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Roll lawn, a quick and efficient solution

Whether modernizing a garden or restoring a damaged turf sward, turf rolls can be a viable solution to ensure quick and uniform natural coverage

by Lavinia Eleonora Galli
October 2023 | Back

Roll lawn is marketed in strips about 3-5 cm thick of rooted turf sod that, duly rolled for transport, are then spread and laid on an appropriate substrate to create a uniform grassy area of ready effect in public areas (such as flowerbeds or traffic circles), home gardens or vertical gardens, recreation centers or private (e.g., pool edges), terraces, etc.


In order to obtain a homogeneous and high-quality final product, some precautions are required, also taking into account that almost all crops are monovarietal. Careful preparation of the substrate soil is necessary before planting. It must be perfectly even and free of skeleton and other foreign elements. Moreover, it must be drained, so light soils with little silt and clay are preferred. The organic matter content must be high in order to promote, also with the support of appropriate fertilizers, the growth of a consistent and well-vegetated grass sward.

If the sublayer has not been previously cultivated, it is a good idea to carry out preliminary subsoiling in order to encourage deep infiltration of excess rain and irrigation water. To homogenize the texture of the surface layer, it is advisable to intervene with a hoe so as to create a level surface along with a particularly soft seedbed. Basic fertilization, with organic and mineral fertilizers, is always advisable. It is important to properly incorporate nutrients into the soil to prevent direct contact with the delicate roots of seedlings from burning effects.

Seeding can be combined with phosphate fertilization to stimulate grass growth and the distribution of insecticides, in both cases in micro granular form.

Seeding can be combined with phosphate fertilization to stimulate grass growth and the distribution of insecticides, in both cases in micro granular form. The growth stage suitable for strip harvesting is usually reached in 12 to 18 months. It is crucial to check the turf's correct density and the root system's robustness and thickness.


This is the most elaborate stage of the roll grass production process. Sodding machines portion the strips and cut them vertically, transversely and most importantly, horizontally, immediately below the top of the root system. The machinery, whether towed (coupled with tractors of about 70 Hp, depending on the size of the turfgrass machine) or self-propelled (with power greater than 100 Hp), all include a cutting unit, a loading unit, and a roll forming unit. The cutting unit consists of a roller in contact with the lawn surface, a blade for vertical cutting (longitudinal to the direction of travel) and an oscillating blade (single or double, depending on the model) that cuts the root system 3-5 cm below the surface. Everything is hydraulically moved. The length (adjustable that can vary from about 1 meter to more than 2.5 meters) of the sod is defined by an additional blade that descends with a guillotine effect to make the cut transverse to the direction of travel. After picking, the clods are loaded onto grated conveyor belts that convey them to the coiling unit, which consists of a pair of counter-rotating rollers, also grated, that allow constant pressure coiling of the clods. Finally, the rolled clods are moved to the rear of the machine, where a gripper arm piles the rolls onto pallets in opposing layers for later marketing.

In the case of small harvesting areas, instead of opting for trailed or otherwise space-intensive machinery, it is possible to adopt more compact man-present-driven models (on par with motor cultivators and power tillers). These will provide the same result, although producing clods of a smaller width. It goes without saying that such machinery provides only for cutting clods through the blade placed ventrally to the machine that cuts the strips. Rolling will have to be done manually.


Lawn laying in rolls

Logically, it is imperative to prepare the laying soil thoroughly. Furthermore, turf placement should be done in spring or fall, thus taking advantage of the periods of greatest rainfall. It is necessary to remove or deeply bury the skeleton and proceed with careful weed control, which is essential to avoid undesirable competition between species. The soil must then be worked so as to ensure good porosity and optimal water drainage. The rotary tiller (for small areas) or hoes combined with a tractor for larger sizes are appropriate at this stage. Before the clods are laid, any fertilizer must be distributed and buried, and then the surface must be carefully leveled, followed by irrigation, which is essential for ready rooting. The sod layout should follow a pattern that maximizes rooting and minimizes possible risks of desiccation or competition with other species. Sods should be placed in close contact with each other to prevent weeds from settling in any uncovered areas, creating aesthetic discontinuity. The conventional scheme calls for putting the strips parallel to the longest side of the planting area so as to keep sod depeeling to a minimum.

The last intervention concerns the settlement of the turf. This is done by rolling it to facilitate root adhesion to the underlying soil, followed by a few copious waterings every 2 to 3 days. Since this is a transplanted lawn, it is necessary to wait at least a week (or more) before accessing the tilled surface.

Types of cultivable rolling lawns

The range has gradually expanded, depending on the intended use. Not just ornamental (or English) lawns, but numerous alternatives, such as decorative lawns or walkable lawns (made of gram grass that is resistant to trampling and water stress) often preferred for club dehors, home gardens, and some sports facilities (soccer fields). Alternatively, the low-maintenance lawn can also be rustic, i.e., with a dense and robust root system, for safe rooting even on slopes and steep terrain. There is also the shaded lawn, with sciaphilous varieties that need low-light areas, and the multi-variety flowering lawn, which has a more natural impact and requires low maintenance.

Roll lawn varieties

The price of a rolling lawn depends on the area to be covered and the variety chosen. Prices, in fact, can vary as much as 350 percent, depending on the type selected. Some of the most popular varieties are fescue (Festuca arundinacea), manila grass (Zoysia matrella), poa pratense and Lolium perenne, water panicum (Paspalum vaginatum), etc. These varieties should then be differentiated according to the characteristics of the species, such as resistance to trampling, the need for maintenance, and, more importantly, whether they are macrotherms or microtherms.


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