I don't know if I'm searching correctly, but I'm amazed I have only found one answer (which is still lacking).

How can a garden be made completely flat and level? How would it be done professionally?

The first step (now obvious to me after research) is to remove existing turf, plants, roots, etc. either by hand and possibly with a rotavator.

The next step is the one that eludes me: distributing the soil so it's flat. It sounds simple. But the one answer I've found was this; use a bit of wood and kick it around. This is just not practical enough, or simply good enough, for several reasons:

  1. It will not ensure the whole garden is level
  2. It will only work for sandy soil, not more stodgy clay type soil.
  3. As the garden is walked on and compacted, unevenness will reappear.

What would the professional process be for achieving this for a small-ish garden with no access for heavy machinery? And let's say the garden had to be level and flat enough to play a proper game of bowls. (I'm not that old yet, but might as well do the manual labour in preparation while I still can).



2 Answers 2


Borrowing from myself (part of an answer over on home improvement):

Developing a grade is a "simple-yet-tedious" process, for the most part. My preferred method is to set some stakes 3-4 feet tall, mark them all with a level (laser these days, dumpy or transit or water or... in the past), and then mark a line on each, depending where it is, at some fixed distance above the desired grade - say 30" above. Then I run strings, tightly, between those marks, and mark my rake and/or tamper handle at 30" - it's then a simple matter to line up the strings (to form a plane floating 30" above grade) and see if the rake or tamper is too high (mark above) too low (mark below) or right on (mark even with) when set on the surface at any given spot. For convenience the plane should not be too low (or it's a lot of bending to see if things line up) nor too high (it's difficult to get stakes well-anchored for a taught string when the string is 5 feet up the stake.)

If you prefer, and certainly if you are trying to build to WorldBowls standards, a direct-reading laser level system is an alternate approach to the measuring aspect, but you still need to move and compact soils to make it level. That is the tedious part - you have to add or remove soils (and compact them adequately so they don't move as you walk on them) until the base is level - and long straightedges can be useful in that process. So can something like chalk or lime to mark either the high or low spots so that hand-raking can be applied to the appropriate effect, and perhaps colored chalk to mark spots that are at the correct level. However, to an extent, as you develop correctly leveled areas, the other areas become more evident. At the outset it will appear a daunting task, but it is mostly a tedious one.

If making a dead flat bowling green, subsurface drainage will be required. For most other "flat" lawn applications a 0.5-1% slope is acceptable and advisable for drainage purposes.

  • Excellent Ecnerwal! Allow me to say you NEVER want a perfectly flat landscape area! Water has to drain somewhere...are you truly into professional bowling greens? Or do you want a useable extention of your home in the landscape? By that I mean do you want to be outside of your home enjoying dirt, plants, wind...what have you got going? Send pictures and/or get what you have on a plan. From there, we can help immensely...
    – stormy
    Jun 26, 2015 at 23:14
  • I normally advise the slope, but looked up the lawn bowling rules to check, and (for a flat green) they really do call for dead flat; in which case appropriate drainage pipes and subgrade material will deal with the water.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jun 26, 2015 at 23:23

I find that a good rake and shovel can be helpful. You might consider tilling it, and then raking it even. Then walk all over it.

To ensure it is level, you can get such as a large pan or trough of water and put it on your ground. The water won't be level with the container if the ground isn't level.

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