Lawn Care For Dummies
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Before you put in a new lawn you need to level and grade the space. If your ground is relatively level, gently sloped, and has no major impediments like huge boulders, you probably can grade your lawn yourself.

The tools you need for soil grading are simple. First, because you may need to haul soil from a higher spot to a lower spot, make sure that you have a wheelbarrow and shovel. The shovel should be a long-handled version with a squared-off blade.

A long-handled, steel-headed rake is your next tool to buy or rent from a local rental yard. Look for one with a head that is up to 3 feet wide. You can level more ground with one movement than you can with a regular garden rake that is only 18 inches wide.

If you don’t already have one, buy an 8-foot-long 2 x 4 piece of wood and a carpenter’s level. As you rake soil, you can lay the 2 x 4 on the ground with the level on top to see whether your low spots are level and whether you’re getting the gradual slope you need.

Finally, get your hands into a good pair of leather gloves. You can purchase all these supplies at a well-stocked hardware store.

An important point to remember is to make sure that your soil is moist before you start grading. Dry soil just does not level as well as moist soil. If your soil appears powdery and dry or hard and dry, water it well (to a depth of at least 6 inches) several days before you start to level it. Likewise, wet soil is difficult to work with. Allow heavy, wet soil to dry before attempting to level.


Whether you hire a pro or choose to tackle the grading yourself, be sure to get the answer to the following question: How long does it take for water to drain from my house after a rain? If the answer is more than two to three hours, you may need to install an underground drainage system.

Gravel-filled trenches and flexible drainpipes are the two most common forms of underground drainage systems.


Such systems capture excess runoff water and channel it away from your house to a gutter, a stream, or a nearby ditch. You also can channel the water to a sump, or dry well, which basically is a large hole filled with gravel where water can collect and slowly drain away.


Typically, your home’s guttering system produces the most excess water during rainfall. Install the gravel-filled trenches or the flexible drainpipe near where the water builds up at the eaves or at some other place where rain water concentrates. Angle the drainage system so that the system draws water away and down from the concentrated water.

For the gravel-filled trench, dig a trench 3 inches wide and 6 to 12 inches deep. Fill the trench with gravel and cover it with dirt to plant grass seed on.

For the flexible-pipe drainage system, dig a trench 12 inches deep and 3 inches wider than the pipe itself. Dig the trench so that it slopes away at least 3 inches for each 10 feet of length. Place a 2-inch layer of gravel in the bottom, lay in the pipe with the perforated parts on the sides so that it doesn’t get clogged, cover it with gravel, and cover that with soil to plant grass on.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

About the Authors Lance Walheim, former staff garden writer for Sunset magazine, is the nationally recognized author of over 30 widely read garden books, including The Natural Rose Gardener and Hungry Minds' Roses For Dummies??. The National Gardening Association (NGA) is recognized for its bimonthly National Gardening magazine and prolific work in science education for children. NGA is also the coauthor of Gardening For Dummies??, Roses For Dummies??, Perennials For Dummies??, Annuals For Dummies??, and Container Gardening For Dummies??.

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