Can You Level Your Lawn with Compost?

Can You Level Your Lawn with Compost

A perfectly level lawn is easier to mow, absorbs water evenly, and is much simpler to maintain. Low points, uneven terrain, and diverse soil profiles can make a lawn patchy and susceptible to drainage issues. 

I have tried quite a few methods to level out my lawn and some worked decidedly better than others. Regardless of the methods used it takes time, material, and effort to level out an uneven lawn. The obvious way to level a lawn and improve topsoil health is with compost but is it really the best thing for your yard?

Is Compost Good to Even Out a Lawn With?

Compost is both good and not so good for leveling a lawn. You can even out a lawn with compost temporarily but since compost is organic matter in the process of breaking down, it will shrink in time. Air pockets will form and water can erode compost not mixed into the topsoil well.

Organic compost is good for grass health and full of nutrients but it cannot even out a lawn’s surface for very long. Water and a layer of compost will break down and the slope of your turf will return. To get the best balance of increased yard health and a good leveling option you can make a soil mix. 

Soil Mixes for Top Dressing

If you want to level your turf and turn your dirt into rich soil you can mix compost with other soil types. Using a soil profiler can help you determine the type of topsoil mix that is best for your yard. No mix is best for every grass but there are steps you can take to find the best sand, clay, and compost combination for your yard. 

Soil Types

Yards that are mainly clay should look at sand and compost options. Adding clay to sandy soil is ineffective and compost alone can be mixed with sand to improve the dirt’s quality. Silt and loam soils need little supplementation but can benefit from added sand for increased soil stability.  

Soil Type 1Soil Type 2Results
ClaySandA poor mixture of sand and clay can result in a cement-like surface. 
Clay CompostImproved drainage for clay soil and added nutrients from compost.  
Sand CompostImproved drainage and ease of application with sand-based soils. Increased nutrients and water retention from the compost.

Clay and Sand

A sand mix is a common way to improve drainage but when mixed with clay it can have the opposite effect. Without several inches of organic material between them, clay and sand can become hard and impenetrable when compacted with foot traffic. A compost and sand mix should be added to clay and no clay needs to be added to sandy soil. 

Grass blades will have a hard time coming through the sand/clay mix and it could lead to a bumpy lawn. Commercial lawns like golf courses can have a healthy lawn with sand added to clay only because of several inches of organic matter separating the two. 

Clay and Compost

Compost and clay can be great for creating a healthier lawn and starting a lawn from scratch. Clay soil can be amended with compost and the combination can create a level lawn. Foot traffic can lead to compaction on grass so for a flatter lawn avoid walking on lawns from scratch and newly leveled yards. Sand can improve drainage and create air pockets for healthy grass roots. 

Sand and Compost

Creating a dirt mixture with sand and compost can improve your yard and is the easiest to level with. A batch of leveling mix composed of sand and compost added with a garden rake can level a lawn without disturbing the grass. Sand and compost are light and easier to move than heavier leveling mixes. Remember to only add half an inch of leveling mix at a time.  

Other Mixes

Depending on your native soil type your grass may need help with unique leveling mixes for a healthier lawn. Too much clay can cause drainage issues and increase the chance of lawn disease. 

Using just compost can be good for lawn care but can lead to holes in lawns as it breaks down into the turf. Once the compost has broken down you will need to take more steps to level your yard and help your grass. 

Sandy soil has very little nutrients and can not retain water well. People’s steps can cause indents and grass on sandy slopes can dry out quickly. Sand is lighter and easier to move around and work with than clay.

Combining sand and compost together is a good step to amend grass and level clay soil. Compost can be added directly to sandy soil without clay unless you need to reinforce steep grassy slopes. 

Leveling Lawn

How to Use Compost and Sand to Level Your Lawn?

Most of the soil globally is clay and so a sand compost mixture will be the most effective to level lawns. Even if your lawn is loam or sand initially the grass will benefit more from compost than the addition of clay. 

Once you have a good leveling mix apply it to low areas of your yard and areas with natural slopes. It’s important to only add a half inch of soil at a time to prevent killing the grass. Let the grass blades poke through before adding more mix to your property. 

Advantages of Using Compost to Level Your Lawn

The difference compost can make when leveling your lawn is profound. It can make your property fertile and lead to better soil structure. Compost encourages the growth of microorganisms that will aid your grass in pest and disease resistance. 

Compost is usually light and easy to work with so it is not heavy to move around. You can make your own compost for free and have complete control of what you add to make sure it’s good for you and your lawn. Small lawn lumps can be evened out with compost but deeper depressions will need additional sand.

Disadvantages of Using Compost to Level Your Lawn

Compost on its own will continue to decay and can attract some lawn pests. If you have to level your lawn by broadcast spreading you will need fine compost and sand the size of lawn seed. Lawn mower wheels can cause grooves in newly applied compost and can lead to a lawn-leveling obsession. 

Lawn Leveling Techniques

Calling a lawn care professional is a good choice if you have deep dips and will need to level a large area of your lawn. The equipment they bring can make quick work of large leveling operations. 

If your yard only needs small adjustments then visualize a grid to break your lawn into squares. This will make it easy for you to systematically apply your compost and sand mix regularly. Square by square, go through your lawn, and add the leveling mix. Once you have completed the entire yard wait for the grass to grow through the added layer. 

One application is often not enough to level a lawn. Even though sand doesn’t lose its structure, settling will occur and the compost component can continue to decay. Over several months you should be able to level your yard’s small dips. Lawn leveling should only be performed during seasons of high grass growth to prevent smothering dormant grass.