Backyards are awesome. They provide a private space for kids to play, dogs to run and the family to be together. However, an uneven backyard can be problematic because it can cause drainage issues, leave some areas unusable, be unsightly and cause risk of injury.
You may ask “What can I do with an uneven backyard?” You can fill in low spots, grade it, de-thatch it, and work to improve your soil for minor issues. Major issues can be remedied by creating a retaining wall, terraced gardens, establishing natural stairs or winding paths, waterfalls, and rock gardens.
Read on to get some ideas of how you can fix, or at least live with, your hilly backyard.
How Bad Is Your Slope?
The fix you choose to remedy your backyard may depend on the significance of your sloping problem. Some yards have gentle hills that make playing football or yard games a problem. Others may be dips that collect water or areas that create a drainage issue.
Larger problems would be backyards that are on a hill, near a wooded ravine, or that have a significant slope on the side yards because of how the basement is designed.
These can’t be fixed to be level but you can use the slope to make your yard more user-friendly.
Fixing the Little Slopes
Land can become uneven if the soil becomes too saturated, by damage from pests, or by a drainage problem. Fixing those things can make your yard more level.
First, de-thatch your lawn. A buildup of leaves and limbs contributes to an uneven lawn.
You may find it is more level than you realize. Second, look for gopher holes and get rid of pests. Afterward, you will need to fill in holes and how spots with a mix of topsoil, compost, and sand.
The mix can be important depending on the type of soil you have. Putting too much sand in clay soil will lead to a hard concrete-type surface where nothing will grow well.
Clay, however, can help ensure soil in low-level areas doesn’t wash away.
You may need to dig around the holes about two to three inches to provide a more level area for the mix. Add the mix to make it level with the surface and add sod or grass seed. Be careful you don’t cover up the grass that is there.
Some homeowners who want a level backyard will grade it. That is an extreme and costly measure but it works for yards with rolling small hills or those that slope toward the home instead of away.
Grading is generally considered when the slope is causing flooding into the home or basement. A similar construction job is installing a French drain. This may resolve drainage and erosion issues that cause an uneven yard.
Remedies for Terrain Issues
Homes are sometimes built on hills, near wooded ravines, or in low areas. All of this can lead to uneven backyards. These are terrain issues that can’t be fixed with grading or filling up holes. However, there are still solutions to how to use the slope to your advantage.
The good news is most of these ideas can be done relatively cheaply as a DIY project.
One of the most creative things you can do to beautify the area and use the slop is to build terraced or tiered garden plots. These are spots that follow the natural slope of the land, stop erosion, and can provide both beauty and food.
You can accent the tiers with rock or brick walls to retain the soil.
Retaining walls are another way you can prevent erosion and deal with your slope. Those that are well designed can add a lot to landscaping.
Creating stairs and walkways is a way to flow with the slope and improve safety. You can add traditional outdoor stairs but many like natural stairs using logs or stones. You can create either brick, stone, or natural winding paths anyone can use to safely access the backyard.
These can also be used as access to wooded or ravine areas to you can use your entire property. You may want to create a “destination spot” at the bottom with seating and a hardscape feature like a fire pit to encourage people to head that way.
Slopes are great for those who want to create a waterfall. This adds both a natural element and a great landscaping design. Rock gardens with native plants are another feature that can be built into a slope to better utilize it in landscaping.
That can stop erosion and plants can soak up water before it hits the rest of the yard or home.
Adding lots of plants around your slopes is a good idea, especially if they are “thirsty” plants. They will take up a lot of water so it doesn’t pool in lower areas. You may also want to find ways to drain off the water in those areas so it flows away from the home.
One idea is to add raised vegetable beds. That will add to landscaping, use the water, prevent erosion, use your space and provide food.
How do I if I can flatten my backyard myself?
Some of that decision may depend on your specific yard slope, how handy you are, and your access to tools and equipment. Generally, a drop of between 3 inches and 2 feet is considered an easy fix that most people can remedy themselves.
Large drops in the slop may require a professional’s input.
What equipment do you need to level a backyard?
A small project that involves only a few feet will require only a shovel, a wheelbarrow, and work gloves. However, a complete leveling of a year would need something like a mini-excavator.
How much does it cost to make a sloped backyard flat?
The cost depends on the specific project, the size of the yard, and the extent of the slope, but it can cost between $1,000 to $3,000 to level your lawn.
How can I level my yard without using heavy equipment?
First, you must remove all plants. Then, take the soil from the elevated parts of the yard and put it in low-lying areas. You may need to dig around the low-lying areas to even it out first if it’s a hard dip.
Then take a hard rake and smooth out the areas. Put sod or grass seed on top.
How do I fix a bumpy lawn?
Bumpy lawns aren’t uneven due to terrain. They are uneven due to grass or weed growth, drainage issues, or holes. The best thing to do is to keep it healthy so you don’t have those problems. Aerate to loosen the soil, improve drainage and improve grass growth.
Overseed and fertilize with a good brand that is nitrogen-rich. Use weed control and fill in holes.
Should I use a roller on my lawn?
Most landscape companies say rolling your lawn to flatten it is a bad move because it compacts the soil too much. The soil needs space to keep the balance of oxygen and water and that is what makes a beautiful lawn.