DIY Sarah

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Lumpy Lawn: What are our options?

Sigh, here I am wondering what to do about the lawn and there is currently 8 inches of snow on it. I thought we were done but Tuesday sent a new load of snow.  This had better be the last one!  I’m ready for spring!  But back to the lawn…

I’m not quite sure why our lawn is so lumpy. There are some tire ruts from when we poured the shed foundation but there are ankle traps all over the yard. I’ve been doing some research and there are a few things that can cause this kind of lumpiness: Moles, Voles, and Night Crawlers.

This Article has a great description of the various rodents that can damage a lawn.

I don’t think we have any of these problems. Voles and Moles are the only ones that can burrow in the grass and make the ground lumpy. I don’t doubt we have some Voles but I think our problem has more to do with the years and years of neglect than any single pest. There were a couple holes that could be mole or vole holes and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for any signs of these nasty little creatures.

The descriptions of night-crawler infestations have mentioned hundreds of night-crawlers coming out when it rains. They can cause some small deflections in the surface of the lawn but nothing more than an inch and for the most part the grass is so happy to have that much worm castings that it will grow in thick and offset the lumpiness. We have lots of worms but certainly not a “moving lawn” at dusk after a rain. Sounds terrifying and I’m glad we don’t have that many worms!

After researching about various causes, I think we’ve just got a case of an abandoned lawn that has gone a bit wonky. Between letting the grass grow knee-high over and over and the snow-heave, the lumpyness is to be expected.


The strips of dead grass are where the deck wood was stored. I re-seeded those areas and they started looking much better last fall. You can see the lawn is relatively level but there are hidden dips all over!

I did a bunch of research into what can be done and I came up with a couple options.

Option 1:

Top-dress and fill in low spots with top soil and sand every spring and fall for 2 years

Option 2:

Aerate and Power rake

Option 2b:

Aerate and power rake and top-dress

Option 3:

Roller and aerate

Option 4:

Cut up sod in strips using power sod cutter, level and amend soil underneath, re-lay sod

Option 5:

pull out/kill sod, roto-til and re-sod

Neither Stefan or I are perfect-lawn people. We’re not the type to baby our yard and fret about every weed. What we would like is a safe and walk able lawn to host people on and enjoy on the weekends. It doesn’t need to be dead flat but it would nice if no-one ever twisted their ankle which I have done a couple times.

My first instinct was to wait a while and then take on the project of roto-tilling it and laying new sod. It would be a big project and possibly pricey. I don’t know what sod goes for around here. I figure 2 days of a roto-tiller rental and about 50×50 square feet of sod at $.50 sq-foot comes out to $1250 plus another $200-$300 for the roto-tiller. Pricey project.

Here’s what I’m thinking. After the first lawn mowing, we’ll see about hiring someone to power-rake and aerate. Thatch is usually tan dead-grass colored and is the under-coat of the grass. It keeps the moisture in and is generally a good thing but it does make it difficult to over-seed the lawn and too much thatch can choke out the grass. We can then get some sand and top-soil and rake that over the lawn, filling in the low spots. We’ll probably have to do that several times this year as the soil settles. We can try to tamp some of the bigger areas and then over-seed the whole lawn to encourage healthy growth.

If that doesn’t do the trick, we can spring for a more invasive and expensive solution.

What do you think? Do you have any experience in reviving a neglected lawn?


Advice, Garden