When to Use a Lawn Roller + How it Works?

A lawn roller is a very useful tool for lawn maintenance. It is a heavy cylinder that is attached to an axle that is pulled to smoothen the soil or flatten a bumpy lawn. The lawn roller can either be pulled by hand or towed by a tractor for large gardens.

What does a Lawn Roller do?

A lawn will get lumpy over time, especially if you have children playing there or animals like dogs that will dig holes in your yard. Also, certain weather like frost will leave the lawn not looking so good.

Although you can dig out the bumps and fill the holes with soil, using a lawn roller is easier and more effective in smoothening the yard. Lawn rollers are either made of steel or polyurethane.

Steel Lawn Rollers

Steel Lawn rollers are heavier, durable and range from 24 to 60 inches. Being heavy makes them more stable, and also, they cannot puncture easily. They are usually filled with water. 

Polyurethane Lawn Rollers

Poly lawn rollers are lighter and cheaper compared to steel lawn rollers. Their sizes range from 24 – 48 inches. They can be filled with both sand and water and do not rust. 

However, they are not very durable as they are vulnerable to punctures and cracks. Their light weight makes them easier to use and store when empty as you can hang them in the garage.

Although the lawn roller is an essential tool for your lawn, it should be used in moderation. Frequent use of the lawn roller will compact the topsoil, making it difficult for the grass to get water and nutrients. Nutrient and water deficiency will cause the grass to thin and eventually dry.

When to Use Lawn Roller

Although rolling your yard is helpful, timing is everything. Rolling the lawn at the wrong time can cause damages that might take too long to repair. The best time to roll a lawn is during spring when the grass is coming out of dormancy, and the roots are actively growing. 

Avoid rolling when the soil is wet because the soil will get compacted. You should roll when the soil is dry or damp.  For the same reason, use a lightweight lawn roller when rolling a grass lawn. Rolling the yard once a year is enough.

Below are instances you can use a lawn roller.

1. Planting Grass Seed

After tilling the ground, spreading the grass seed, and covering them with soil, you can use a lawn roller to roll the soil. Rolling helps the seed germinate faster and eliminates the possibility of the seed being washed away or blown away by the wind.

2. Repairing Lawn

a lawn roller is helpful when levelling a bumpy lawn. If your yard has molehills or your dog has been digging holes, you should first level the yard by flattening the mole hills and filling the holes with soil. Then roll the area severally until you achieve an even look with the rest of the yard.

3. Before Sodding

It is important to roll the soil before sodding because it works better on flat soil. You should roll the soil with a lawn roller after tilling and fertilizing the soil.

4. After Sodding

After laying the sod, you should water the grass till the soil becomes damp, and then roll the lawn to press the roots into the soil. Watering the sod before rolling prevents the grass from getting damaged.

How to Use a Lawn Roller

There are two types of lawn rollers. There is the manual lawn roller that needs a human to pull. It is lightweight and cheaper but effective for smaller yards. 

The other type of lawn roller is attached to a tractor to pull. It is heavy and expensive but ideal for bigger gardens. Using the manual lawn roller for a bigger garden is labor intensive and will take a long time to finish.

Here is how you use a lawn roller

  1. Assemble the lawn roller – use the manufacturer instructions manual to assemble. 
  2. Fill in the lawn roller with water or sand – a steel lawn roller should be filled with water, while a poly lawn roller should be filled with water and sand.
  3. If planting grass seeds or sodding, till the lawn and remove all weeds and stones, then fertilize the soil.
  4. When planting grass seeds – Spread the grass seeds and rake the soil to cover the seeds. Then roll the soil and sprinkle some water afterward.
  5. When sodding – Roll the soil before laying the sod. After laying the sod, water the sod till the soil gets damp (not wet). Then roll the sod to press the roots into the soil. 
  6. Rolling an already established lawn – First, you must fill all holes with soil and level the bumps. Then roll the lawn roller over until you achieve your preferred landscape.

What Lawn Roller Alternative Can I Use?

Frequent use of a lawn roller will cause stress to your grass by compacting the soil resulting in the grass thinning and dead patches. It is not recommended to roll a lawn more than once a year unless it is completely necessary.

Buying a lawn roller is unnecessary for most people since they can only use it once a year and it’s quite pricey. Majority of people will prefer to lease or use other alternatives. Below are some alternatives you can use if you do not have a lawn roller.

  1. Plywood – Put the plywood on the new lawn and walk on it to press the sod into the soil. It works better and faster if two or more people walk on it.
  2. Use a power rake to flatten bumps on the lawn during seeding. First, you need to do core aeration to reduce soil compaction, and then rake the lawn to level bumps. Spread the seeds and use the rake to cover the seeds with soil. Afterward, water the soil to encourage germination.
  3. A landplane to remove bumps.
  4. A tiller and harrow.
  5. Asphalt roller.
  6. A drag broom.
  7. A bobcat to smoothen a lawn.


Rolling your yard will help smoothen lumps and give it a uniform look. However, you should roll the lawn cautiously to prevent soil compaction. You should limit rolling the yard to once a year unless you are planting new grass seeds or sodding.

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