How to Choose and Use a Fertilizer Spreader

Although fertilizers can be applied by hand or with a watering can, using an spreader may often be far easier. These calibrated spreaders make it easier for home gardeners to prepare and apply the prescribed amounts of fertilizer.

If you use a spreader for herbicides, wash it thoroughly before using it for fertilizer.

Broadcast Push Spreaders

These tools distribute granular fertilizers, as well as grass seed and pesticides. They are very useful for spreading fertilizer on landscaped beds, vegetable gardens, and other large areas with uneven surfaces.

Broadcast spreaders consist of a wheeled frame, a hopper, an agitator, and a spinning disk. The hopper holds the fertilizer. As the gardener begins walking, material moves down through the agitator onto the spinning disk, which broadcasts it in a uniform are from 4 to 12 feet wide. A micrometer metering control adjusts the amount of fertilizer or other material to be dispensed.

Tips for Use

  1. Don’t spill fertilizers or other chemical materials on turf or garden areas. Fill the spreader in a paved or other work area.
  2. Read the label to determine the correct spreader setting. The settings are based on a normal walking pace.
  3. Make passes with the fertilizer applicator along the length of the area rather than the width. Overlap the swaths by 2 to 3 feet.
  4. Shut off the spreader when making sharp turns and bringing the spreader to a complete stop. Don’t open the spreader while pulling it backward.
  5. Follow directions when cleaning the applicator. Don’t leave fertilizer or other materials in the applicator.

Drop Spreaders

Designed to apply granular fertilizers, insecticides, and grass seed on small to medium-sized lawns and gardens, drop spreaders distribute materials in a path as wide as the opening on the bottom of the spreader. The spreader is composed of a hopper, an agitator bar, and the shutoff blade. Drop spreaders give the most even and precise application.

Tips for Use

  1. Fill the applicator off the lawn to prevent burning the grass.
  2. Open the hopper after beginning walking.
  3. Close the hopper on turns.
  4. Overlap wheel marks on adjacent passes.
  5. Calibrate the spreader occasionally to make sure that it is dropping the right amount of fertilizer. Read the instructions on both the fertilizer container and the applicator.

Tractor Pull Spreaders

Some broadcast spreaders attach to riding lawn mowers or tractors for easy application of fertilizers, pesticides, and grass seed on large gardens and lawns. A spinning disk throws material in a 6- to 16-foot-wide are across the area. A micrometer setting regulates the disk movement as well as the dispense rate of granular fertilizers and grass seed.

Tips for Use

  1. Fill the hopper on the sidewalk or driveway to avoid accidentally spilling material on the lawn.
  2. Determine the spreader setting from the product label, based on a normal walking pace.
  3. Operate the spreader lengthwise on the lawn, with 2- to 3-foot overlapping swaths.
  4. Shut off the spreader when making sharp turns and before coming to a complete stop to avoid dumping extra fertilizer.
  5. Hose off the spreader after each use; occasionally lubricate the moving parts.

Hand-Held Broadcast Spreaders

These efficient multipurpose spreaders are designed for fertilizing lawns, ground covers, landscaped beds, and vegetable gardens and for seeding small lawn areas. The spreader is basically a hopper with a crank handle and broadcast wheel. The gardener should walk at a comfortable, even pace, turning the handle one complete turn for each step forward with the right foot. Settings adjust for different kinds of fertilizer or seed.

Tips for Use

  1. Apply the material evenly over the area to be treated, walking at a normal pace.
  2. Ensure even coverage by spreading the product in a crisscross pattern, applying a second application at a right angle to the first.
  3. Apply a uniform swath 8 to 12 feet wide, noting the width of the first swath and judging the return accordingly. The higher the spreader is held, the wider the swath.