Sunday, April 10, 2011

Roll, roll, roll your lawn?

Judging from the number of people who ask me if I roll lawns, there seems to be a certain amount of misconception. Maybe it's hormonal? It seems every year men from all corners feel the need to get out there and work on the lawn and in many cases this includes the overwhelming desire to roll the grass.

You should only roll your lawn in the event it has been newly sodded or seeded. Rolling your lawn, much like aerating too early, can actually cause more damage than good. It compacts the soil sealing off the turfs ability to get precious oxygen, moisture and the nutrients it needs to remain thick, healthy and resistant to weeds as well as other turf diseases.

Compacting the soil squashes all the soil particles together.

This means that air spaces necessary for good root growth are eliminated. It also means that water can't penetrate the soil because there are no holes for it to move into. The bulk of the water runs off the lawn and never penetrates deep into the soil to the root zone level. This run off water takes the dissolving plant food with it so the spring feeding is washed down the sewer. In one fell swoop, rolling a lawn eliminates the necessary aeration, prevents water from entering and assists in the removal of spring applied fertilizer.

I can't think of an faster way to help put stress on a lawn than to roll the lawn first thing in the spring.

Sure I could roll lawns then turn around and tell the customer they now need an aeration while doubling my money in one fell swoop, but if you have read any of my previous posts you'll understand by now, that's not what I'm about.

Yet, those of you who golf will say, "the greens crews roll the green. What about that huh? I wish I had a putting green for a lawn."

Rolling a green is not the same as lawn rolling your home lawn. Your lawn sits on a mixture of soil types and these are easily compacted; a green sits on special sand chosen for its ability not to compact. Turf being grown for putting greens is one of the most intensively managed grass surfaces in the world. It is fed, watered and treated for disease on a regular basis exempt from pesticide bylaws. You and I, we don't have the luxury.

Even with the special sand bases, if the putting greens are rolled several times a week, they will usually have to be regularly "cored" to allow for expansion of the soil, and the introduction of water and air. The turf manager at a golf course is treading a thin line between optimum grass health and optimum playing surface. That is his specialty

What is critical to understand is that the soils on the green and your lawn can't be compared and so the lawn rolling practices will be different.

In any case, the next time you feel the urge to roll your lawn, roll, roll, roll the lawn roller into the neighbourhood garage sale instead because unless you want to produce concrete, you don't need it anymore.


  1. I have a question! We had a wedding in our yard last night. It had been raining for days before the wedding. Note with the traffic from the wedding our lawn is very bumpy ! The soil is still soft today. Should we roll it to recover the unvenness!?

  2. Great article.