Rolling Advice

Rolling Guidelines  


This was first published in 2023 but with the wettest February on record just endured the advice is very relevant again.

More damage than good can be done if conditions are not right.

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 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

Tel:  Work 07934 299 827

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