centimetres. You should then be able to slide the shovel under the grass and lift out the soil beneath it.

This is an excellent time to begin the levelling process but attempt to keep the ground as level as possible as you remove soil and grass. The length of time that this part of the job will take will depend on the size of your garden so be sure to put aside enough time.

Step Four – Level the Ground

Once all of the grass has been removed, you are ready to start levelling out the ground. The best way to achieve this is by filling in areas that are lower as opposed to bringing down larger hills. Of course, if there is a significant difference, this method may not be suitable.

To fill in these lower areas, you will need some nutrient-rich soil. While it is possible to throw on any old soil, doing this is unlikely to be beneficial to your garden. Now is the time to do things right so that you don’t find yourself with problems down the line. Once the soil has been applied to the ground, take a rake to even everything out.

After you have finished levelling, you will need to compact the soil. This is an important step as it will protect the soil from natural erosion. Depending on the size of your garden, you may need to use a whacker plate.

If you don’t have one, you can hire one but this is incredibly affordable. Conversely, if you have a smaller area, you may be just as well donning a pair of heavy boots and stamping over the area until the soil is compacted.

You will need to avoid planting anything in the new soil for a few weeks as this will give the area a chance to settle. It is a good idea to water the soil periodically during this time, particularly if there is not a lot of rain.

What If I Have Very High Spots?

Earlier, we mentioned that some gardens may have a significant difference in height and the result will be high spots. The method we have discussed may not be suitable but it is still possible to fix these areas without hiring a digger.

In this case, you will need to dig out any soil and other material, until the ground is within a couple of centimetres of the surrounding areas. At this point, you will be able to use the above method to bring the ground completely flat. It is important to keep in mind that this may take significantly more work.


Having a digger may be one of the easiest and fastest ways to level out a garden but if you are looking to save money, then this isn’t a viable option. Doing the job yourself will be much more wallet-friendly and, provided that you are willing to put in a little effort, can be relatively simple.

Garden Doctor Trev

Garden Doctor Tips

“If you are unsure or are not in the best shape, hire a professional who will do it in no time!”

“If you have a large garden, hire a soil compactor from your local hire station!”

“If you are attempting this on your own, slow and steady wins the race. It is extremely hard work and you do not want to injure yourself!”

“Water the area well for a few days beforehand to soften the area ready for digging – do not overdo it though or it will make things harder!”

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I level my garden cheaply?

If your land only has a few depressions, the fix is easy! Add some fill dirt and level out any low spots. For small areas of depression, use 1/2 inch of garden soil mixed with sand at a ratio of 1:1 in an even layer on top to help the area firm up over time.

What is the easiest way to level ground?

Every gardener knows that it can be difficult to maintain a level garden. Uneven ground is often caused by erosion or high water levels, and many gardeners find themselves struggling with the task of making their garden look great again. Luckily the easiest way to do this is by hiring a professional to do it for you!

What should I use to level my lawn?

A top dressing mix is a mixture of sand, soil and compost that helps fill in the sunken areas of your lawn. Sand has an even weight distribution that doesn’t compact easily while there are nutrients from both the soil and compost which help keep your grass healthy.

About Me

Hi, I’m Trev and I’ve been growing things since I can remember. When I was younger, I grew up on a farm, so I have always been around plants and animals. After studying horticulture at university, I decided to start my own nursery which I have run now for 25 years. In my spare time, I run this website – which is a resource for people who want to learn more about their gardens.

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