What Causes Mounds Of Dirt On The Lawn And How To Remove Them

Walking outside and discovering upturned soil on the lawn is a nuisance and discourages all the hard work put in to foster a beautiful lawn. 

Determining the culprit responsible for causing the mounds of dirt is your best chance of enacting a plan to remove and prevent them. 

Luckily there are many effective techniques to keep your lawn free of unsightly dirt mounds. 

Burrowing animals and insect colonies are responsible for causing unsightly dirt mounds on the lawn. Removing the mounds of dirt requires regular raking and leveling out of the loose soil, but preventative methods are key to protecting the lawn from destructive intruders.

The animals and insects causing mounds are easy to identify based on how the upturned soil looks. 

Once identified, these recommended methods will prevent those pesky intruders from causing more destruction. 

There are simple ways to remove the dirt mounds and repair the damage to your lawn caused by them. 

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Determining The Cause Of Mounds Of Dirt

There are quite a few different types of animals and insects responsible for leaving unsightly piles of dirt on our lawn. 

The most common animal culprits are moles, voles, and gophers. 

These burrowing animals tunnel underground, leaving raised mounds of dirt with the potential for ruining lawns. 

Ant colonies and worm activity form smaller mounds of dirt on our lawns. 

While moles and gophers tend to cause more damage to grass and landscaping, these insects still require attention to prevent unsightly deterioration. 

Fortunately, there is a wide range of methods for removing dirt mounds and deterring animals and insects from creating more. 

We recommend using natural methods over chemical methods to deter intruders. 

Chemical deterrents for burrowing animals and insects remove beneficial nutrient-dense organic material. 

There are beneficial insects and pollinators vital to the health of our lawns and gardens. 

Nutrients are imperative to a healthy lawn and preserve our soil’s integrity to promote lush lawns. 

Regular removal of dirt mounds allows us to stay on top of lawn maintenance before it gets overwhelming. 

The easiest way to remove the mounds of dirt involves regular raking. 

Simply use a rake to gently disperse the raised dirt and level out the lawn. 

Catching the mounds early preserves green grass but missed mounds and destructive pests cause the grass to turn yellow and die. 

Green grass bounces back quickly while yellowing grass requires repair. 

Prevention is the best course of action when dirt mounds are present. 

Determining the culprit allows you to take action. 

There are traps for moles and gophers to stop the intruders in their tracks. 

Placement and quality are key with traps. 

Protecting gardens with underground barriers stops moles and gophers from ruining plants, while regular aeration of lawns often prevents ants from forming large colony mounds or ant mounds. 

Deterrents help to make lawns undesirable locations for burrowing pests.  

How To Identify What Is Causing The Mounds Of Dirt

Discovering and dealing with dirt mounds on our lawns is frustrating and concerning. 

The first step to preserving the lawn is to determine the culprit. 

Determining whether an animal or insect caused the damage is the best way to start. 

Burrowing Animals 

Burrowing animals turn up large amounts of soil very quickly. 

Gophers, voles, and moles are the most common burrowing animals responsible for leaving fresh mounds of dirt on lawns. 

Gophers spend most of their time underground but leave large dirt mounds at the tunnel entrances measuring roughly 1′ foot in diameter. 

The burrowing animals consume plants by ripping them through the soil from underground, leading to quick and expansive damage of lawns and gardens. 

Moles and voles are other common burrowing animals guilty of upturning soil. 

Unlike gophers, these animals tunnel just under the soil’s surface, leaving a network of prominently raised tunnels all over lawns. 

While mole activity may not directly pull up plants, they cause extensive damage to plants and grass by upturning the soil and disrupting plant root systems. 

Insects Causing Dirt Mounds

If you’ve determined the dirt mounds on your lawn are not caused by burrowing animals, insects are another culprit worth investigating. 

Ants and earthworms are the most common types of dirt disrupting insects. 

Ants live in large colonies and use large dirt mounds as dwellings. 

In my personal experience with fire ants, I have discovered enormous mounds of dirt housing large colonies. 

Not only are the dirt mounds unsightly, but fire ants also bite and leave painful marks. 

Other types of ants reach infestation levels in and outside of the house if not taken care of quickly and effectively. 

Taking action quickly against ants prohibits large colonies from forming and taking over lawns. 

Earthworms leave small upturned soil mounds around the lawn. 

For the most part, earthworms are extremely beneficial to maintaining healthy soil. 

They digest soil and leave nutrient-dense mounds feeding the soil and contributing to a well-functioning ecosystem. 

Overall, we do not recommend the removal of earthworms unless there is a major infestation. 

Regular raking of the soil will level out the dirt mounds while allowing the benefits of earthworm activity to take place. 

For more details on ants, check out our guide on how to get rid of ant hills all over your yard.

Removing Dirt Mounds And Repairing Lawn

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Once the cause of the mounds of dirt is identified, it is time to take action. 

Removing dirt mounds is as simple as raking the soil back down and leveling it out. 

The only tools required are a rake and shovel. If further damage occurs, additional repairs are necessary. 

Step One: Fill in Holes

Use the shovel to fill in holes caused by burrowing animals. 

This step is most important if you have burrowing animals like gophers leaving large holes on your lawn. 

Step Two: Rake Soil and Level Dirt

Use the rake to level out the soil. 

Rake gently so as not to damage the grass. 

Continue to smooth out the dirt mounds until the ground appears level again. 

Step Three: Assess Damage

After leveling the dirt, assess the lawn for damage. 

If the grass is strong and green, it does not require repair. 

However, yellowing grass indicates damage by the soil disruption and requires repair.

Step Four: Removing Damaged Grass

Identify the damaged grass and remove affected patches. 

Once the grass is damaged, repair involves replacing the patch with a new layer of seed. 

Step Five: Prepare the Soil 

Preparing the soil for the new grass seed sets you up to succeed. 

New grass needs fertilizer to ensure proper growth. 

Turn the soil and work in a high-quality fertilizer to prepare it for the grass seed.

Step Six: Lay Down New Grass Seed 

Once the old grass is removed, and the soil is prepared with fertilizer, it is time to generously apply grass seed over the affected area. 

Make sure to water regularly and apply fertilizer as needed to promote strong, healthy growth. 

Removing the dirt mounds is a great start, but the only way to stop dirt mounds is to prevent them in the first place. 

Preventing Burrowing Intruders

Once the dirt mounds are removed, we recommend taking further action to ensure pests cannot continue to cause damage to the lawn. 

If you removed the mounds, you have a good idea of the type of intruder responsible. 

Stopping Moles, Voles, and Gophers in Their Tracks

There are quite a few different deterrents for burrowing animals with disputed effectiveness. 

Popular deterrent methods include noise-making machines, castor oil granules, and owl houses. 

  • Noise-making machines produce frequencies and sounds, making the lawn unfavorable for burrowing animals. 
  • Castor oil granules are distributed in and around burrowing holes and tunnels to deter pests. 
  • Owls are natural predators of small burrowing animals, and attracting them to lawns deters pests from hanging around your lawn. 

Deterrent methods produce varying results among users. 

Two of the most effective ways to stop burrowing animals are traps and barriers. 

Barriers work fantastically for garden beds. 

Mesh barriers need to be buried at least 2′ feet underground and raised at least 6″ inches above the ground to prevent intruders. 

We highly recommend mesh barriers to protect food crops and gardens if there is evidence of burrowing animals. 

If the area is larger than a garden bed, traps are your best bet. 

Place traps around gopher holes, tunneled mounds, and anywhere the burrowing animals frequent. 

Many of these animals are incredibly determined, making traps one of the few effective methods against them. 

Natural Ways to Prevent Insect Colonies

There are a plethora of insecticides on the market to prevent insects like ant colonies from forming large mounds on the lawn. 

Unfortunately, many of these products do not discriminate and kill off beneficial insects and destroy nutrient content in the soil. 

Household products like cayenne pepper, cinnamon, and vinegar are effective when distributed on ant colony mounds. 

Diatomaceous Earth is another natural alternative to insecticides to prevent large dirt mounds from ant colonies. 

I’ve had great success with pouring boiling water down the large dirt mounds for especially stubborn ant colonies. 

Doing this kills the ant colony and makes the location undesirable for ants to continue to inhabit. 

Regular aeration of the top layer of soil inhibits colonies from forming large mounds. 

Check out these ways to kill ants without killing your lawn.