Leveling yard without killing existing turf?

Asked June 2, 2019, 12:58 PM EDT

Background. I live in Wayne County. This is my second summer in this home restoring a neglected small yard ( >1500 sq feet front and back). It's a mix off both desirable and weedy grasses, Last fall I over seeded with mixture of tall fescue, bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass and fertilized. Saw improvement this spring. I desire to level the yard this year and improve the grade. I will likely over seed again by hand this fall.
Questions:

  1. Can I add material to the yard in the low spots without killing the existing grass?
  2. If so, what is the best material to use?
  3. How much should I use total over how many applications?
  4. When is the best time to do the work? During the grasses dormant season (summer) or while the grasses are actively growing (fall)?
  5. What method should I use to do it? Is dragging a section of chain link fencing across the yard to distribute the material a good method to use?
    1. Should I mow the grass "low" prior to leveling? If so, how low should it be? I currently mow above 3"

Thank You!

Wayne County Michigan lawn maintenance

1 Response

The short answer is generally no to adding fill over an existing lawn without lawn damage. Filling the area with top soil and then reseeding is the way to handle it. Add top soil needed in one application and reseed at anytime. Fall, end of August/early September, is the best time for reseeding when days are shorter, nights are cooler, and weeds are much less active. You could reseed now but correct watering would be essential with unknown high temperatures to come. No need for dragging fencing and no need to mow low prior because the existing lawn covered with top soil will die anyway.

Good luck!