Lawn Roller – Should You Use One?

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Robert Pavlis

A lawn roller is traditionally used in spring as part of regular lawn maintenance. Golf courses do it and they have great greens – so it must be good for your lawn too – right? Wrong. Don’t do it. If you own a lawn roller it is time to find another use for it.

Lawn Roller - not good for your lawn
Lawn Roller – not good for your lawn

Lawn Roller

What does rolling your lawn do to soil? Good soil consists of 25% air and 25% water. The rest is organic matter and minerals. The air and water are critical for plant growth. Soil will only have the right amount of air and water if the soil has proper aggregation. Aggregation is that friable lumpy type soil you find in forests.

Rolling the lawn destroys the aggregation and compacts the soil. Compacted soil contains less air and less water, making it much more difficult for roots to grow. Grass grows better without rolling.

Lumpy Lawns

The reason most people roll their lawn is because it is lumpy in spring. Frost has caused some soil heaving and moles dig tunnels making the lawn uneven. We want flat grass again.

Food Science for Gardeners, by Robert Pavlis

The best way to deal with high spots is to wait until late spring, or even fall. Then dig out some soil from under the  grass in the high spots. This will lower them for a flatter grass. The opposite process can be used for low spots. Use a flat shovel and lift the grass. Then put some soil under it. Add more soil than you think you need since the soil will compact.

Spots that are slightly low can be top dressed with 1/2 inch of soil. You might have to add more soil every year for a few years to fill the holes left by animals. Don’t add too much soil at once since a thick layer will kill the grass.

Should You Ever Roll?

Rolling can be done directly on the soil when you are first installing grass seed to give you a level bed. But even this will cause compaction.

Some people roll newly laid sod which helps the sod come in close contact with soil so it can make roots.

Both of these applications should be done with a light roller.

Except for these installation steps – don’t roll your grass.


  1. Photo Source: Northmetpit
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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

7 thoughts on “Lawn Roller – Should You Use One?”

  1. I would like to know if the lawn roller can be effective in getting rid of ruts from having to mow heavily saturated lawns? We had a few weeks of heavy rain recently and there are lots of ruts on my lawn.

  2. Cricket pitches are regularly rolled – even between each innings – over here.
    Good for the sport, horrible for the grass. Needs a lot of aerating between matches!
    Love Richard’s comment, boys….

    • We roll golf courses regularly, but they are grown on a bed of sand. Cricket pitches may be done the same way. The sand does not compact like soil.

  3. My yard is lumpy, my neighbor’s yard is lumpy… My son’s two year old yard is now lumpy!

    Lumpy is good!

    I compost… That means I always have extra worms – started them by simply tossing stuff to rot on the ground… Now that I have composting bins, my worms Happily Multiply!

    They escape into – and under – my lawn… My lumps disappear by the end of July!

    My neighbor’s come over, take their shoes off, walk around, then complain that my lawn is “So Soft!”

    I blame it on the worms!

    Don’t roll! COMPOST! 🙂

  4. Rolling your lawn is bad enough, but even worse (this includes most people) is pulling the roller with a small tractor or riding mower when the soil is soft. . This will really compact the soil even more. Boys and their toys.


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