To Roll or Not to Roll?

Every spring we get questions about rolling lawns, so is it a good idea?

Lawn roller

The short answer is no - if you want a healthy lawn, rolling it is not a good idea.

Why You Should NOT Roll Your Lawn

A healthy soil is made up of about 50% open space that gets filled with air or water depending on the moisture level in your soil.  Grass roots actually grow in this empty space between soil particles - not "in the dirt".

soil pores graphic

If you don't have enough pore (empty) space in between your soil particles, you won't have healthy roots.  If you don't have healthy roots, you can guess what your lawn will look like. 

Here's a graphical example of a healthy soil:

soil pie chart

How to Smooth Your Lawn Without Rolling It

If your lawn is uneven and just bumpy, here's another idea to try. 

Step 1: Scalp the Lawn

Wait until late summer when the weather is hot and dry and give your lawn a nice scalping.  This is about the worst thing you can do for your existing grasses, but that's ok - we'll fix that in a later step.

Step 2: Core Aerate

Give the lawn a good soaking and then core aerate heavily.  This will poke holes and reduce compaction in the top few inches of soil (good for the grass!).  It will also bring up goose turd looking type soil cores to the surface.  That's like a free topdressing.

Step 3: Slice Seed

After you core aerate, let the soil cores dry up a little bit and then use a power slice seeder to run over the lawn in multiple directions.  A Slice Seeder will break up the cores and turn them into a finer topsoil topdressing.  It will also loosen small bumps and spread that soil to make the lawn smoother. 

Step 4: Fertilize

Now is a great time to use an organic starter fertilizer like Pro Gro 5-3-4 to give your new seed a good start.

Step 5: Water

After seeding, you'll want to water daily until the new grass is about 1/2 inch high.  At that point, you can decrease your watering frequency and increase the duration of your watering - go to every other day.  After the new grass is about 1 inch tall, you can water deeply twice per week.  After the new grass is over two inches tall, fall should be arriving with regular rainfall and you shouldn't need to water much more than deeply once per week if you don't get rain. 

Step 6: Minimize Winter Mole Damage

One of the main reasons people have bumpy lawns in the spring is because moles are active.  You can use a product like Mole Chase in the fall and early winter to help discourage them from coming into your yard.  We recommend extra heavy applications if you've had problems in the past. 

How to Roll Your Lawn

Ok, so you still want to roll your lawn?  If you are going to roll your lawn and there is nothing I can write to change your mind, here are some tips for how to roll your lawn and minimize the damage you're doing to the soil at the same time.

Heavy Lawn Roller

I'm not sure I'd use the asphalt roller shown above, but people do!

Step 1: Roll Your Lawn
Step 2: Core Aerate your lawn 2-3 times
Step 3: Apply Aerify Plus

I'd recommend doing a heavy application immediately after the core aeration and again 2 weeks later.

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