Landscape Grading

Summary: When the landscape plan needs changes in the existing ground levels, the grading the landscape is required as the next step in making the landscape garden. Good grading is an important part of garden planning.


When the garden and landscape plan calls for changes in the existing level, grading required is the next step in making the garden. Grading is essentially modeling the surface of the lot for convenience and beauty. However, many crimes are committed with the term – landscape grading.

Good Grading Important Component of Garden Planning

Good grading is an important part of garden planning. Generally speaking, the natural contours, the natural flow of the land, should be preserved as much as possible; quite apart from the appearance, it is easier to adjust the garden to the contours than the contours to the garden. Certain adjustments may have to be made, to permit drainage, to ease a steep slope, to make steps and walks and flower beds; but these are very different from slicing off every little ridge and rise. Unfortunately, many people do not come into possession of their land until after a bulldozer has done its brutal work.

When a part of the garden has to be graded, strip the topsoil to a depth of six to eight inches, or more, before making adjustments in level. The topsoil is the valuable growing earth of the garden; do not bury it, but pile it up to one side until grading is finished, and then spread it evenly.

simple line level for helping to level a grade

On a big job, grades are located with surveying instruments. It is possible, however, to do simple grading on a small home property with pointed stakes, a length of twine, and a line level. A line level can be bought at a hardware store for a few dollars. It is hooked onto the cord and when the bubble is on dead center in the glass the line is level.

Have enough stakes to stake the area to be graded at 10-foot intervals. Mark each stake with black paint or a heavy pencil six inches from the top. Start from a point where the grade is right, and drive the first stake into the ground until the black mark is flush with the ground. Drive a nail into the top of the stake and tie the cord to it.


Drive the rest of the stakes into the ground at 10-foot intervals, in line with the first stake. When you come to the end of the line of stakes, stretch the cord over the top. If you are working alone, secure the cord to a nail driven into the top of the last stake. Using the line level, adjust the height of each stake until the line is level. If you are grading for level ground and not for a slope, the line of black marks on the stakes represents the level of the finished grade.

If you want to slope the ground, make a second mark the correct distance below the first mark on each stake. The second line of marks represents the finished grade. It is a good idea to use a different color for the finished-grade marks.

Actually, an area should never be absolutely level; a slight pitch is required for drainage. The minimum pitch for unpaved ground is one-quarter of an inch in a foot, and for a paved area one-eighth of an inch in a foot.

drawing of landscape grade existing and finished

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