Whether you seed a new lawn, feed an existing garden, or treat your yard for bug infestations, a fertilizer spreader is an invaluable tool. Sure, you could just throw seeds and fertilizer out by hand, but it takes longer, results are not consistent, and it puts you in contact with potentially dangerous chemicals.
You can use a fertilizer spreader to apply any lawn treatment, including grass seed, lime, insecticide, fungicide, and of course, fertilizer. These machines evenly apply products, so your yard is luxuriant, you waste less product and spend less time and effort. You can even use the fertilizer spreader in the off-season to spread salt on icy walkways and paths.
Consider the following list of some of the highest-rated fertilizer spreaders to find one that’s right for you.
- BEST OVERALL: Titan 50 Lb. Fertilizer Broadcast Spreader
- RUNNER-UP: Earthway 2150 Commercial Walk-Behind Spreader
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Scotts Turf Builder EdgeGuard Spreader
- UPGRADE PICK: Agri-Fab 45-0462 Push Broadcast Spreader
- BEST PULL-BEHIND: Agri-Fab 45-0463, 130-Pound Tow Behind Spreader
- BEST DROP: Scotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader
- BEST HAND-HELD: Scotts Whirl Hand-Powered Spreader
Types of Fertilizer Spreaders
Two basic types of spreaders exist for dry applications––rotary spreaders, also known as broadcast spreaders and drop spreaders. There are also spreaders designed for liquid chemicals.
A rotary spreader uses a rotating base plate to disperse seeds or granules that slowly pour from a hopper. They are called broadcast spreaders because they throw the product several feet to the front and sides of the spreader itself.
Rotary spreaders cover an area three times their width, or broader, on every pass. These are the fastest tools you can use to spread dry materials, but their spreading abilities are less accurate than those of drop spreaders. Rotary spreaders are available in several sizes, so you can buy one that works for a tiny garden, large estate lawn, and anything in the middle.
When precision is critical, choose a drop spreader. These devices drop a swath of product through a wide, narrow opening directly beneath the spreader. They provide calibrated coverage, but the precision boosts the chance you will miss or double cover an area.
If you have a precise area you want to cover, this tool is ideal. You can easily control where a drop spreader distributes the product because it only drops between its wheels. The downside is that you spend more time covering a lawn if you use a drop spreader instead of a rotary spreader.
The most efficient way to spread liquid fertilizer and other liquid lawn treatments are with a hose-end chemical spreader/sprayer. These devices automatically mix the correct proportion of concentrated chemicals with the flowing stream of water that travels through the spreader and out the nozzle.
Liquid spreaders are especially useful as secondary tools for emergency treatments such as bug infestation. They allow you to apply the coverage quickly, though less accurate than the other two types of spreaders. Remember, too, that liquid lawn chemicals deliver fast results, but most liquids dissipate more quickly than granules, so regular use is costly.
What to Consider When You Buy a Fertilizer Spreader
Before you choose a particular spreader, consider various features and your yard or area you want to use it on. How much land will the spreader cover? Do you want to push the spreader by hand, or do you want to pull it behind a lawn tractor or other vehicle? Do you need one that is fully assembled? Consider the following highly-rated spreaders to make the proper choice for you.
Method of Operation
The most popular spreaders are broadcast because they offer a balance between speed and precision. Manufacturers make these spreaders in a wide range of sizes, from small, hand-held models to extra-large spreaders that you can pull behind vehicles.
Drop spreaders are the best choice when you must navigate obstacles and narrow spaces. They work exceptionally well on small to medium, intensively landscaped yards.
You want to know the spreader’s holding capacity because that will determine how often you have to refill the spreader based on the size of the area you use it on. Ideally, you can simply fill the spreader and deposit the treatment on the entire area.
Holding capacity and lawn size go hand in hand. A handheld spreader is well-suited for small lawns up to 1,500 square feet. For medium-sized lawns up to 5,000 square feet, a small, walk-behind spreader suits the job. Large walk-behind spreaders work well for yards up to about 20,000 square feet. Go for a tow-behind spreader if your yard is larger than half an acre.
Spreading capacity refers to the types of materials that a spreader can handle. All fertilizer spreaders are capable of spreading grass seeds and pelletized chemicals, but far fewer can handle sand, powdered lime, and compost.
All lawn spreaders deliver better precision than you can attain when you spread fertilizer by hand. Still, some spreaders are more precise than their competitors. Accuracy and speed oppose one another in the case of spreaders. Drop spreaders are precise but slower. Broadcast spreaders are a bit less accurate, but faster. Liquid spreaders are not exact, but quite fast.
Drop spreaders are the most precise because manufacturers calibrate them for a consistent flow rate and only spread a thin band directly beneath the hopper, situated between the wheels. You can calibrate a broadcast spreader to deliver a steady flow rate, but you must walk at a consistent pace for even coverage. Manufacturers calibrate liquid spreaders to mix the amount of concentrate per gallon of water accurately, but you are in control of the coverage.
Our Top Picks
Consider some of the top picks laid out in this buying guide. These picks are based on their overall spreading capacity, holding capacity, precision, and method of operation.
Titan’s 50 lb. Fertilizer Broadcast Spreader evenly distributes herbicides, fertilizers, insecticides, grass seed, and even ice melters, features a high-capacity 50-pound drum, and has a three-position gearbox that allows you to control product flow.
The manufacturer made this spreader from high-grade steel and heavy-duty plastic parts. It weighs 25 pounds, so it’s light enough to move but heavy enough to tackle hilly, root-filled rugged terrain. It rides on pneumatic tires so that you can run it on turf or sod without damage to the grass. It measures 25 x 15 x 15 inches, so it doesn’t require excessive storage space.
This spreader creates a wide path, best for open spaces that are 10,000 square feet and larger. On the downside, the assembly instructions are complicated. You will likely spend a few hours to assemble this spreader and additional time to familiarize yourself with the fine flow calibration.
The Earthway 50-Pound Walk-Behind Broadcast Spreader is a commercial grade, multi-use spreader that measures 15.75 x 14.5 x 23.63 inches. The heavy-duty plastic hopper handles yards from 10,000 square feet up to one acre. The two-position height adjustment handle and T-speed lever provide excellent operator comfort and control for users of different heights. The even spread 3-hole drop shutoff system ensures an even spread pattern, and a feathered spread edge ensures a smooth application.
The frame is engineered with a 175-pound load-bearing limit for durability under rugged operating conditions such as uneven terrain. The 13-inch diameter stud tires on rust-proof poly rims provide long-term durability and smooth operation. The commercial-grade, super-duty gearbox, is built to last for years. You can expect to spend a few hours on the assembly and calibration of this spreader.
Scotts Turf Builder EdgeGuard Mini Broadcast Spreader is small, lightweight, and easy to store in limited space thanks, in part, to a fold-down handle on this one-pound spreader that measures 16 x 20 x 45.25 inches. It’s built to hold up to 5,000 square feet of lawn products, so it suits yards up to 10,000 square feet. You can use the control panel with precision rate settings for more accurate coverage. The Edgeguard feature blocks coverage on the right side of the spreader so you won’t throw the spread onto sidewalks or flower beds.
This lightweight spreader with plastic wheels requires no assembly and is affordable, but it does have a few flaws. The wheels require a lot of pushing on all but the smoothest yards. Also, the final bits of the product tends to stick to the bottom of the spreader.
The Agri-Fab Push Broadcast Spreader’s 130-pound capacity is designed for yards up to one acre in size. A steel rod flow control arm makes it easy for you to open and close the rust-proof poly hopper during spreading, and the heavy-duty 1-inch pneumatic tires give you a smooth ride even over roots, rocks, and through dips in the yard. For all that heft, the spreader is only 6.81 pounds and measures just 48 x 27.1 x 33.6 inches. Depending on your speed and application, this spreader can cover 25,000 square feet of the ground.
You need to assemble this spreader, which features a rust-proof poly hopper and a solid rod gate control, but a video tutorial is available online. One potential downside is a possible grinding sound that emanates from the gearbox due to excessive axle movement.
A tow-behind spreader works well when you spread seed and other materials over an acre or more. You can use this spreader’s universal hitch to couple the Agri-Fab 130-Pound Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader with your lawn tractor, riding lawn mower, or other tractor or vehicle. You will find this spreader is quite maneuverable, and spreading is even, due to a steel-constructed direct flow control arm that you operate from the driver’s seat. This spreader features a 130-pound capacity heavy-duty plastic hopper, 13-inch pneumatic tires, and steel frame.
This 58-pound spreader boasts a low center of gravity and 13 x 14-inch pneumatic wheels on a wide wheelbase for excellent stability on sloped terrain. This spreader measures 8.11 x 10.68 x 12.40 inches and arrives unassembled. The manufacturer makes video tutorial assistance available.
The Scotts Classic Drop Spreader has a large, heavy-duty plastic hopper that holds enough product to cover up to 10,000 square feet. Its 22-inch spread pattern provides excellent coverage and accuracy that you manage with a cable-driven gate control on the handle. You select any of the 23 spreader settings. To operate, squeeze the handle to open the hopper and loosen your grip to stop the flow.
This spreader, which measures 18 x 32 x 47 inches, comes pre-assembled and calibrated. The 12.5-pound spreader has a heavy-duty frame, but the other parts are mainly lightweight plastic. This spreader is a solid choice for occasional use on a small property, especially where numerous plant beds, sidewalks, tree rings, and other obstacles break up the lawn area.
The Scotts Whirl Hand-Powered Spreader is a convenient year-round tool for small yards. The small size––it measures just 13.1 x 8.7 x 8.5 inches and weighs just over one pound––is durable and easy to store. It’s constructed from plastic so you can spread fertilizer, ice melt, and other products without the worry that it will corrode the spreader as it would its metal counterparts.
It’s easy to operate. You fill the hopper, squeeze the trigger, and turn the handle to operate it. The trigger opens the hopper gate to release the material. The handle turns the spreader base plate to broadcast the product. For best coverage, walk a consistent pace and crank the handle at a steady rate. This is a simple product that arrives pre-assembled and ready to use.
The Advantages of Fertilizer Spreader Ownership
A fertilizer spreader simplifies lawn treatments because it allows you to quickly and evenly apply seed, fertilizer, and lawn pest control products. You will also save time and money when you use a spreader because it allows you to quickly and evenly use lawn products.
- Spreaders apply lawn treatments far more evenly than hand spreading.
- Fertilizer spreaders significantly reduce the time and effort you expend to apply lawn treatments.
- Your use of a fertilizer spreader minimizes your exposure to lawn chemicals.
FAQs About Your New Fertilizer Spreader
Now that you’ve chosen the best fertilizer spreader for your yard, you may have a few questions. The following are answers to some frequently asked questions about operating and caring for fertilizers.
Q. How do you use a fertilizer spreader?
Refer to your spreader owner’s manual to find the correct setting for the product you will spread. The product label tells you how many pounds to apply per 1,000 square feet.
Load the hopper with enough product for the square footage of the area you will cover. Select the correct setting for the material you spread, squeeze the handle, and walk from one corner of the yard and continue in straight parallel lines until the area is covered.
Q. How do you spread fertilizer without a spreader?
You can spread fertilizer by hand. Don gloves and pour granular fertilizer into a plastic bucket. Start to walk at one corner of the yard and toss fertilizer or other product out in a sweeping motion as you walk in straight lines across the area. You want to pace your walk so that you spread the product as evenly as possible and don’t run out of fertilizer until the end. For more even coverage, apply half the fertilizer while you walk in parallel lines in one direction, then apply the other half while you walk in a perpendicular set of parallel lines.
Q. How do you clean a fertilizer spreader?
Empty the hopper. Use compressed air or a rag to remove all granules and residue that may be caught in spreader parts. Thoroughly wash the spreader, and pay close attention to crevices and moving parts where debris may lodge. Allow the spreader to dry thoroughly. Store it in a dry location out of direct sunlight.