Grading For Your New Lawn

In this tough economy, doing home improvements your self may be the only way to afford them. Here are some tips on preparing the ground before installing a new lawn. The grade will need to be pretty much perfect to achieve a nice smooth lawn.


You will need a square shovel, a 30″ wide landscape rake, and a wheel barrow for this task.

First, go around the borders of the area with a square shovel and knock down the soil to about 1″ low. Then, using the same square shovel skim the surface of the ground and push the excess soil, rocks roots and clods toward the center of the area. Be sure to throw some soil in the low spots, and take some extra soil away from the high spots. After the whole area is pretty close, scoop up the pile of garbage (rocks, clods, and roots), and get rid of it.

Next use the tooth side of the landscape rake to rake up even more clods and rocks. It should be pretty easy to use the rake, since the rough grading and gathering of the large size debris is already done using a shovel. Don’t try to put all of the debris into one big pile, you will end up moving the same stuff ten times. Just make lots of small piles, and then scoop them up with the shovel into the wheel barrow.

By now the area should be looking pretty smooth, and the contour should flow gently, (no abrupt bumps or dips). If some of these still exist just keep raking the dirt around to knock down the highs and fill the lows.

Now it’s time for the straight edge side of the rake. We call this the final grade. First go around the edges of the lawn and compact the soil a little by holding the handle of the rake straight up and down and striking the ground with the rake up and down. If an area compacts too much you may have to add back some more soil. The secret to a great looking lawn is making the level of the soil uniform where the grass touches the borders. Move along the borders slowly compacting the edge until you have gone all the way around the area. Now put the rake flat side down on the ground and pull the excess soil toward the center. You don’t need to apply much pressure at this point because you’re only dealing with the fine particles of soil and it’s alright to just spread the soil out, if you get too much soil built up behind the rake just give it a fling, this disburses it or throws it in a broad area. Again knock down the high spots and fill the lows, these will only be differences of a half inch or so at this point, and you should pay special attention to detail at this point. If there is an area with more soil than the rake can pull, just make a pile and with a shovel throw it to a low spot or simply get rid of it. Don’t try to drag it around with the rake (wrong tool for the job) use the shovel.

Your probably about done now. Walk around the yard to try and get a different perspective, look at the lawn area from lots of different angles and be really picky about the perfection of the grade. You will only have one opportunity to get this perfect after that you will have to deal with it every time you mow and edge, so get it right.

All you need to do now is turn on the sprinklers to dampen the ground, settle the dust, and add some moisture. Let it dry on the surface before installing the sod or seed.