Leveling out a yard


Lawn Repair For Ruts and Small Holes In Yard

Many situations cause lawns to become uneven – some are preventable, others are not. The good news is that you can easily fix these problem areas in lawns. Learn common causes of lumpy lawns and how to make them smooth again.

Common Causes of Uneven Lawns

Mowing: If you follow the same pattern every time you mow, eventually you’ll compact the soil beneath the mower wheels, creating ruts.

Wet soil: When soil is wet and mushy, add a heavy or rolling object – such as children on bikes, a wheelbarrow or a lawnmower – and you get ruts. This is one reason it’s vital to avoid mowing when soil is wet. You might get away with it in well-drained areas, but in low spots where water gathers, you risk digging permanent ruts.

Heavy equipment: Maybe you had trees pruned or mulch delivered. The wheels alone wreak havoc with a lawn, forming ruts. If the equipment extends hydraulic platforms for stability, you’ll also wind up with compacted soil that forms low spots.

Critters, pets and kids: When holes appear in a lawn and there’s loose soil scattered around the hole, the culprit could be local critters, the family dog or children.

Tree stumps: Having a tree removed and the stump ground creates a low spot in the lawn. Any remaining underground wood eventually rots. At that point, the ground can suddenly collapse, creating a sinkhole-like depression.

Buried debris: When a hole appears in a lawn and there’s no loose soil as evidence of digging, the most likely cause is soil subsidence. Buried trash that finally rots or decomposed tree roots can cause soil collapse.

Tips for Lawn Repair

The best time to repair ruts and holes in the lawn is when grass is growing most strongly. That means late spring (before the onset of hot weather) for warm-season grasses and early fall for cool-season grasses. For small areas, you can also tackle cool-season grass repair in mid- to late spring.

Soil mix

To fill in lawn ruts and holes, blend planting soil with sand and/or compost. Usually blending equal parts of each material forms a mix that allows grass to root effectively through the mix into existing soil. Check with your local extension agent or garden center for specific soil recommendations for your area.


If grass is still present in the rut, pry up the grass with a digging fork. If ruts are shallow, lifting the turf so it’s 1-2 inches above the surrounding grade may be sufficient. Give it time to see if it settles evenly with surrounding turf. Otherwise, treat it as a low spot (see below).

For ruts deeper than 4 inches, use an edger and slice the grass in the center of the rut, then lift it and fold it up and back so it’s resting on surrounding lawn. Loosen soil in the rut, adding more as needed to bring it 1-2 inches above the surrounding grade. Flip the turf back into place, water and wait for it to settle. Take care not to scalp this higher section of lawn when you mow.

If there’s no grass present in the rut, loosen soil before adding more soil and seeding. Stick a digging fork into soil beside the rut at a 45-degree angle so the fork’s tines are beneath the rut. Gently lever soil up by pushing down on the handle. Fill the rut with your soil mix, sow grass seed, and water.

Low Spots

When you’re dealing with a low spot more than an inch lower than surrounding grass, lift any sod that’s still present. Fill in the hole with soil, mounding it about 1 inch higher than the surrounding grade. Replace the grass, pat it lightly into place, and water. The grass should eventually settle into place. If there’s no sod present, sow grass seed on open soil.

Big Holes

For large holes deeper than 24 inches, if turf is still present, remove it and set it aside to replant later. Fill the hole with broken bricks or large stones and cover with soil, bring the soil level to 1 to 2 inches above the surrounding grade. Set saved sod into place and sow additional grass seed as needed.


It was a really beautiful weekend, weather-wise, and we had a much more open schedule than usual. No math tournaments, no plays or rehearsals, no birthday parties, no pet adoptions….the only thing we had Saturday was our neighborhood’s annual barbecue, and that didn’t start until five.

So–yardwork! We would get ALL the yardwork done! We would weed and mulch and trim hedges and cover up the garden bed and be pretty much DONE until spring.

Was the plan.

Then, Friday night, Dave discovered a surprisingly and alarmingly enormous hole in our front yard.

We have approximately two trees on our half acre lot. We didn’t think this was particularly odd until after we bought the house and gradually realized that every other lot in the neighborhood is heavily wooded. Really. Every other house has tons of trees. Including the neighbors on either side of us. So it’s like trees, trees, trees, trees, our big empty lot, trees, trees, trees, trees.

Neighborhood lore, a.k.a. what the neighbors told us, is that a few years ago a tornado took out a bunch of trees in our yard and whoever owned the house back then decided on clearing out all the trees as the cheapest or easiest way to deal with the aftermath.

I love trees, I really do, but I have to say yards without them are a lot easier to deal with.

So mostly we get along just fine in our big treeless yard. Except. Whoever took out all the trees did not do a particularly thorough job of it (story of our house. Or at least any parts/projects not original to the house). What we have in our yard now in place of trees is a bunch of big, unexpected holes where there are rotting stumps that no one ever bothered to deal with. This makes our yard more….exciting than we really want it to be. It’s kind of like in Poltergeist where they built the new houses on the old cemetery and just moved the tombstones but left the actual graves….only the trees were the tombstones, and the stumps are the corpses, and the worst thing that happens is a sprained ankle, not one of the kids being sucked into the TV.

Funny story about our dangerous holes: a few weeks ago we had a fire going in the fire pit, and I was carrying Fiesta the Beagle across the yard to bring her inside. I stumbled into one of the big dangerous holes, twisted my ankle, and fell….dropping Fiesta a very small distance onto the ground as I did so. Gus came running over immediately, full of concern….ran right past me and my hurt ankle, kneeled down by The Beagle, and asked her gravely, “are you okay, Fiesta?!” She was, by the way.

Okay, so anyway. We’d known all about these holes in the backyard that we needed to deal with for a long time, but we were shocked to discover such a giant hole right in the front yard. So shocked that we spent nearly the whole day on Saturday dealing with it.

Until we could fill it in, we put this on top of it to protect people from accidents:

The kids call him Mary Shelley.

Dave had read/heard from a couple of different sources that a mix of sand and dirt was a good way to fill in our holes. So Saturday morning he headed off to Lowes and came back with 3 bags of sand and 2 of soil….for a total of about $20.

First we had to stand around and be impressed with how deep the hole was:

Almost 3 feet!

Everyone was a little obsessed with the hole. The kids decided to put a time capsule in it (I have no idea what’s in the time capsule):

I decided we should put Abe in it:

….but that didn’t last long, because Abe was immediately like, “what the hell is WRONG with you people?! You don’t put babies in holes!” So we had to take him right back out. He’s no fun.

We mixed up the dirt and sand:

…and this is probably the part where we SHOULD have started filling in the hole, but Dave got really, really invested in trying to get out the remaining hunk of rotting stump. His reasoning was that the stump was going to continue to rot and that we’d be right back where we started, with a big hole, once it decomposed some more. I pointed out that, while true, this would happen pretty slowly and we could just add more dirt as needed.

But Dave was determined. He tied this rope around the stump and pulled:

No luck. I had almost convinced him to give up when suddenly he exclaimed, “Wait! My tractor!”

“You don’t have a tractor,” I said.

It turns out he was talking about the lawnmower, which he insists is a “lawn tractor.” Okay.

Naturally, everyone was incredibly excited about this new development.

“This is perfect! This is going to work!” Dave said.

He was wrong.

I won’t say the stump wouldn’t budge, because it DID kind of budge. It just didn’t come out.

After quite a few attempts with the, err….tractor, I convinced Dave to give it up. And we finally filled in the hole:

I’ll report back on how the sand and soil combination holds up over time (and what kind of luck we have getting grass to grow in our bald spots).

Dave filled up a total of five holes (the one in front plus four in the back–the ones in back not as cavernous) with the $20 of dirt and sand. We’re thinking another $40 or so might take care of all of them.

For now, you are all welcome to come hang out in our front yard, but we’ll still have to make you sign a waiver before you venture out back.

maybe you would like to pin this?

How To Get Healthy Soil & Grow a Beautiful Lawn

Soil pH

  • The soil pH scale runs from 0 to 14. Neutral is 7, the middle of the scale. Any number below 7 means acidic (sour) and any number above 7 means alkaline (sweet).
  • Most flower, vegetable garden plants and grass prefer a slightly acidic soil. If you aim for a pH between 6 and 7, most soil nutrients will be available for absorption by the green life.
  • With too much acid or alkaline in the soil, nutrients will not dissolve to later be absorbed by the plant roots.
    How to Fix Soil pH Problems: If you find that your soil is too acid, you can add ground limestone to make it more alkaline. If your soil is too alkaline, you can amend it by adding sulphur, shredded leaves or peat moss.

Soil Nutrients

  • Soil nutrients are just as important as soil pH. Nitrogen, the most important nutrient for supporting plant growth, will not necessarily be listed in your soil test results.
  • The nitrogen content of soil changes so rapidly that it’s not helpful to report what the number may have been on the day soil samples were taken.
  • The most helpful information from the soil test results are soil type.
  • Ideally you will have a loamy soil mix with phosphorous, potassium and other nutrients.
    How to Fix Soil Nutrient Problems: Adjusting soil to create a loamy soil texture can take several growing seasons. To change the texture, add compost and work it into the soil several inches deep, over several seasons.

Soil Layering

  • Newly built homes or new lawns may experience soil layering issues. This occurs when the top soil is scraped away for construction, and then a thin layer of soil is put back before planting the new lawn.
  • The finer soil layer on top of the coarser textured soil can prevent roots from taking hold, making it difficult for water and nutrients to penetrate the soil structure.
    How to Fix Soil Layering Problems: Aerate the lawn this spring to blend soil layers letting in water and nutrients.

Understanding your soil is just the first step to an overall healthy lawn. Briggs & Stratton provides more resources to ensure your grass is the envy of the neighborhood, including lawn care tips, mower engine information, and small engine parts for maintenance and repair!

For any other lawn maintenance questions, find a Briggs & Stratton Dealer in your area!

The Difference Between Topsoil and Compost

Cakes are not judged by their frosting alone. As a child who knew the finer workings of a KitchenAid mixer by the age of four, I know it to be true that, though a well-decorated cake is a beauty to admire, what’s beneath the layer of icing is the telltale sign of a cake that’s worth the calories.

Is it moist enough to enjoy without the frosting? Were the ingredients meticulously measured? Did it come from a boxed mix? Or was it crafted from scratch following a recipe card scribbled with grandma’s handwriting?

Now that you’re dreaming of your favorite cake, we can talk about what this has to do with soil.

Much like a cake, the substance beneath the surface of a lawn or garden affects the overall result. If you’re looking for a healthy start to your new outdoor project, soil is the place to begin. Not only is it the base layer of your landscaping or garden project, soil is the powerhouse ingredient that will affect the performance of your plants for years to come.

You want healthy, stable soil at a fair price, but with terms like compost and topsoil swirling amidst Google searches, I understand the pain of narrowing down which quality ingredient you require. We’ll help you decide between topsoil and compost for your lawn and garden. You may even need both!

What is Topsoil?

Topsoil is the top layer of any soil above the bedrock and is the most nutrient-rich layer of naturally occurring soil. Topsoil contains organic matter but not as much as your plants will need to grow to their full potential. The higher the percentage of compost in a topsoil, the better the topsoil is for growing great gardens.

What is Compost?

Compost is a combination of natural materials that decompose to become organic matter. Compost contains nutrients that act as natural fertilizer and compost is desirable for improving soil structure, reducing compaction, and improving water retention while simultaneously improving drainage. This gets your native soil “up to snuff” so your plants can thrive. The best compost is humus – organic matter broken down into its smallest particle. Learn about the importance of humus here.

When Should I Use Topsoil?

Bulk topsoil by the truckload is typically earth taken from building sites or fields and it’s sometimes combined with organic matter to give it nutrients. Whether full of clay or sand, this stuff is made for building up soil height to a desired level or grade.

It may have a little compost that will decompose over time, but the sand and clay are there to stay. Building a bed up to your desired height before planting flowers and shrubs? Leveling the spot where you just removed a large tree? Purchase bulk topsoil – then incorporate compost to create a first-rate garden soil.

Topsoil will contain weed seeds thanks to the many different ingredient sources and the fact that topsoils aren’t heated like compost. You’ll see weeds pop up in topsoil and should prepare for that reality when planning out your project.

When Should I Use Compost?

If you don’t need to change the grade of the land, but you’re looking to improve the quality of your soil, you’re looking for compost. Thanks to decades of construction and agriculture in the Southeastern US, our soils are longing for nutrients. Let’s get them back in there by mixing compost into our soils!

When planting shrubs, adding flower beds, installing sod, or sowing seed, you should incorporate compost into your soil by raking or tilling it in to apply nutrients into your soil.

Above-ground gardening, however, is a different story. Whether you’re constructing raised garden beds or filling a flower pot for your patio, you may plant directly into Soil3 organic compost. Soil3 is a nutritious blend that provides your container plants with all they’ll need for a healthy growing season.

Soil3 is free of weeds because every windrow of compost is cooked to 165 degrees to ensure any weed seeds are killed off, making it ideal to plant in containers without fear of pesky unwanted plants sprouting up.

How Do I Find Quality Topsoil?

Topsoil isn’t held to specific industry standards or regulated by the state, so it’s important to ensure the quality of the product. The best way to do this is by going to look at (and even feel) topsoil before purchasing it. Quality topsoil has compost and organic matter mixed in sufficiently with the sand or clay. It won’t contain too many rocks or sticks, and the amount of debris should be minimal.

How Do I Find Quality Compost?

Finding compost that meets your needs can also be a little bit tricky. To ensure the health of your plants, any compost you purchase should contain controlled ingredients free of persistent herbicides that create killer compost.

As with topsoil, there are some sub-par compost products on the market. We suggest visiting a compost dealer to see and feel the compost that you’re buying. If it’s dark like chocolate cake mix and decomposed into small particles (make sure it doesn’t have a mulch-like consistency), it will hold moisture and feel great in your hands. High quality compost will be free of leaves, sticks, material that is only partially-composted, and trash.

You’ll also want to make sure you can purchase enough compost to meet your needs. You can determine just how much compost you’ll need for your outdoor project by using our compost calculator.

While you may see advertisements for bulk topsoil at any landscape supply store, compost also comes in smaller quantities. If you’re installing a new lawn or starting a few new raised beds, you’ll need to buy bulk compost. If you’re planting a few flowers pots, small bags are all you’ll need and they’re conveniently loaded into a car.

The cubic yard BigYellowBag of Soil3 organic compost is ideal for large projects or even smaller ones in which you won’t use a full cubic yard. You can tie up the BigYellowBag to preserve your compost for use in later projects.

Plan Your Project

Now that you have the facts and know whether to choose topsoil or compost for your project, let us help! and just how to make the best of this compost in your outdoor projects.

Topics: topsoil, Frequently Asked Questions

Topsoil for Laying Turf

If you are looking to lay a new lawn, you need to check that your existing soil is up to the task! Good soil preparation tends to be the most time consuming part of laying a lawn, but it will make sure your lawn gets off to the best possible start and allow it to flourish in it’s new environment.

If you have removed an existing lawn whilst redesigning a garden, chances are that the soil will be good enough quality to lay your new turf onto. If your soil is poor quality and has been a bit neglected however, give you turf the best start at adapting to it’s new environment by adding a layer of topsoil.

Turf ideally needs around four inches of top soil to root in. Not everyone will need to add four inches however, you may just need to add an inch or two depending on the quality and depth of the existing soil. Top soil is commonly sold in bulk bags which are approximately one cubic metre in size and hold just under a tonne of soil. These cover approximately 30m2 to a depth of one inch (2.5cm). Turf isn’t the fussiest of plants when it comes to soil. It will grow in most soil types so as long as you buy a good quality turf and screened top soil you can’t go far wrong.

Once you are happy with the thickness and the quality of the layer of topsoil that you have, you are ready to carry out the following stages of soil preparation:

Growing grass on hard dirt isn’t as hard as it might seem, it just takes some time and dedication. You can’t just jump right in and seed your lawn, you have to prep the dirt to make sure that it is able to support grass.

The Process of Planting Grass On Fill Dirt

Below are the steps that you need to take to be able to grow a luscious lawn from fill dirt.

1. Time It Right

One of the easiest mistakes people can make when it comes to planting grass is planting the seeds at the wrong time of the year. For example, you need to be aware of it you are using cool-season or warm-season grasses. Grasses like Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, or tall fescue are cool-season grasses and the best time to plant them is in the spring or early fall. If you were to plant them in the summer or winter, there’s a good chance that the seeds won’t be able to establish and your new grass won’t survive the extreme heat and cold. Grasses like zoysia, centipede, bermudagrass are warm-season grasses and the best time to plant them is in the early summer. Warm-season grasses need to be planted in soil that it warm before they will germinate.

2. Choose The Right Seed

There are several things to consider when deciding which type of grass you want to plant: lifestyle, budget, and location. What type of lawn do you want to grow? How much sun will your grass get? Will there be a lot of foot traffic in your yard? How much upkeep are you willing to do? Carefully take the time to consider the conditions your new grass will have to face. Then select a grass that you know will be able to thrive under those conditions.

3. Prepare The Soil

Growing grass on top of hard dirt isn’t going to be super easy and it’s going to require you to spend some time getting familiar with your soil. Make sure that you are removing all large rocks or other debris so that nothing can impede the growth of your grass. Next, you want to work the soil over with a tiller so that it is not compacted. You want your dirt to be broken down into pea- or marble-sized particles.

4. Even Out The Surface

Before you ever put down any grass seeds, you want to seriously consider the grade and level of your yard. If you want to make any changes to it, now is the time. These changes can be made for practical purposes like reducing rainwater flooding or leveling out the land so it’s more useful, or they can be for more cosmetic purposes like adding dimension. To do this you’re going to want to use clean Maryland fill dirt. The words “Clean” and “Dirt” sound like they shouldn’t go together, but in this case, it’s very important that they do. Clean fill dirt is fill dirt that does not contain toxins, organic matter, or large debris. If any of these things are found within your Maryland fill dirt, it could compromise the final result of your new grass. This is because foreign materials, toxins, or large debris can make it much more difficult for your new grass seeds to establish roots. Grass that doesn’t have a root system is going to have a hard time growing and turning into the lush lawn you desire.

To level out your land, you want to take your clean Maryland fill dirt and place in low areas of your yard. Place just enough to bring the low point up so that it is even with the rest of your yard. If you are wishing to create some hilly dimension, use your clean fill dirt to build up some areas in your yard.

5. Improve Soil Quality

Now that your yard is shaped the way you want it, you can start prepping it to make it more ideal for supporting the growth of grass. To do this you want to take a small amount of topsoil and spread it over your yard. You then want to mix it in with the clean fill dirt that is below so there isn’t a clear separation between the two types of dirt. You can do this by raking the topsoil into the clean fill dirt.

6. Seed and Feed

Now you’re going to want to place down your grass seed and fertilizer. Which one you want to place down first is up to you, unless your bag of grass seed or fertilizer has a specific recommendation. Grass seed and fertilizer often require different spreader settings for optimal coverage, so be sure you’re checking the bag of each. Start by applying the product to the perimeter so that you can fill in the rest of your lawn without having to worry about missing any of the edges. Just like when mowing, you should seed and feed your lawn in slightly overlapping passes. Do your best to not get any grass seed or fertilizer in your garden beds or on your sidewalk and driveway.

7. Add More Soil

Once you’ve laid down your grass seed and fertilizer, you want to go over the area with another thin layer of soil to prevent the seeds from either drying out or washing away. You can easily do this by laying down a small layer of soil and then gently dragging the back of a rake over it.

8. Water

While it’s important to water a newly seeded lawn often, you also don’t want to over water it. The goal is to keep the top inch of soil consistently moist, but not soggy. If it is hot and dry outside, you’ll probably need to mist your lawn at least once a day. Once your grass seeds have started to germinate, you’ll want to keep the top two inches of soil most. Do this until your grass reaches a mowing height of about three inches. After that, you can reduce your watering to about twice a week. Your focus should then be on soaking the soil more deeply (6 to 8 inches) to help encourage your grass roots to grow deep in the soil.

Speak To A Maryland Fill Dirt Contractor

Not all dirt can be used when planting grass, and the type could be the difference between a rich green lawn and a barren and patchy yard. Reach out to a Maryland fill dirt contractor at Dirt Connections for more information and to schedule your free Maryland fill dirt delivery.

Dirt may not be the most glamorous or exciting thing in the world, but it sure keeps us alive! With the right kind of dirt, farmers can grow healthy, nutrient-rich crops for people and livestock to eat or contractors can build solid foundations for buildings and roads. In order for dirt to do its job, though, you’ve got to make sure that you’re working with the type of earth that’s best suited for your specific project. Not sure which kind of dirt you should choose? No problem. This post will break down fill dirt vs topsoil, including the uses, benefits and considerations for each.

Fill Dirt vs Topsoil: Why It Matters

We have customers frequently ask us whether or not the type of dirt they choose really matters. After all, dirt is just dirt, right? The short answer to that questions is NO! Topsoil and fill dirt are sold separately for a reason: they serve completely different needs and functions.

Think about it this way: planting a garden and building a house are very different projects. You wouldn’t use a CAT excavator to plant green beans and you wouldn’t use a hand-held spade to dig a foundation for your home – it just wouldn’t work. In the same way, both projects demand different materials – including dirt.

If these needs aren’t met you could end up with problems that detract from the quality of your completed project and lifestyle objectives. This could ultimately mean that you end up being required to re-do all or part of your project, thus costing you a lot more time and money. It’s best to take the time to learn about fill dirt vs topsoil prior to moving forward with your work so as to ensure the best possible outcome.

Fill Dirt At-A-Glance

So what is fill dirt, exactly? If you dig beneath the top layer of earth, you’ll find the dirt that’s used for fill (AKA: fill dirt). Here, dirt does not contain any type of organic matter. Instead, it’s purely comprised of broken down rocks, clay and sand. But why would you want that?

The main reason is stability. When dirt contains organic matter, it becomes prone to shifting and settling over time. Fill dirt, on the other hand, is without void spaces and won’t shift or move. This makes it a perfect place filler.

Generally, fill dirt must be cleaned to ensure that no chemicals, toxins, or manufactured byproduct are present. It is also usually sized to ensure that large chunks or debris don’t get in the way of the dirt’s primary function. For best results, we suggest that you look for a supplier that offers certified clean fill dirt and that strives to meet local standards and regulations.

Topsoil At-A-Glance

Now for topsoil. When you think of the bagged dirt that you can buy from a landscaping supplier, topsoil is probably what comes to mind. This is the healthy, nutrient-rich layer of earth that sits at the very top and consists of a whole lot of organic matter. As a result, topsoil creates an ideal place for plants to take root, grow and thrive.

You’ll notice that this type of soil is the darkest in color, often being a deep shade of black. The best suppliers know that topsoil must contain enough – but not too much – organic matter. Therefore, your supplier should provide you with information about the soil’s composition to ensure that you make a wise purchase.

It’s also important to note that topsoil can have a sandy, loamy or clay makeup. You’ll need to evaluate your soil and talk to your supplier about the right type of topsoil for your property.

Fill Dirt Uses

Fill dirt plays an important role in projects like:

Filling In Low Points

If your property has any dips or low points, you know what a pain that can be! Mowing over those areas can be quite challenging and low spots are prone to flooding after periods of rain or snow. It’s difficult to grow plants in these areas and they can become eyesores. For many homeowners, the solution is to simply fill in those points with fill dirt. The dirt can be packed into the dips and then new grass can be planted or sod can be laid so that the area blends with the remainder of the landscape.

Building Up Landscapes

Some property owners prefer the look of landscapes with multiple levels of ground or with hilly patches. The only way to add that type of dimension and visual interest to a flat landscape is to use fill dirt to build up these areas. The dirt can be strategically placed to create multi-level terraces or to erect rolling hills. As in the case of filling in holes, many homeowners opt to plant grass or lay sod on top of the fill.


No home or building can be deemed safe for occupancy unless it’s sitting on top of a firm and reliable foundation. Fill dirt can be used to build areas that will not move, shift or settle but instead will hold fast in place so that the structure can last for generations. Fill dirt might also be used to establish a foundation for roads and driveways.

Septic Systems

Many NJ homes rely on septic systems, and no septic system is complete without fill dirt. Fill dirt is used to pack in the areas around the septic tank so that it stays in place and can be counted on for reliability each and every day.

Topsoil Uses

Topsoil is the most popular choice for projects like:


For obvious reasons, topsoil is most frequently selected for any projects that involve the growing of flowers, fruits, vegetables or even very large fields of crops. With the right composition and makeup, topsoil will contain the nutrients and correct pH balance for successfully growing all types of plants.


If there are certain areas of your property that tend to hold water, they might benefit from topsoil. Introducing topsoil to the soil in these spots can help to improve the rate of percolation and drainage, thus making your entire property healthier.

Fill Dirt vs Topsoil: Which Is Right For You?

The question of fill dirt vs topsoil comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish. When properly manufactured and distributed, both are quality materials that have a lot to offer. As a rule of thumb, any project that counts on a stable, unmoving base will demand fill dirt. It’s a good idea to always consult with a professional before making a final decision.

Buying Fill Dirt and Topsoil in NJ

Braen Stone has all of the answers to your questions about fill dirt vs topsoil and beyond. We offer the highest quality fill dirt and topsoil at the lowest and most competitive wholesales throughout NJ. We have all of your needs covered and are happy to help you make decisions about which type of dirt to work with and how much you’ll need to purchase in order to complete your job. All of our materials are certified. Our fill dirt and topsoil can be picked up or bulk delivered to job sites throughout parts of NJ, NY, NYC and PA.

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The first question to ask yourself is this, do you need to grow something? If yes you will want to consider a soil that contains organics. If not you can get by with a subsoil, or fill soil. The diagram below demonstrates the soil hierarchy, with topsoil on top, followed by subsoil beneath it.

Our topsoil, compost and eco soil all contain organic matter. They are similar in makeup but their uses differ. Topsoil is a finely screened organic soil. Topsoil contains 30% compost, giving it a dark, rich look. Topsoil is a preferred growing medium for most plants, and of course, grass. Compost is also finely screened and is well suited for growing plants, and vegetables. It’s made up of mainly decomposed leaves. It’s dark in color and highly organic. It is known to grow enormous vegetables, and even champion pumpkins. Eco soil is similar to topsoil, the only difference is that it is not as finely screened. Eco soil contains more small sticks (2″ and less) and more small stone (3/4″ and less). This material is preferred for berms, and the planting of trees/shrubs.

Now if we are not growing anything, or need to fill in an area before we are able to plant, we can use a subsoil. Subsoil, or fill, as it is commonly referred to, is cheaper than topsoil. It lacks organic matter and is usually a tan or brown color. It can be screened or unscreened, and the use of the material will dictate which will be needed. A common hole in the yard, such as an old swimming pool, would only require unscreened, or “clean fill.” Clean fill would be sufficient because a pool is such a deep void (often around 6 feet deep), the stone and other debris won’t be of concern. Now screened fill can be used the same way that unscreened fill is, with the added benefit that it does not contain rock, or debris larger than 3/4″. This is ideal for a homeowner who will be moving it with a wheel barrel, because rock free material is much easier to shovel than material that can contain rocks (clean or unscreened fill, can contain rocks the size of basketballs).

Another common scenario is the need to fill an area, and top dress it with topsoil. The picture above shows the outline of what previously was a swimming pool. By buying clean fill for $12 per yard, we would of saved a substantial amount of money compared to filling the same area with topsoil for $29.00 per yard. Topsoil is still used, however only for the surface layer.

So now that you understand the different soils and fills that are available, you will be ready to tackle even more projects around the yard. A link below can provide pictures, and additional descriptions of the soil types.

How To: Level a Yard

Photo: istockphoto.com

A yard with lumps and bumps is not only unattractive, but it’s also a potential safety hazard with ample opportunity to cause trips, falls, and sprained ankles. Many events can cause an uneven yard—including drainage issues, leaks in pipes lying beneath the surface, and lawn pests like grubs or moles disturbing the root structure of the turf—but none need to derail your landscaping efforts altogether.

Before you start working to level your lawn’s surface, troubleshoot the underlying problem so it doesn’t reoccur in the future. Then tackle these steps for how to level a yard to turn your lawn into the smooth, lush, green landscape you’ve always wanted.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon
– Lawn mower
– Thatch rake
– Dethatching machine
– Sand
– Topsoil
– Compost
– Shovel
– Bow rake
– Push broom

STEP 1: Mow the lawn.

Start by mowing your lawn. Cut it short, but not so short that you scalp it. If you cut it so that grass blades stems become visible, the grass is vulnerable to drying out.

STEP 2: Examine the amount of thatch at the lawn’s roots, then dethatch as needed.

Take a closer look at your grass roots, and determine the amount of thatch on your lawn. Thatch is the layer of decayed grass and other organic material at the base of the turf. A quarter to ½-inch of thatch is acceptable, but any more than that will prevent the grass from getting adequate air and water.

If you have more than ½-inch of thatch, remove (or at least significantly loosen) it by systematically running a thatch rake over the surface to pull it up. Or, if your lawn is larger, run a dethatching machine over it. You can rent a dethatching machine from a home improvement store, and it will make the process much quicker.

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STEP 3: Mix sand, topsoil, and compost.

Make a top dressing mix to fill in the area beneath the grass in sunken areas of your lawn from two parts sand, two parts topsoil, and one part compost. The sand helps maintain a level yard because it doesn’t compact easily, while the soil and compost contain nutrients that your grass needs to thrive.

STEP 4: Dig up the grass in sunken parts of the lawn and fill with the soil mixture.

If you have any low spots or divots deeper than two or three inches, you should remove the grass on top of them before filling the holes. Dig up the sod by putting the blade of a shovel into it at the outside of a low spot, and sliding it down and under about two or three inches to get under the grass roots. Then pry the grass up with the shovel to expose the dirt beneath. Fill the hole with the top dressing mix, and put the grass back into place on top of it.

STEP 5: Spread the rest of the soil mixture in a thin layer to even out the entire lawn.

Once lowest patches are filled, use a shovel to disperse the top dressing mix across your entire lawn to a depth of about ¼ to ½ inches. Even if you think your grass needs more than that depth to even out, err on the side of caution and keep to a thin layer—a heavier layer could choke your grass. If necessary, you can repeat this process (see Step 7) to add a second layer.

Then, spread the top dressing mix evenly across the grass by pulling and pushing it around with the back of a bow rake. Work the mix into the gradual low spots and pockets in your lawn. If the grass blades are completely covered by the mix, the grass will suffocate from deprivation of light, so follow up with a push broom to further work the mix into the soil at the base of the turf grass and reveal the blades.

STEP 6: Run the lawn sprinklers.

Water your lawn to help the top dressing mix settle into the grass and fill any air pockets. This step should also revitalize your lawn because it will jumpstart the infusion of nutrients from the compost in the mix.

STEP 7: Reapply the soil mixture as needed.

You may need more than one application of top dressing to completely smooth out your lawn. Apply the second layer following steps 5 and 6 once you see the grass start to actively grow, or when you can no longer see the first top dressing application you put down.

How to get that perfect level lawn

How to level the lawn

If you are a homeowner with a lawn, you already know that uneven areas of the lawn do not look good and they can also be a hazard to children, pets, and anyone who steps in an uneven dip. Luckily, the process of leveling a lawn is very simple and your reward will be a beautiful lawn free of uneven dips.
Before you get started, you will need to make sure you have all the equipment and supplies you need ahead of time. First of all, you will need a shovel that is square nosed. You will be able to spread the lawn mix with this type of shovel. You will also need a straight garden or solid bow rake to help with leveling. You will also want to purchase one or two buckets. You will use these for the spread mixture of compost and sand. Be sure to choose an orange sand instead of a playground or river sand when you are shopping for supplies. The other two types of sand will not harm your lawn, however, it is good to know that the orange sand will actually contain nutritive value and be finer for your lawn. In other words, it will be a smarter choice for your lawn while the other types of sand are fillers with no nutritive value.
The mix that you make will be used to fill in any uneven areas. After filling in the holes you will use the rake to level it with the surface of the lawn. This will even up any lower areas and allow your lawn to continue to grow evenly. The sand helps the mixture flow. Be sure to spread the mixture across any areas that need to be leveled and use the rake to ensure that the the holes are leveled with the surface of the lawn. After you have finished that part, you should let it settle for a little while. If you want to you, you can dampened it, but be sure not to wet it entirely. After waiting several hours, you should repeat the leveling and spreading process with a topsoil that is high quality. It is advisable to invest a little with high quality topsoil you can find at your local nursery where you can get the best quality and match for your money and area. Be sure to let it settle once again before spreading and raking one last layer of good compost over the uneven areas of your lawn.
While it may take awhile to level your lawn in these three stages, it is the best way to make sure that you will not have to redo your work a few weeks down the line when the soil begins to settle. Also, the layering technique of compost and sand, topsoil that is high quality, and a compost dressing helps to speed the growth process. It will make ultimately make your lawn grow faster and healthier. Therefore, it is better to put more time in now so that you can end up with a beautiful lawn.
It is very simple to level your lawn. Taking time to do the process right will bring out the very best in your lawn. If you need help with lawn care in Atlanta Georgia or landscaping services in St Petersburg, Florida, give us a spin!

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Even when it’s lush and green, an uneven lawn makes sunbathing and games less enjoyable and makes mowing hard work that leaves ugly bald patches. Drainage problems are also more likely, putting your lawn at risk for disease and your foundation at risk for damage. Nearly every lawn develops lumps and bumps eventually, but regardless of the cause, it’s almost always possible to straighten things out.

Determining the Cause

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Knowing why your lawn has developed uneven areas helps you decide how to go about leveling them out. Ground settling during the seasonal freeze and thaw cycle is one of the most common causes of bumps in a lawn. Buried objects, such as logs or construction debris, can leave pits as they settle and decay. Diseased grass can cause the lawn to sink in places. A damaged sprinkler system or leaking pipe can cause underground erosion.

It’s usually possible to correct uneven areas like these with minimal damage to your existing grass. For hills or slopes, however, you might need to regrade the entire lawn.

Smoothing Out Minor Bumps

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If the dents in your lawn are less than 1 inch deep, top dressing is a simple way to even them out.

The best top dressing for your lawn depends on your soil type. For sandy or loam soils, use a gritty top dressing such as coarse sand or a mixture of coarse sand, peat or compost, and topsoil. For clay soils, use a mixture of compost and topsoil. Spring and early fall are the best times to do the job because your grass will have plenty of time to grow through the top dressing.

First, prepare your lawn by mowing it with the mower blade at the lowest setting. Dethatch the lawn with a dethatcher or a rake. If the lawn hasn’t been aerated in the last three years, aerate it with a spike aerator or aerating machine.

With a shovel or trowel, apply the top dressing to the lowest point of the depressions in the lawn. Add no more than 1/2 inch of top dressing to avoid burying the grass. Rake the top dressing to even it out over the soil, then use a push broom to work it in further and uncover the grass. Finish by watering the grass to settle the top dressing.

Alternatively, you can fill the depression with soil and reseed the area.

Correcting a Moderately Uneven Lawn

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For depressions of between 1 to 24 inches deep, resodding is the most practical approach. This requires cutting out the existing sod, addressing the cause of the sinking, then adding more stable soil.

To remove the sod, water the grass and use a shovel or spade to cut 1-foot squares into the grass below root level. Gently pry up the squares of sod until the roots are released from the soil. If the grass is healthy, roll up the sod grass-side inward and place it in a cool, shady spot to keep it moist. If the grass is in poor condition, you’ll need healthy sod or grass seed to replace it.

Check for anything within the soil that might have caused the sinking, such as a rotten log or leaking sprinkler, and correct the problem. Fill the depression with topsoil and gently tamp it down. If the depression is more than 6 inches deep, fill in several inches at a time, tamping and watering the soil as you go to remove air pockets. The filled area should be around 1 inch higher than the surrounding lawn to allow for settling. Replace the sod or reseed the area, then water thoroughly.

Regrading a Severely Uneven Lawn

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Sometimes spot-correcting just isn’t enough. If your lawn has large slopes or deep, wide pits, regrading the whole area is the only way to get an even surface. This will cover your existing grass, so you’ll need to resod or reseed.

Creating a slope that ensures good drainage and easy mowing takes some planning. Your lawn should slope downward away from your house to prevent it from funneling water toward your foundation. A slope of around 6 inches every 10 feet is ideal, but anywhere between 2.5 to 12 inches every 10 feet is acceptable.

If you’re unsure about calculating or creating an optimal slope, it’s worth hiring an experienced landscaper. This is especially true if you have a large lawn. A landscaper can bring in equipment, such as a site level and backhoe, to get the job done quickly and correctly.

First, establish your lawn’s slope by calculating its run and rise. This tells you the difference in height from the high point near the foundation to the low point near the storm sewer or gutter.

Place a stake at the highest and the lowest points of your lawn. Tie a rope between the stakes and hang line levels on the rope to ensure it’s perfectly level. Measure the full length of the rope to find your lawn’s run. Then go to the stake at the lowest point and measure the distance from the rope to the ground. This is the lawn’s rise. If the run is 100 feet long, there should be a rise of between 25 inches to 10 feet.

If the current slope is too low or the lawn slopes toward the house, redistribute the soil to create a better grade and an even surface. Before you start digging, locate any pipes, wires or other objects under your lawn to avoid damaging them.

Start regrading by removing soil from the high spots in the lawn. To create the new grade, you can redistribute the topsoil you removed or add topsoil from another source. First, add 2 inches of topsoil near your foundation and till it into the existing soil to promote good drainage. Then add another 4 to 6 inches of soil, but leave 6 to 8 inches of your foundation visible. Gradually distribute soil until you have the slope you want, then use a landscaping rake to create an even surface.

For a flawless finish, drag the edge of a two-by-four over the soil to smooth out any remaining bumps. When you’re satisfied, lay your sod or reseed the lawn.

A level, correctly graded lawn is not only a lot more enjoyable to use, it’s also easier to maintain and protects your home from water damage. A few shallow low spots are easy enough to correct by top dressing or resodding, but if your lawn is hilly or poorly sloped, it will benefit from a full regrading.

How to level a lawn

When it comes to mowing the lawn there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to manoeuvre over lumps and bumps. A level lawn doesn’t just look great and make for easier maintenance, it can have a few other advantages too.

For gardens with drainage and water logging issues, levelling and grading the lawn can assist in encouraging water flow away from your property, whilst allowing more water to be absorbed into the soil adding needed nutrients.

What causes a lawn to be uneven?

There are a number of ways that your lawn can become bumpy or uneven. Here are some of the main culprits:


From your neighbourhood cats, to pesky foxes looking for food. Animals are a main cause of uneven lawns as they will happily stray into your garden in the months where your lawn is at its most vulnerable. There are steps you can take to prevent these critters from ruining your lawn.

The other animals (the kids!)

If kids are playing in the garden in when the soil is soft it can put a large amount of pressure on the lawn. This is of course not only bad for the health of the grass but will cause long term issues for the surface.


These giant earth worms can be a real nuisance when trying to perfect your lawn. These little insects can shift between 20 and 25 tons of soil per acre to the surface every year. A great tip to prevent this from becoming a problem is to keep the pH level of your soil low.


In the winter months the weather can play a big part in causing lumps and bumps in your lawn. If surface water is allowed to sit on your lawn it can cause long term damage, which is why getting your drainage right is so important.

Soil settlement

Things that occur beneath the soil such as rocks, piping and other debris can affect the composition of your lawn. The best course of action to resolve this is excavate the affected areas to break up the rubble underneath.

Preparing to level your lawn

So if your lawn is looking uneven with a few too many dips, help is at hand. Before starting, the lawn will need to be checked thoroughly in advance to determine how much will require levelling and if there are any existing drainage problems. At times, uneven ground can be caused as a result of drainage problems or even damaged water pipes.

Check for low spots and drainage issues

If low spots are occurring in locations around water pipes seek professional advice before continuing. If drainage issues are discovered, it is recommended to re-grade the lawn as well as levelling, creating a surface that slopes away from the property to aid drainage and avoid flooding.

Alternatively an underground drainage system can be fitted using either gravel or flexible drainpipes. Other causes for bumps and hollows can be due to wear and tear, mole damage, drought or frost.

There are two main methods for levelling a lawn depending on the extent of damage to the area. All low spots across the garden should be checked for depth to help decide which method will work best. Both methods will require the same mixture used when top dressing a lawn.

This will consist of two parts sand, two parts topsoil and one part compost. These combined will fill out the desired areas whilst improving drainage, with the compost allowing for a nutrient rich soil to be formed.

Pre-water your lawn for levelling

Several days before you plan to level the lawn it will need to be watered to ensure that the soil is not too hard, dry or powdery when making the adjustments. Be careful not to over water as wet soil can be just as hard to work with as overly dry soil.

When to level your lawn

The best time of year to start your repairs is around spring, as this will allow your grass seed time to grow in whilst providing sufficient moisture for the soil to settle. As mentioned previously there are two main methods for levelling; one for shallow low spots and one for low spots deeper than 2-3cms.

Levelling shallow low spots on your lawn

For areas that are only 1-2cm lower than the rest of the soil, the top dressing mixture can be applied directly. Shake out a thin layer over the problem area and spread evenly using a garden rake until it is completely filled out and level.

Using your feet and the flat side of the rake, tamp down and compact the soil. Lightly water the soil to further aid compaction and leave to settle. Repeat this process for all shallow areas that need attention.

Once the soil has been left to settle for a few days grass seed can be distributed, followed by a further light dusting of topsoil mix, then pat down gently with the palm of your hand. For the first 48 hours the soil will need a light spray of water 4 times per day to assist in germinating the seeds.

Then water regularly and allow time for the grass seed to grow. Another application can be done if there are low or bare spots remaining after it has settled.

Levelling deep low spots on your lawn

For the areas that have sunk more than 2cm deep a different method to level your lawn will be required. For this you will need a squared-off shovel. Using the shovel, slice into the centre and beyond the edges of the bump or hollow in a cross shape. Try to keep the cut as even as possible to make it easier to lift without breaking.

Cut to about 4-5cm deep, then slide the shovel underneath to cut each section of the cross horizontally, keeping the shovel as flat as possible to maintain an even thickness of soil. This is where it is essential that the soil is not too dry, as it will crumble when moved. Gently peel back the edges of the turf until you can lay them flat without breaking.

For levelling a bump in the lawn, dig out the excess soil until level with the surrounding area, tread down and fold the flaps of turf back over.

To fill a hollow, use a garden fork to turn over the soil to about 5cm deep, removing any large stones and breaking down any large clumps. Tread down to compact the soil to reduce the chance of further sinking afterwards.

Fill the hole with your top dressing mixture until level with the surrounding area, then rake over to break the soil down before folding the flaps of turf back over.

At this stage you will need to tamp the turf back down, starting at the outer edges of the cross section and working towards the centre. Fill any remaining gaps between the cuts made with more top dressing to stop the edges from drying out. Lawn seed can also be sprinkled in the gaps to cover and fill them. Water regularly and allow for the grass seed to grow.

Once you have completed all the areas required, a wooden 2×4 and a spirit level can be used to check the grade and level of the lawn. So for those of you that thought it could only be done by a professional, follow these easy steps and you could have your own perfectly level lawn!

Check out our video tutorials for how to achieve a great looking lawn on our YouTube channel here.

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