A lawn roller is a weighted cylinder designed to smooth the surface of a lawn so it is flat and even or to level out the ground in preparation for laying new sod or seed.
Lawn rollers are made of steel, polyethylene or concrete. The cylindrical drum is filled (usually with water or sand) for additional weight before it is rolled across the ground. They have a rod extension that attaches to either a lawn mower or tractor or to a handle for manual use.
Why Use a Lawn Roller
Lawn rollers or soil rollers are most frequently used when seeding or laying sod, but are also helpful for removing bumps and dips in an established lawn. It is common for lawns to get uneven over time due to frost-heaving (when the ground freezes then thaws, expanding and contracting) or from rodents. With smoother ground, a lawn mower can cut the grass more precisely, giving the entire lawn a crisp, even finish. Water drainage also improves as there will be less spots where water will collect and pool. When rows are rolled with a non-weighted roller in opposite directions, the grass will become striped light and dark green like what is commonly seen on athletic fields.
How to Choose Good Yard Rollers
Start by determining the size and type of lawn roller needed . Smaller ones are typically only 2 feet long with a cylinder about 18 inches wide and weigh a little over 200 pounds when weighted with water. They get bigger from there until they are around 6 feet long with a 2 foot diameter, weighing over 1000 pounds when filled. Most of the smaller ones are designed to be pushed by hand, but some will convert to a lawn mower attachment. The largest ones are so heavy they need to be pulled by a tractor.
Prices start around $100 for a small manual roller and go up to $500 or so for the larger towed rollers. Renting a medium-sized roller will cost around $20 for a day and $50-$60 for a week. Call around to find what is available because most rental centers do not have a wide range of different sizes.
How to Use a Lawn Roller
To even out the surface of an existing lawn, begin by digging about 3-4 inches around each large bump. Pull back the grass and remove the extra soil until it is just about even with the rest of the lawn. Replace the grass back on top. You can also fix depressions or holes by adding soil this way instead of removing it.
Once the lawn has been prepped, remove the cap and fill the lawn roller until it is the desired weight. The amount and substance of what is used to fill it vary, depending mostly on how heavy it needs to be. Water and sand are the common recommendations; however, soil works too. Keep in mind that water is the easiest to remove after rolling, but should never be left to freeze inside.
Use quick, short strokes over the grass where holes were filled or bumps flattened. Roll until the area is completely smooth. This will leave it even and also help reestablish the connection between the grass roots and soil. Be sure to water these areas well. Since this process does compress the soil, consider aerating after the grass is thriving again, especially if much of the lawn was rolled.
When laying new sod or seed, first roll the entire area in straight lines until the ground is smooth and even. For large areas, this is best done with a lawn roller than can be towed by a tractor or pulled by a mower. Then place the sod or seeds down, re-rolling everything again. The second time pushes the sod or seeds into the ground so they grow more quickly and more securely in the ground as well as making sure the sod is even. You can use this same process when replacing a section of lawn with new sod or re-seeding it. Water the area frequently until the grass is well-established.