Rolling Your Lawn: When And Why You Should Do This

Homeowners and lawn care specialists have various tools available for creating the perfect lawn.

In addition to fertilizers, rakes, and lawnmowers, there are also aerators, dethatching tools, and lawn rollers.

You may be familiar with more common lawn care tools, but what is a lawn roller, and why is it used?

A lawn roller is a heavy cylinder attached to an axle, and it is either towed behind a small garden tractor or manually pushed by hand. Lawn rollers are typically used when reseeding a lawn or after installing sod, but they may also be used to smooth a bumpy lawn.

While a lawn roller may be used to flatten a slightly lumpy lawn, overuse may cause damage to your grass or compact the soil.

Keep reading to learn when and why to use a lawn roller, as well as alternative methods for leveling a bumpy lawn.

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Rolling your lawn is a great way to help new growth and level out your yard.

Why Roll Your Lawn?

After reseeding your lawn, using a lawn roller helps the seeds make better contact with the soil.

This soil contact encourages the seeds to germinate faster and gives more seeds a better chance of sprouting.

A lawn roller is also used after sod installation to remove any air pockets which may prevent the grass roots from making contact with the soil.

When the sod has sufficient soil contact, it will become established more quickly.

Once the sod is established, it is easier to keep it hydrated and healthy.

Is Rolling Your Lawn Good Or Bad?

Using a lawn roller to encourage grass seed growth or help establish a newly installed sod lawn is generally considered a good lawn care practice. However, rolling your lawn too frequently or at the wrong times may cause damage to your grass and soil.

A lawn roller may cause your soil to become compacted, especially in clay soils.

The compacting of soil damages your grass by filling in the empty spaces in the ground, preventing grass roots from growing in those spaces.

It is also more difficult for compacted soil to absorb water, so your grass will not get the proper hydration it needs to grow and stay healthy.

As a result, your lawn will have bare spots, and the lack of moisture and nutrients will stunt your grass growth.

Drainage issues caused by compacted soil will also cause your lawn to have areas of standing water every time it rains or when the grass is watered.

Lawn rolling will help level uneven spots, but in severe cases, consider using a different method to avoid damaging your grass or compacting the soil.

If you are unsure if a lawn roller is safe to use on your lawn, consult a qualified lawn care specialist for an evaluation and a recommended solution.

When Is The Best Time To Roll Your Lawn?

The best time to roll your lawn is after reseeding, after having sod installed, and in the spring months if you have an uneven lawn due to animal tunnels. Before using a lawn roller on your lawn, consult with a reputable lawn maintenance company to ensure you will not cause any damage to your grass or soil.

It is also essential to use a lawn roller when your soil is damp but not thoroughly soaked.

Using a lawn roller on completely wet soil will increase the chance of soil compaction.

If you have reseeded your lawn, the soil needs to have enough moisture for the grass seeds to adhere to it better.

Avoid rolling clay-like soil since it will become compacted very easily.

When you have sod installed on your lawn, it is necessary to use a lawn roller to remove any air pockets.

These air pockets are a widespread occurrence in sod installation, and they prevent the sod from establishing contact with the dirt underneath.

Removing these air pockets allows the sod to better contact with the soil and encourages more substantial root growth.

It is recommended to use a lawn roller only when necessary, instead of every year, to prevent soil compaction.

Use a lawn roller when the ground is still pliable and moist in the spring months.

It will be more difficult to smooth out an uneven lawn during the summer and fall seasons since the ground will become drier, and the soil will harden.

If you planted grass seed and it’s not growing, this article will give you some ideas on how to help.

Fixing A Bumpy Lawn

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Uneven lawns aren’t nice to look at, but rolling your yard can help!

A heavy-duty lawn roller still only affects the top 1-2″ inches of soil, so keep this in mind if you have deep ruts or large animal tunnels. For more severe irregularities, you need to consider other methods such as aeration and manually digging up soil areas.

Using a lawn roller to smooth out an irregular lawn is straightforward.

As a general rule, it is much easier to prevent a bumpy lawn than fixing one.

Changing your lawn care practices will go a long way in keeping your lawn healthy and smooth.

Sometimes lawn irregularities are completely unavoidable, so using a lawn roller is necessary to flatten your yard.

Remember, do not use a lawn roller on your lawn more than once every year, or you will cause damage by compacting your soil or damaging fragile new grass sprouts.

Use a lightweight lawn roller or a water-filled roller, so you are able to adjust its weight.

With a water-filled lawn roller, it is possible to add more water if the roller is not heavy enough to flatten your lawn. 

This ensures you are using the lightest roller available for the job and reduces the risk of soil compaction.

What Causes A Bumpy Lawn?

The most common causes of a bumpy lawn include:

  • Irregular grass growth.
  • Pests.
  • Excess thatch.
  • Large tree roots.
  • Poor lawn care practices.
  • The annual freezing and thawing of the soil.

Grasses such as Tall Fescues tend to grow in bunches, causing a lawn to be lumpy and irregular.

Pests such as grubs and chinch bugs may also cause the soil to become bumpy.

Moles are known for digging into lawns and causing small hills to appear, and worm castings from nightcrawlers will also cause uneven ground.

Thatch buildup is another reason for a lumpy lawn, and it should be removed regularly to prevent severe damage.

Read more about how to fix squishy lawns and thatch.

Not only will too much thatch cause the ground to be uneven, but if it is too thick, it will prevent the grass from receiving proper nutrients, sunlight, and water.

Large tree roots will also make your lawn appear bumpy as the roots may begin to grow close to the ground’s surface or sometimes above it.

If you always mow your lawn in the same direction, you may be creating bumps in your yard by causing ruts from the wheels of your lawnmower.

It is also not recommended to mow your lawn when the ground is wet because your mower wheels are more likely to sink into the soil and cause ruts and divots.

One unavoidable cause of uneven areas of your yard is the annual freezing and thawing of the soil if you live in a climate where the temperatures drop in the winter months.

The moisture in the soil may cause small lumps to form as the ground hardens in freezing temperatures.

As the ground thaws, these bumps remain and must be smoothed down again when the ground softens in the spring months.

What Is The Best Way To Roll A Lawn?

Use a lightweight or water-filled roller instead of a heavy-duty one to prevent compacting your soil, and roll your lawn in the spring when the ground is wet but not completely soaked. If the soil is too wet when you use a lawn roller, the risk of compacting your soil is much higher.

If the ground is too dry, the dirt may be too stiff to move, and grass seeds will have difficulty adhering to the soil.

After you have rolled your lawn, it is a good idea to aerate it afterward.

Aeration removes plugs of soil and allows oxygen, nutrients, and water to penetrate the ground.

Regular aeration keeps the soil compacted and results in a healthy lawn.

Clumps are less likely to form when your grass can receive the proper nutrients and moisture, and the soil will stay more stable and smooth.

Only roll your lawn when necessary, such as after sod installation or reseeding, and avoid doing it every year.

Most lawn care experts do not recommend using a lawn roller to even out a lumpy lawn since anything below the top 1-2″ inches of soil is unlikely to be affected.

If you must roll your lawn, use a light roller and avoid using a heavy-duty lawn roller to prevent compacting the soil or causing damage to your grass.

Do not use a lawn roller for soil with a high clay content because it will compact the soil too much.

What Are Some Alternatives To Rolling Your Lawn?

Since it is not recommended to use a lawn roller to correct grading issues in your yard, there are several alternatives to creating an even surface. These alternative methods include cutting your grass at the proper height, growing a thicker lawn, core aeration, and re-grading your entire yard.

For sod installation, walk on plywood over the sod to help it contact the soil.

When reseeding your lawn, a metal lawn rake may be more helpful to ensure the seeds make contact with the soil for faster germination.

You do not always have to use a lawn roller to remove lumps and bumps on your yard, and we explore the alternatives below.

Mow Your Grass At The Proper Height

Keeping your grass mowed to a height between 3-3.5″ inches not only allows your grass to absorb more nutrients and grow a more robust root system, but it provides more cushion against uneven areas of your lawn.

When your grass is kept very short, any variations to the grade will seem more pronounced.

Taller grass does not eliminate uneven ground, but it dulls the feel and appearance of any lumps and bumps which may already exist.

When the grass has a stronger root system, it also provides more structure to the soil, making it less likely to shift due to changes in moisture and temperature.

Small digging rodents such as chipmunks and moles will have a more difficult time digging through a robust grass root system.

To prevent moles from digging tunnels through your lawn, you will also have to remove their food sources, such as grubs and other small insects.

Grow A Thick Lawn

Growing a thicker lawn prevents bare spots from forming and creating uneven areas. For cooler climates, grasses such as perennial ryegrass, Kentucky bluegrass, and certain fescues are excellent choices for lush ground cover. Warm-season grasses such as Bermuda grass and zoysia are great choices for warmer climates.

These grasses spread easily and form lush and healthy lawns.

Regularly adding fertilizers to your lawn and maintaining a steady watering and mowing schedule will ensure thicker grass growth.

Much like growing taller grass, thicker grass will add cushion against slightly uneven areas on your lawn.

Aerating Your Lawn

Aerating your lawn at least twice per year keeps the soil loosened and prevents uneven areas from forming in your yard. Core aeration, which removes plugs of soil from your lawn, allows uneven dirt areas to sift into the holes, allowing the lawn to receive adequate nutrients and proper drainage for soil and grass.

Without a good drainage system, water will form pools on the lawn and cause holes and ruts to form more easily.

Proper aeration keeps the grass strong and healthy and prevents unevenness from forming in bare spots.

Re-Grade Your Entire Lawn

The only way to fix them is to re-grade your entire lawn with specialized equipment for extremely uneven areas. This method is generally a last resort since it involves killing off existing grass and adding soil amendments to the lawn to remove bumpy areas.

You may need to rent excavation equipment or hire a professional lawn care company to do the job for you.

The equipment will be used to level the ground, and topsoil will be added to fill any low-lying areas.

If tree roots cause your uneven lawn, it is not recommended to cover them with soil because it may cause damage to the tree.

Re-grading your lawn is the most effective way to level the ground, but it is not the fastest solution since it may take up to one year for your grass to grow back and become established once again.