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I purchased a new home this year and the yard maintenance of the previous owner was almost non-existent. As such the lawn has many small bumps and is "lumpy". I have looked into using a lawn roller but found there are many different types and sizes (hand or tractor pulled and all assorted weight capacities).

I do not own a tractor so I would be using a hand model. Obviously I can only use up to weight I can pull physically by myself. My question is how do I know if this will be enough weight to smooth out the lawn?

  • Is your yard mostly flat? What is the size of your yard? Is it minimal bumps and divots, or large bumps? – Swagin9 Jan 15 '16 at 21:38
  • @Swagin9 the yard is about 4000 sqft (45 x 90) with a medium slope for drainage. I would say they are minimal bumps, not deeper than 1/2 to 1 in. – Skooba Jan 15 '16 at 21:49
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A lawn roller is not intended to be used for flattening out a bumpy lawn - I quote directly here from D. G. Hessayon's The Lawn Expert "the purpose of a roller is to firm the surface of an already smooth lawn. It is totally wrong to use it to iron out bumps - it usually makes matters worse by depressing the hollows even further, and compacting the soil". Its intended use on an already smooth lawn is after winter, when some of the turf may have been lifted by hard frosts, and the roller on the back of an ordinary cylinder mower will do this job.

Since your description of the bumps and hollows suggests they are fairly minor in nature, probably the easiest solution is to broadcast finely sifted soil over the area, raking it over to fill in the hollows. For deeper hollows, the soil should be added in stages rather than all at once, unless you want to seed on top of it.

  • Would a broadcast spreader work to evenly distribute the soil over the area? Then would I need to tamp the soil? I was hoping there was a simpler quicker solution! Oh well.... – Skooba Jan 15 '16 at 22:10
  • Yea, probably would work, but the soil needs to be fine, or sifted. And you'd need more in the hollows than you would on the bumps, obviously. You could brush it over afterwards, possibly, or you might have to rake it afterwards, I know its a pain, but a roller isn't going to help... If you had a sit'n'ride mower, constant mowing would sort it out eventually, I've seen that work before over time. – Bamboo Jan 15 '16 at 22:13
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Taking a contrarian view, my neighbor George uses a farm roller to flatten the gopher hills in his fields, indeed to push the rocks back down so he doesn't hit them with the haybine.

For that purpose he pulls a 2 foot diameter roller that is filled with water.

It's important to do this at the right soil moisture levels. To dry, and the bumps don't squish. To wet, and even the bottoms squish down and you have a set of roller wide grooves. You will need to experiment, but off hand, a day after a significant rain is when I would start trying.

I don't see how a roller would make hollows deeper. The advice about soil compaction is valid, however, and this is more likely when rolling wet. I would suggest dethatching your yard before, and aerating it after rolling.

A fertilizer spreader is a time consuming way to do it. Figure: A 40 x 60 foot lawn is 2400 square feet. If the hollows average an inch deep, then you need about 1/2" * 2400 square feet = 1/24 foot * 2400 square feet = 100 cubic feet of soil. Most of those hand crank spreaders do no more than 2 liters. (quarts) That's roughly 1500 trips to the dirt pile.

A good solid wheelbarrow is 2 cubic feet. 2 cuft does 48 square feet of lawn or about 6 feet x 8 feet. So 50 loads. Figure out your spacing, mark them some way, drop a wheelbarrow load on each marker, spread with the back of a rake (splurge: buy a landscape rake -- 3 feet wide.) water and roll.

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150 lbs should be OK if the lawn is damp. I disagree with the argument against flattening with a roller. It works and I have had a wonderful lawn for 10 years running using this technique. Although it sounds logical, your dirt and grass roots receive air through the grass and has zero negative impact on the lawn. However I do agree with aeration and light seeding right after.

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