lawn sinks when walking on it

Lawn Sinks When Walking On It

Have you ever taken a step on your lawn only to feel it give way beneath your feet? The sinking sensation can be disconcerting and leave you wondering why it’s happening. What causes a lawn to sink when you walk on it? And more importantly, how can you fix this frustrating issue? In this article, we will explore the reasons behind a sinking lawn and provide you with practical solutions to restore stability to your turf.

Key Takeaways:

  • Various factors, including poor drainage, soil compaction, excess thatch buildup, and overwatering, can cause a lawn to sink when walked on.
  • Signs of a sinking lawn include a sunken or depressed appearance, spongy and marshy spots, and easily created holes.
  • To fix a sinking lawn, you may need to address drainage issues, perform lawn aeration, remove excess thatch, adjust watering practices, choose the right grass type, and manage lawn pests.
  • Preventing a sinking lawn requires identifying the specific cause and implementing appropriate measures to promote stability and proper growth of the turf.
  • By understanding the underlying factors and taking timely action, you can transform your sinking lawn into a lush, healthy, and stable outdoor space.

Signs of a Sinking Lawn

When it comes to maintaining a healthy lawn, it’s important to be aware of the signs that indicate a sinking lawn. By recognizing these indicators early on, you can take proactive measures to address the issue and prevent further damage.

Here are some common signs that your lawn may be sinking:

  1. A sunken or depressed appearance: If you notice certain areas of your lawn appear lower than the rest, forming uneven or sunken patches, it may be a sign of sinking.
  2. A spongy or marshy feeling when walked on: When you step on your lawn and it feels overly soft, squishy, or marshy, it could be an indication that the ground beneath is sinking.
  3. Easily creating holes in the lawn: If you can easily plunge your hand or tools into the ground, or if you observe holes forming without much effort, it’s a clear sign that your lawn is sinking.

Take a look at the image below to get a visual representation of these signs:

“A sinking lawn can be easily identified by its sunken appearance, spongy texture, and the ability to create holes with minimal effort.”

If you notice any of these signs in your lawn, it’s crucial to take action promptly. Ignoring a sinking lawn can lead to further damage, such as poor drainage, structural instability, and an unhealthy lawn overall. Stay tuned for the next section, where we will delve into the causes behind a sinking lawn and explore effective solutions to fix the problem.

Causes of a Sinking Lawn

A sinking lawn can be a frustrating problem for homeowners. Understanding the causes behind a sinking lawn is crucial for finding the appropriate solutions. Several factors can contribute to a lawn sinking when walked on.

Poor Drainage

Inadequate drainage is one of the primary causes of a sinking lawn. When water is unable to drain properly, it can saturate the soil, leading to soil compaction and weakened grass roots. Poor drainage can result from improper grading, clogged gutters, or the absence of drainage systems such as French drains or lawn drains.

Ground Erosion

Ground erosion occurs when the top layer of soil is washed away or eroded due to heavy rainfall, improper irrigation, or aggressive water runoff. When the soil erodes, it leaves voids beneath the grass, causing it to sink and lose stability.

Decaying Materials

Decaying organic materials buried under the lawn, such as dead tree roots or remnants of previous landscaping projects, can contribute to a sinking lawn. As these materials break down, they create hollow spaces that cause the soil to collapse, resulting in an uneven and sunken lawn.

Settling Ground

Over time, the ground beneath the lawn may experience natural settling. This settling can occur due to changes in soil composition, the decomposition of organic matter, or the shifting of underlying rock formations. As the ground settles, the lawn above it can sink and become uneven.

Excess Thatch Buildup

Thatch buildup refers to the accumulation of dead grass stems, roots, and leaves that form a layer between the soil and the growing grass. When thatch becomes too thick, it can prevent water and nutrients from reaching the grassroots and lead to a weakened lawn that is prone to sinking.


Overwatering can drown the grass roots and saturate the soil, causing the lawn to become spongy and prone to sinking. Waterlogged soil prevents the roots from receiving oxygen and weakens their ability to anchor the grass properly.

Type of Grass

The type of grass you have in your lawn can also contribute to its sinking. Certain grass varieties, such as St. Augustine, have shallow root systems or runners that make the lawn spongy and susceptible to sinking. Selecting grass varieties with stronger root systems can help prevent sinking and promote a more stable lawn.

Lawn Pests

Pests, such as moles, voles, or insects, can burrow tunnels or create cavities under the grass surface. This underground activity weakens the soil structure and causes the lawn to sink. Implementing effective pest control measures can help prevent pest damage and minimize the risk of a sinking lawn.

Broken Irrigation

A malfunctioning or broken irrigation system can result in uneven water distribution, leading to overwatered areas and dry spots. This inconsistency in watering can cause the soil to become compacted and contribute to a sinking lawn.

Understanding the causes of a sinking lawn is the first step toward finding the appropriate solutions. By addressing these underlying issues, homeowners can restore their lawns’ stability and enjoy a lush, even surface.

Fixing Drainage Issues

Poor drainage is a common cause of a sinking lawn. When water doesn’t properly drain from the soil, it can lead to a soggy lawn that sinks underfoot. Fortunately, there are several effective methods for fixing lawn drainage issues and improving the overall health of your lawn.

“Proper drainage is essential for maintaining a healthy lawn. Without it, excess water can accumulate, causing soil erosion, root rot, and ultimately, a sinking lawn.”

One option for fixing lawn drainage is to install a drainage system such as a French drain or a lawn drain. These systems help redirect excess water away from the lawn, preventing water buildup and mitigating sinking issues. A French drain consists of a trench filled with gravel or rock that diverts water away from the lawn, while a lawn drain collects water and channels it to the desired area.

Another important aspect to consider is grading. Proper grading ensures that water flows away from the lawn instead of pooling on the surface. By adjusting the slope of the land or creating small channels, you can redirect water and alleviate drainage problems.

In addition to drainage systems and grading, adding topsoil can enhance the soil’s ability to drain water. Topsoil with good drainage characteristics allows excess water to percolate through the soil, reducing the risk of water retention and potential sinking problems.

By addressing and fixing drainage issues, you can improve the stability of your lawn, prevent sinking, and promote healthier grass growth.

The Benefits of Fixing Lawn Drainage:

  • Prevents soil erosion
  • Reduces the risk of root rot
  • Enhances overall lawn health
  • Prevents waterlogging and sodden areas
  • Promotes better nutrient and oxygen uptake

Addressing Soil Compaction

Soil compaction is a common problem that can lead to a sinking lawn. When the soil becomes compacted, it becomes hard and dense, preventing air, water, and nutrients from reaching the grass roots. This can result in poor root growth, weak grass, and ultimately, a sinking lawn.

One effective solution for fixing soil compaction is regular lawn aeration. Aeration involves the process of making small holes in the soil, allowing for better air circulation and water penetration. This helps to loosen the compacted soil, promoting healthier root development and improving overall soil structure.

Aeration can be done using manual tools, such as a garden fork or aeration shoes, or with the help of a motorized aerator. The best time to aerate your lawn is during the growing season, when the grass is actively growing.

In addition to lawn aeration, adding topsoil to the compacted areas can further enhance soil structure. Topsoil contains essential nutrients and organic matter that can help improve soil quality and promote healthy root growth. It’s important to choose a high-quality topsoil that is well-draining and compatible with your existing soil.

Another way to improve soil structure is by using a high-quality fertilizer. A balanced fertilizer that contains essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium can help strengthen the grass and enhance its ability to withstand compaction and other stress factors.

Key Takeaways:

  • Soil compaction can lead to a sinking lawn by restricting air, water, and nutrient movement.
  • Regular lawn aeration helps to alleviate soil compaction by creating small holes in the soil.
  • Adding topsoil and using a high-quality fertilizer can further improve soil structure and promote root growth.

Dealing with Excess Thatch

Excessive thatch buildup can be a leading cause of a sinking lawn. Thatch refers to the layer of dead grass, roots, and other organic debris that accumulates on the surface of the soil. When this layer becomes too thick, it prevents water, air, and nutrients from reaching the grass roots, leading to a weakened and unhealthy lawn.

To address the issue of excess thatch, dethatching is crucial. Dethatching involves removing the layer of accumulated organic matter, allowing the grass to breathe and promoting healthy growth. There are two primary methods for dethatching a lawn:

  1. Hand Dethatching: Using a dethatching rake, you can manually comb through the lawn, gently removing the thatch layer.
  2. Machine Dethatching: For larger lawns or severe thatch buildup, a dethatching machine can be used. This machine has vertical blades that penetrate the thatch layer and remove it efficiently.

Once the excess thatch is removed, it’s essential to provide proper care and maintenance to prevent its reoccurrence. Regular aeration, overseeding, and avoiding excessive nitrogen fertilization can help manage thatch buildup and keep your lawn healthy.

Adjusting Watering Practices

Proper lawn watering is crucial for maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn. However, overwatering can be detrimental, leading to a soft and waterlogged lawn that may sink. To prevent overwatering and ensure your lawn stays in optimal condition, it’s important to adjust your watering practices.

Instead of frequent shallow watering, focus on watering deeply and evenly. This encourages the grass roots to grow deeper into the soil, creating a stronger and more resilient lawn structure. Deep watering also helps the roots access nutrients and water more effectively, promoting overall lawn health.

Here are some tips for adjusting your watering practices:

  • Water your lawn less frequently but for longer durations. Aim for about 1 inch of water per week, including rainfall. Use a rain gauge to monitor the amount of water received.
  • Water in the early morning to minimize evaporation and ensure the lawn has ample time to dry before evening.
  • Avoid watering during periods of heavy rain or when the soil is already saturated.
  • Use a sprinkler system or hose with a water timer to ensure consistent and controlled watering.
  • Consider the specific needs of your grass type and adjust watering accordingly.

By following these proper lawn watering practices, you can prevent overwatering and maintain a healthy, thriving lawn. Remember, a well-watered lawn is a happy lawn!

Choosing the Right Grass Type

The type of grass you choose can have a significant impact on the stability of your lawn. While some grass types may be prone to sinking and creating a spongy lawn, others offer better support and prevent sinking. When selecting a suitable grass type for your lawn, consider varieties that have strong root systems and provide excellent stability.

To ensure a stable and resilient lawn, it’s recommended to avoid grass types like St. Augustine that have lateral stolons or runners. These grasses tend to create a spongy surface and may contribute to sinking issues.

Pro Tip: Choose grass varieties with strong root systems to provide better support and prevent sinking.

Opting for grasses such as Bermuda grass, Kentucky bluegrass, or tall fescue can help maintain a more stable lawn. These varieties have robust root systems that anchor the soil, reducing the likelihood of sinking and creating a more durable surface for walking and activities.

Each grass type has its own unique characteristics, including tolerance to different climates, soil types, shade levels, and maintenance requirements. It’s essential to consider these factors and consult with local experts or turf professionals to determine the most suitable grass type for your specific region and lawn conditions.

Grass Types for Stable Lawns

Grass Type Main Characteristics Best Suited for
Bermuda Grass Durable, high traffic tolerance Warm-season regions with full sun
Kentucky Bluegrass Lush, dense growth, self-repairing Cool-season regions with moderate temperature
Tall Fescue Tolerant to various conditions, deep root system Regions with diverse climates

Choosing the right grass type is crucial for maintaining a stable and thriving lawn. By selecting a variety with a strong root system and considering the specific requirements of your region, you can enjoy a beautiful, resilient lawn that resists sinking and provides a reliable surface for your outdoor activities.

Managing Lawn Pests

Lawn pests can wreak havoc on your beautiful lawn, contributing to its sinking by creating tunnels or cavities under the surface. To prevent pest damage and maintain a healthy lawn, it is important to implement effective lawn pest control measures.

Using Pest-Resistant Grass Varieties

One way to prevent pest damage is by choosing pest-resistant grass varieties. These grass types have natural defenses that make them less attractive to pests, reducing the likelihood of infestations and damage. Some common pest-resistant grass varieties include:

  • Bermuda grass
  • Zoysia grass
  • Fescue grass

By planting these grass varieties, you can create a lawn that is more resilient against pests and less prone to sinking.

Seeking Professional Assistance

If you’re dealing with persistent pest issues that are causing your lawn to sink, it may be necessary to seek professional assistance. Pest control professionals have the knowledge, experience, and tools to effectively identify and eliminate lawn pests, helping you restore and maintain a healthy lawn.

“Professional lawn pest control services can provide targeted treatments to address specific pest problems, ensuring long-term pest prevention and a lush, stable lawn.” – Lawn Care Expert

Regular Inspections and Maintenance

Regular inspections and maintenance are essential for preventing pest damage to your lawn. By keeping an eye out for signs of pest activity, such as chewed grass blades, tunnels, or insect sightings, you can take prompt action to address the issue before it worsens. Additionally, maintaining proper lawn care practices, such as mowing at the appropriate height and watering correctly, can help keep pests at bay and protect your lawn from sinking.

Remember, proactive lawn pest control is key to preventing pest-related sinking and maintaining a beautiful, healthy lawn.

Pest Description Prevention Tips
Grubs White, C-shaped larvae that feed on grass roots Apply nematodes or insecticides to control grub populations
Chinch bugs Tiny insects that suck sap from grass blades, causing yellow patches Maintain proper lawn watering and mow at the correct height
Moles Burrowing mammals that create tunnel networks in lawns Use mole traps or hire professional mole removal services


In conclusion, fixing a sinking lawn requires addressing the underlying causes and implementing appropriate solutions. By understanding the factors that contribute to a sinking lawn, such as poor drainage, soil compaction, excess thatch buildup, and overwatering, homeowners can take proactive measures to maintain a stable turf.

For poor drainage, installing drainage systems like French drains or lawn drains, ensuring proper grading, and adding topsoil can improve water flow and prevent further sinking. Regular lawn aeration, adding topsoil, and using high-quality fertilizers help alleviate soil compaction and promote healthy root growth.

To manage excess thatch buildup, dethatching using a rake or machine can eliminate the layer of dead organic matter and restore the lawn’s health. Adjusting watering practices by watering deeply and evenly can prevent overwatering and maintain the lawn’s structure.

Lastly, selecting the right grass type with strong root systems, implementing effective pest control measures, and addressing any broken irrigation can help homeowners effectively fix a sinking lawn and ensure a stable and lush turf for years to come.


What are the signs of a sinking lawn?

The signs of a sinking lawn include a sunken or depressed appearance, a spongy or marshy feeling when walked on, and the ability to easily create holes in the lawn.

What causes a lawn to sink?

A lawn can sink due to various factors, including poor drainage, soil compaction, excess thatch buildup, overwatering, and the presence of decaying materials or lawn pests.

How can I fix drainage issues in my lawn?

To fix drainage issues, you can install drainage systems like French drains or lawn drains, ensure proper grading to divert water away from the lawn, and add topsoil to improve the soil’s ability to drain water.

What can I do to address soil compaction in my lawn?

Regular lawn aeration is recommended to address soil compaction. Aeration involves making small holes in the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to reach the grass roots. Adding topsoil and using a high-quality fertilizer can also improve soil structure.

How do I deal with excess thatch in my lawn?

Excess thatch can be managed by dethatching, which involves removing the layer of dead and decaying organic matter. This can be done using a dethatching rake or machine to promote proper grass growth.

What should I do to adjust my watering practices?

To prevent overwatering, adjust your watering practices by watering deeply and evenly. This allows the grass roots to grow deeper and strengthens the lawn’s structure.

How does the choice of grass type affect a sinking lawn?

Certain grass types, such as St. Augustine, have lateral stolons or runners that can make the lawn spongy and prone to sinking. Consider selecting grass varieties with strong root systems that provide better support and prevent sinking.

How can I manage lawn pests that contribute to a sinking lawn?

Implement effective pest control measures, such as using pest-resistant grass varieties or seeking professional assistance, to prevent pest damage and maintain a healthy lawn.

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