Summary: Fertilizer spreaders make the application of spreading lawn fertilizer much easier, faster and uniform – uniformity is very important. There are 4 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 fertilizer spreaders and wanted some input.
Our yard is standard size, and wanted to get a fertilizer spreader to start doing our own lawn fertilizer applications. We do not have a garden shed to store much equipment, so everything has to go in our garage. Can you give us some direction for the best spreader for our needs? Haley, Nashville, Tenn
Answer: Haley, fertilizer spreaders are a great lawn 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.
Usually when the term “fertilizer spreader” is used it always seems to be associated with fertilizing the lawn, but depending on your needs, the “spreader” could have other uses as well. Let’s see if we can help you some potential – fertilizing ideas.
For starters there are 4 basic types of fertilizer applicators, let’s look at each one, along with some to the advantages and disadvantages.
4 Types of Fertilizer Spreaders
- Liquid Fertilizer for Lawns
- Manual Fertilizer Spreading by Hand
- Broadcast Spreader – Hand-Held, Push-Type, Pull or Tow Behind
- Drop Spreader
The use of liquid fertilizer for plants and flower growing has been used for decades. Today more chemicals are used in liquid feeding, years ago liquid fertilizer was basically a “manure tea” which was used as a liquid fertilizer.
Modern liquid fertilizing is done today with a hose-attached sprayer that siphons off and mixes a liquid concentrate. For ease of use liquid fertilizer is great.
Measure out 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 fertilizing your plants in pots such as orchids and container plants is wonderful, fertilizing the lawn using liquid is not so much fun.
There are several reasons:
- Applying fertilizer evenly is difficult
- Time required to apply adequate amounts of nitrogen needed for grass to grow and stay green
- Getting the required fertilizer rates mixed correctly can be an issue
Learning the mix liquid fertilizer is not difficult. For those with a very small yard or a small patio area liquid may be the answer. As the sole way of applying fertilizer to the lawn, liquid would not be my first choice.
Manual Fertilizer Spreading by Hand
The other option for those with a very small yard is the – manual fertilizer method. This is where solid or granular fertilizer is put out by hand.
It is as simple as grabbing a handful from a bucket and “throwing” it out over the lawn.
Again the problem is 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.
Broadcast Spreader – Hand, Push-Type, Pull, Tow Behind or Powered
In my opinion the broadcast fertilizer spreader is the best, easiest and most versatile of all the spreaders used in application of dry fertilizer in both commercial applications and for the homeowner.
All broadcast spreaders work basically the same way. The spreaders have a “hopper” where the dry granular fertilizer is loaded.
The fertilizer falls onto a spinner or whirling wheel that throws and distributes the fertilizer pellets over a wide area. This gives good, even distribution of the fertilizer.
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. This can be done 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 spreader is also nice for fertilizing landscape plants and beds, where the fertilizer can be “thrown” into the beds and around plants evenly.
Broadcast type fertilizer spreaders come in several types:
- Hand-Held – a perfect spreader for the homeowner with a small yard and limited storage space. A small hand-crank turns the spinner. The small “hopper” means more refills but for small applications it is not an issue.
- Push – ideal for larger yards
- Pull or Tow Behind – This broadcast spreader would be under on even larger areas (e.g. golf course) where an ATV or small tractor would be used to pull the spreader. A nice feature of the large units is they can do double duty and put out sand and even some compost.
- Self Powered Spreaders – These units are found in commercial applications where large areas are being fertilized but the turning areas may not handle a pull/tow behind or where a push unit would be undersized.
Drop spreaders were probably the first to be used in applying dry granular fertilizers. Just like the broadcast spreader, drop spreaders have a “hopper”.
The first fertilizer simply drops out the bottom as as the spreader moves forward. It is very important with each pass that the wheels overlap for even fertilizer distribution. Drop spreaders are also good to use for putting out grass seed.
If the fertilizer is applied too heavy in an area, green stripes may show up on the turf of even possible burning of the grass.
Fertilizers are chemicals and are corrosive. Most of the materials used in the manufacturing spreaders today are tough plastics and fiberglass. There are some metal used as well and even some 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.
Manufacturers of Spreaders for Homeowners: Earthway | Scotts Company | Solo | Lesco | Spyker
Manufacturers of Commercial Fertilizer Spreaders: Earthway | Lesco | Scotts | Toro | Gandy | JRCO