Rolling Advice

Rolling Guidelines    by Cranfield University

 March 2023

With the forecasted cold weather hitting us , I would like to suggest anyone that has started pre season rolling suspend it whilst we have frost, snow and sleet forecast. 

Although many clubs have made an excellent start to this, the damage that can be done when rolling frozen ground could cause root break and ruin the levels that have been achieved by end of season renovations when topdressing. It would be best to leave it until temperatures are on the rise again and the grass is growing. Damage will be caused to the leaf if rolled when too cold and recovery will be very slow.


Better use of the time would be to order your spring fertiliser from BHGS which will need to be going down ASAP after the cold snap and to plan your pre season rolling (if you haven't started already) for as soon as the ground warms up.  


Below is part of the Cranfield University Guide for rolling in cricket. Full document at the top of this page.


1. Pre-season rolling is recommended for the majority of clubs.

Over-winter wetting reduces the bulk density of the square between cricket

seasons. Following autumn renovation and during the winter

period, many pitches / squares will have been subjected to some form of

mechanical aeration or decompaction which can also reduce density.

If groundsmen did no pre-season rolling at all, the soil would increase in density as

it dries and shrinks but early rolling can help to reduce re-wetting of the soil from

spring rainfall and encourage quicker natural recovery of soil density as the pitch

will dry more quickly.

Pre-season rolling is a good idea – it might be possible to get away without it, if

there is: minimal post-season de-compaction (but not to the detriment of a healthy

root system); a warm dry climate; and a good cover system – but that's not the

case for most cricket clubs in the UK.


2. Don't start until there have been at least two continuous good drying days

– warm temperature (more than 10°C), a breeze and no rain.

There is an optimum moisture content for rolling. If the soil is too wet, compaction

will not take place (see Part 1). Don't just get the roller out because it's February,

don't start too early – it could be wasting time and fuel and causing horizontal soil


Initial rolling can be undertaken after a minimum of 48 hours of dry weather but

any increase in density will be minimal until soil drying increases later in the

spring. This process does help with smoothing out surface levels on the pitch –

removing any over-winter or autumn renovation irregularities.

If there is a known high thatch or organic matter content then leave your pitch to

dry for longer (minimum 3 good drying days) because moisture retention is



3. Start with light rollers but build up roller size and ballast as soon as soil

conditions allow (i.e. without creating a bow wave or deep creasing

between pitches).

The practice of starting rolling with very light rollers (mowers) early in the spring

does little to increase pitch density other than in very low density pitches (below

1.25 g/cm3) such as new constructions. Some sealing of the soil surface may

occur, reducing rain infiltration into the profile and reducing moisture content a

little, however any benefits will be limited and largely aesthetic.

Whilst soil moisture remains high, the moisture/density combination within the soil

rather than the roller weight is likely to be the limit to increasing density. A

gradual increase in roller weight will result in the same final density as using the

heaviest weight of roller throughout.

Be cautious with roller weight to avoid surface damage from horizontal movement,

but the roller with the final desired compactive potential 

should be used at the earliest opportunity to minimise the number of roller



4. Limit rolling sessions to 4-5 passes of a 2-drum roller over each area then

stop and allow a couple of drying days. Then build up roller weight and

get out for another session of 4-5 passes. Finish with a session of 4-5

passes with the heaviest roller when the pitch has dried in-between.

Guidelines for spring roller passes have to be a broad recommendation as

circumstances are different from club to club in terms of density and soil moisture.

No more than five roller passes would be beneficial at any one moisture

content/roller weight combination.

After the initial rolling in spring, at least one further rolling session of 4/5 roller

passes could be productive if soil moisture has reduced. Further rolling will only

increase density if the roller used has not reached its compactive potential and the

soil moisture content is close to optimum or if there has been rainfall for prolonged

periods that has caused the pitch to swell.


5. If possible, cover the pitches/square to help with drying but don't limit

grass growth as healthy grass is a very effective pitch drying system.

Although spring rolling has an important effect on pitch density, the main benefit is

from reducing the overall moisture holding capacity of the soil so that the pitch

profile is ready for match preparation when the playing season begins. Playing

seasons that start early, before vigorous grass growth, will need the use of covers

to aid in the reduction of soil moisture, although the drying process will be slow

due to low early season temperatures and high humidity under the covers.


6. The practice of cross rolling in a 'Union-Jack pattern' over the square can

help to ensure even compaction across the square.

Follow this method initially but be aware of variations in construction across the

square which could cause different pitches to be at different moisture contents.


Hope the above helps, 


Kind Regards


Simon Johnson

Regional Pitch Advisor 

RFU West

Grounds Management Association