Spring is here, and many of us are looking forward to getting back outside to work in our yard. Maybe you are planning on laying new sod, putting down grass seed, or smoothing down those pesky molehills. A lawn roller may help you get those chores done so that your lawn can be the envy of the neighborhood.
What is a lawn roller?
A lawn roller (also called a sod roller, grass roller, or yard roller) is a tool that helps gardeners, groundskeepers, and other lawn enthusiasts give their lawns an even surface.
Lawn rollers are heavy cylinders that can be attached behind a riding lawn mower/tractor or manually pushed to level topsoil or flatten bumpy or uneven lawns.
Pull-behind rollers are typically more expensive, but they do tend to get the job done faster than labor-intensive push rollers. Lawn rollers come in a variety of sizes and weight capacities depending on the project at hand.
Styles of Lawn Rollers
Lawn rollers come in different sizes and materials. While lighter models can be used by hand, heavier models should be attached to garden tractors.
- Typically heavier and more durable
- More stable on hillsides
- Will not puncture easily
- Heavier to move and set up
- More challenging to make sharp turns
- Can only be filled with water
- Possibility of rust and corrosion when used in wet environments
- Lighter weight when empty
- Easy to store
- Won’t rust
- Better for sharp turns
- Less expensive than steel
- Can be filled with sand or water
- Not as heavy or as durable as steel
- Could be punctured cracked on sharp rocks or debris
- Easy to push or pull
- Not efficient for heavy jobs or large areas
- High stress causes plastic to break easily
- Won’t rust
- Can be used in wet environments without damage to roller
- Extremely heavy
- Difficult to transport
Should I roll my lawn?
Lawn rolling can be a controversial topic. Some lawn enthusiasts consider rolling their lawn every spring to be proper routine lawn maintenance, while others consider it an unnecessary and even damaging practice.
When should lawn rollers be used?
Before Sod Installation
Before installing new sod, you can use a lawn roller to ensure the ground is nice and flat. After removing the existing vegetation, clearing the site of debris including rocks and sticks, tilling the soil and starter fertilizer is applied:
- Roll the area with a lawn roller to firm and settle the soil on the surface.
- Roll the lawn until the ground is packed enough that your feet don’t sink when you walk over it.
- Fill in low spots as they appear.
After Sod Installation
Once new sod is installed and watered, use a sod roller to remove air pockets and improve sod-to-soil contact. Contact between the grass roots and the soil will help sod establish itself and lead to better growth. Tightly pressing the sod into the soil gives the roots immediate access to moisture.
How to use a sod roller after sod installation:
- Roll the entire lawn horizontally, then roll again in the opposite direction to ensure the entire area is well compacted
- Even growth
- Roots develop quickly
- Decreased dead patches
- Smooth, even lawn makes for easier mowing
Spreading Grass Seed
Using a lawn roller after spreading grass seed helps press the seed into the soil reducing the chance of it being blown or washed away. Rolling also helps expedite the germination process.
Repairing Lawn Damage
Lawn rollers can help repair the damage after moles or ants have invaded your yard. Use a heavy lawn roller to compress tunnels and hills, helping to eliminate air pockets that will dry out the roots of your grass.
Lawn Roller Considerations
While using lawn rollers can be a wonderful tool to help your lawn look its best, using it incorrectly could do some serious damage to your lawn and your equipment.
If your lawn meets one of the criteria listed above (before and after new sod installation, after seeding, or to repair uneven, bumpy lawns) lawn rolling is warranted. Review the following considerations for best lawn rolling results:
- Ensure the ground is damp but not soaked.
Light moisture can help soften the soil and increase the impact of the roller, while a soaked lawn will encourage soil compaction, making it difficult for your grass to get the water and air it needs. Rolling the lawn when the soil is too dry is not effective in pushing seed or grass roots into contact with the soil.
- Check your lawn roller’s weight.
If you choose a tow-behind yard roller, be sure the equipment you use is able to handle the weight. Powerful tractors or commercial zero-turn mowers may be able to handle large rollers just fine. However, if you are using a consumer-grade mower, it is likely your lawn roller should not weigh more than 300 pounds.
- Beware of hills.
Avoid using a tow-behind lawn roller on hills with steep inclines greater than 10 degrees.
Be sure to tow your roller across hills, not up and down.
Caution: Lawn Roll in Moderation
When using a lawn roller on a yard that is already established, be careful not to overdo it. Rolling your lawn too many times can compact the topsoil, making it difficult for the grass roots to absorb the proper amount of water and nutrients.
- Spring is the best time of year to roll your lawn.
- Roll your lawn in spring when grass is just coming out of dormancy and the roots are in active growth.
- Roll your lawn only when necessary.
- Do not roll clay soil.
- Clay soil is prone to compaction. Rolling yards with clay soil can cause more damage than benefits.
What features to look for in a lawn roller:
- If rolling manually, ensure the lawn roller is light enough to push in those hard-to-reach corners and curves.
- Light weight when empty to allow for easy storage when not in use.
- Ability to hang in shed or garage to take up less space.
- Scraper bar to remove dirt, grass, and other debris while roller is being used.
- Rollers with rounded edges to ensure that every turn you take will not tear up your lawn.
- Large filler caps to allow for easy filling and emptying.