LAWN & TOW ROLLERS
by Wes Yohey
What is a lawn roller?
A lawn roller is a heavy cylindrical object which utilizes its weight and rolling capacity to perform various landscaping and homeowner lawn care maintenance projects.
Why use a lawn roller?
Lawn rollers are used commercially and by homeowners to perform a variety of lawn maintenance tasks. One of the most common is tamping down newly sown grass seed on the soil. The tiny grass seeds can easily blow away in even the slightest wind. Utilizing a lawn roller helps a greater percentage of the seeds to interact with the soil and stay in place until they start to grow.
Don't need a lot of weight here, so with a plastic, or poly, lawn roller, maybe a gallon of water or so will gently tamper the seeds down. A metal lawn roller provides plenty of weight as it is.
Similarly, using a lawn roller on newly laid sod eliminates air pockets and enables the sod to more quickly establish with the base soil which promotes root growth.
In colder latitudes, the ground commonly experiences a series of freezing and thawing. This phenomenon can create numerous rises and bumps in the soil which may be undesirable for well-maintained commercial businesses, common areas, parks and sporting fields, particularly golf.
Homeowner lawns may also need the occasional rolling, particularly owners of large pets or homeowners with frequent wildlife visitors. I mow our lawn at a pretty brisk pace with a push mower. The mower takes a pretty good beating, especially in the early spring, as I navigate over the dog run area. The lawn mower seems to spend more time in the air than in contact with the ground.
One negative impact of a lawn roller is they compact the soil which limits nutrients and inhibits root growth. To minimize this effect, perform annual lawn aeration. Lawn aeration creates small gaps or holes in the soil which enables nutrients to penetrate to the root level and provides the soil room to expand during colder weather. Lawn aerating also helps control lawn thatch. However, be sure to limit lawn aeration to the heavier growing seasons. The aerating process is a very violent and invasive procedure and can do more harm than good if performed during more stressful weather patterns such as high heat, drought and cold weather dormancy. For more information on lawn aeration visit our article Aerating the Lawn.
Another popular use for lawn rollers is called lawn striping. For lawn striping, some homeowners will attach a tow lawn roller to their lawn tractor, or use a manual push lawn roller, to create a pattern in their lawn. As the lawn roller rolls over the lawn, the blades of grass slant and bend depending on the direction of the rolling. This creates a defined pattern in the lawn as the sun light hits the blades at different angles.
Types of Lawn Rollers
In my lawn and garden history, I've seen an amazing variety of lawn rollers (including some that looked more like medieval weapons), but plastic and steel rollers are largely the most common with an occasional cement model. Most models feature a hollow center which can be filled with water, sand or even cement to increase the roller's efficiency (make sure your lawn tractor can handle the extra tow capacity). Usually lawn rollers are associated with lawn and garden tractors as an attachment, but smaller versions exist which feature handles for a manual push roller.
Plastic Lawn Rollers
Plastic, or poly, lawn rollers are increasingly popular with homeowners. While slightly more expensive, the poly roller can provide nearly the same weight capacity with the added benefit of easy storage. While a lawn roller is a useful lawn implement to have around, it won't get used on a regular basis, so easy storage is desirable. A lightweight plastic roller can easily be maneuvered into a corner or even on a shelf.
Metal Lawn Rollers
While a metal lawn roller provides a few extra pounds, it can create a storage issue. The heavy steel rollers are difficult to maneuver and commonly relegated to valuable garage floor space. Some steel rollers feature lips on the edges which have a tendency to rip into lawns on turns and uneven landscapes. Also, being steel, these rollers can be susceptible to rust if the coating is compromised. If you still think steel is the way to go, you might try renting. Machine rental businesses commonly rent out commercial steel lawn rollers much more economically.
Share your lawn rolling experience or if you'd like more information.