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I'm working against 5 years+ of no upkeep. The moles had been left unchecked and ruined the lawn. There are lots of high and low spots (a few inch difference in the worst spots) spread out over the whole lawn. I finally got rid of the pre-existing moles and now want to develop a plan to restore some sanity to the lawn.

I've read the other questions, but none resulted from moles and they all seem to be more isolated and significant leveling issues.

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You mention the high and low spots, but there will also be tunnels - these are sometimes just about visible because of a raised ridge in the ground where they are. You really need a heavy roller; this should be rolled all over the lawn, which will compress the tunnelled areas and hills. This also makes the area safe from the point of view of walking over it - you won't finish up with your foot sinking 6 inches into a tunnel you didn't know was there. Once you've done that, examine the area again.

If you still have raised areas, you can either peel back the turf, remove some soil by digging, and replace the turf, or just shave the top off, and rake up the surface to make a fine tilth. With the lower spots, fill those in with good topsoil, preferably weedfree, until you have levelled the whole lawn area.

Broadcast (sow) grass seed over the deeper filled in areas, and any bald places where you shaved the top off. Areas filled in with less than half an inch of soil may not need seeding - the grass will work its way through, but deeper areas should be seeded.

The best time to do this depends on your local climate - in the UK, now would be a brilliant time because the soil is still warm, so the seed germinates quickly and will have time to be grown on well by winter. An equivalent time/weather period for your area would be best, but re-seeding can also be done in spring, though the seed takes longer to germinate then.

If you can't get hold of a heavy roller, the only other option I can think of that doesn't involve machinery is to walk all over the lawn, closely, on your heels, the way you do when you first prepare an area for turf or seeding.

If all that sounds like too much work, it might be marginally simpler to lift the existing grass, relevel all over, prepare the ground properly and returf (re-sod) - but it is only marginally easier. If the grass has a high percentage of weed invasion, including moss and weed grasses, with less than 30% being desirable grass, replacing the whole thing is probably be the best option.

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  • Moles and shrews do not have tunnels that will collapse. Ground squirrels on the other hand have tunnels that might do this. Very rare for urban lawns. There is usually only one maybe two moles per area. They are spectacular for aeration and top dressing. Definitely need to knock the hills down with a rake but gosh, I keep saying this, I charged people big bucks to do what these sweet little creatures do for one's lawn. Weed free topsoil? Not happening. – stormy Jul 13 '18 at 3:23
  • @stormy - do you mean that all and any topsoil, graded or otherwise, which is available in the States has visible weeds growing within it at the point of purchase? Surely not...its perfectly obvious that any soil will have all sorts of seeds within it which are not visible, so I'm guessing that's not what you mean, but its appalling if all you can get is soil with full weed growth in it... – Bamboo Jul 13 '18 at 10:34
  • All top soil has weed seeds. If a pile of top soil is undisturbed at the nursery it would turn into a massive weed patch when the seeds at the surface get moisture and light. I didn't mean that all the weeds were in a growth state. Some top soils are screened to get out the lumps and bumps. Some are mixed with compost, with what no one never knows. Compost is full of seeds even decomposed. The worst thing I discovered was that compost and topsoils are full of pesticide residues. It was nerve wracking to install soil only to find nothing would grow in it! – stormy Jul 13 '18 at 19:43
  • And Bamboo, I am giggling about walking on your lawns with your heels to compact the bed! You Brits (is that a proper name)? Must have postage stamp size lawns! A good thing! Unbelievable the size of lawns over here. People dump all kinds of chemistry on their plants and soil then take it to the dump licensed for 'clean green'. They compost it and sell it under a very Organic Name. I always used the soil on site purchasing my beloved mulch, Gro-Co, to install on top. No weed seeds No pesticide residues. Think about how wonderful to just smother weeds and seeds. Weeds weren't a problem. – stormy Jul 13 '18 at 19:53
  • I agree with you on new sod for sure! I like being able to take the top 2" of soil off the surface using a sod cutter, use all of that stuff right on site for a new plant bed or smother a patch of weeds. Removing the top 2" of soil and all those weed seeds, raking, rolling raking and rolling then just laying fresh sod down is by far the easiest and best way to make a lawn 'crop'. The only other way I would make a lawn was by spraying seed with a grass spray company. That worked well. Ugh. Seeding by hand is a waste of all that seed bed preparation. – stormy Jul 13 '18 at 20:02

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