Summary: Fertilizer spreaders make the application of spreading lawn fertilizer much easier, faster and uniform – uniformity is vital. There are four basic types of fertilizer applicators/spreaders, and there is one which fits best for your needs and your yard.
Question: We’ve been thinking about buying a lawn fertilizer spreader and wanted some input.
Our yard is standard size and we want to purchase a lawn fertilizer spreader to start making our own fertilizer applications. We do not have a garden shed to store much equipment, so everything needs to go in our garage. Can you give us some direction for the best spreader for our needs? Haley, Nashville, Tenn
Answer: Haley, lawn fertilizer spreaders are a great tool for both the professional/commercial applicator and do-it-yourselfer.
Getting the right one for your fertilizer application will make the task of fertilizing the lawn and landscape a much easier job.
When using the term “fertilizer spreader” it comes associated with “turf builder” and lawn care. However, depending on your needs, the “spreader” does have other uses as well. Let’s see if we can help you some potential – fertilizing ideas.
For starters there are four basic types of fertilizer applicators, let’s look at each one, along with some of the advantages and disadvantages.
4 Types of Lawn Fertilizer Spreaders
- Liquid Fertilizer for Lawns
- Manual Fertilizer Spreading by Hand
- Broadcast Spreader – Hand-Held, Push-Type, Pull or Tow Behind
- Drop Fertilizer Spreader
The use of liquid fertilizer for plants and flower growing has been used for decades. Today you’ll find more chemicals used in liquid feeding, years ago when mentioning liquid fertilizer you referred to “manure tea.”
Today, liquid fertilizing uses a hose-attached sprayer that siphons off and mixes a liquid concentrate. For ease of use liquid fertilizer is great.
Measure out the application rate of the fertilizer (in liquid form or a solid fertilizer that dissolves in water) into the hose fertilizer attachment, turn the water on and start fertilizing as you water.
Ease of application for feeding your plants in pots such as orchids and container plants is fantastic, fertilizing the lawn using liquid is not so much fun.
There are several reasons:
- Evenly applying fertilizer is difficult
- Time required applying adequate amounts of nitrogen needed for grass to grow and stay green
- Getting the required fertilizer rates mixed correctly can be an issue
Learning to mix liquid fertilizer is not difficult. For those with a small lawn or a small patio area, liquid feeding may be the answer. As the sole way of applying fertilizer to the lawn, liquid feeding would not be my first choice.
Manual Fertilizer Spreading by Hand
The other option for those with small lawns is the – manual fertilizer method. Applying solid or granular fertilizer by hand.
It is as simple as grabbing a handful from a bucket and “throwing” the lawn product out over the lawn.
Again the problem – even distribution. It takes a very talented individual to get it right. If you have no other option, use an underhanded swing for best results. Most hand held spreaders are less than $20, and last for years!
Top Hand Held Fertilizer Spreaders
- Scotts Wizz Hand-Held Spreader
- Scotts Easy Hand-Held Broadcast Spreader
- Precision Products Handheld Broadcast Spreader
Broadcast Spreader – Hand, Push-Type, Pull, Tow Behind or Powered
In my opinion, the broadcast fertilizer spreader or rotary spreader is the best, easiest and most versatile of all the spreaders used to apply dry fertilizer in both commercial applications and for the homeowner, especially those with a large lawn.
All broadcast spreaders work the same way. The lawn spreader comes with a “hopper” where you load the dry granular fertilizer. All come with a spreader setting to adjust the spreader calibration and regulate the amount of fertilizer being applied.
The fertilizer falls onto a spinner or whirling wheel like this one that throws and distributes the fertilizer pellets over a wide area. This “throw” provides a good, even fertilizer distribution.
Since the fertilizer is “thrown” over a wide area fewer trips back and forth on the lawn are required to complete the application. It is a good idea to measure the “throw width” before applying. Do a test run by taking the spreader for a test run over dark pavement.
For best and most even coverage apply fertilizer in one direction – north – south for example. Then make another pass in an east – west direction.
A broadcast lawn spreader is also helpful for fertilizing landscape plants and beds, where the fertilizer can be “thrown” into the beds and around plants evenly. The broadcast type doubles as a fertilizer seed spreader to put out grass and lawn seed and some use it to spread salt for ice melt.
Broadcast type fertilizer spreaders come in several types:
- Handheld Spreader – a perfect spreader for the homeowner with a small yard and limited storage space. A small hand-crank turns the spinner. The small “poly hopper” requires more refills, but for small applications like broadcasting seed and fertilizer, this is not an issue.
- Walk Behind or Push Spreaders – ideal for the larger yard. This one from Agri-Fab holds 100 pounds.
- Pull or Tow-Behind Spreaders – This broadcast spreader would be used on even larger areas (e.g. golf course) where an ATV or small tractor can pull the tow-behind broadcast spreader. A nice feature of the large units is they can do double duty and put out sand and as a compost spreader.
- Self Powered Spreaders – You’ll find these units in commercial applications where large areas need fertilizing and the turning areas may not handle a pull/tow behind unit or where a push unit would be undersized. The PrizeLawn Power spreader and the Spyker Ride On Spreader are examples.
Drop Fertilizer Spreader
Drop fertilizer spreaders were probably the first to be used in applying dry granular fertilizers. Just like the broadcast spreader, drop spreaders have a “hopper.”
The fertilizer only drops out the bottom as the spreader moves forward. For even fertilizer distribution it is important that the wheels overlap with each pass. Drop spreaders are good to use for putting out grass seed.
If the fertilizer application is too heavy in an area, green stripes may show up on the turf or possibly burn the grass.
Fertilizers are chemicals and corrosive. Most of the materials used in the manufacturing spreaders today use of tough plastics and fiberglass in their construction. Some units are built with metal as well as stainless steel. For long life of your spreader, thoroughly clean, rinse, wash out and dry the spreader after each use to prevent corrosion.
There are many fertilizer spreader options to choose from… select the best one or ones that meet your fertilizer application needs.
Top Manufacturers of Spreaders for Homeowners: Earthway | Scotts Company | Chapin
Top Manufacturers of Commercial Fertilizer Spreaders: Earthway | Scotts | Agri-Fab
Video: How To Use A Lawn Fertilizer Spreader Broadcast and Drop Types
When applying fertilizer to a lawn using a spreader will make the application easier and make the distribution more uniform. The video below discuss the 2 basic types of fertilizer spreaders: rotary or broadcast and drop spreaders.
Broadcast spreaders, cover a lot of acreage quickly. If you want complete control, think about getting a drop spreader.
There are a few tips in operating a fertilizer spreader. Check out this on how you can make sure your lawn gets the food in the right amounts and places.