What zoysia driveways in southern Thailand taught me about rolling

I see a lot of grass in driveways, parks, lawns, and fields when I run around southern Thailand. And because I can’t run very fast, and I happen to be curious about grasses, I get a pretty good look at what is growing.

A driveway of manilagrass (*Zoysia matrella*) in southern Thailand with the differences in turf height, texture, and ground cover caused by traffic (rolling).
A driveway of manilagrass (Zoysia matrella) in southern Thailand with the differences in turf height, texture, and ground cover caused by traffic (rolling).

There’s a manilagrass driveway that I pay special attention to every time I run past it. The grass is all the same on the driveway and lawn here—this is what in Thailand is called yaa yipon, or Japanese grass.

This is all the same grass; differences in height and texture are caused by rolling.
This is all the same grass; differences in height and texture are caused by rolling.

When it gets no rolling, or no traffic, it grows to 30 cm and is unsuitable for any type of turf purpose. When it gets too much rolling, and the soil becomes too compacted, there is bare ground.

But with just the right amount of rolling, it makes a perfect turf with no mowing required.

The apprearance and playability of manilagrass can be manipulated by rolling.
The apprearance and playability of manilagrass can be manipulated by rolling.

So what did I learn about rolling? That rolling, on its own, can almost be enough to produce a fine turf of this grass. With all the caveats of course—in a driveway, with a red rock compactable soil, etc.

But I think this observation can be applied to manilagrass in general. This species responds well to the right amount of traffic. And more broadly, this might apply to species like creeping bentgrass too, which also have a tendency for rapid growth where they are well-adapted, which can develop elevated crowns that are prone to scalping, and which can develop a different type of growth habit when rolled frequently.

Rolling a manilagrass putting green in Thailand.

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