There are three basic types of fertilizer spreaders: the rotary or broadcast, the drop, and the liquid or spray spreader. Depending on your spreading needs, each of these spreader types has its advantages.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson suggests, "Always test your soil before beginning a fertilizing program. Fertilize only before you expect a light and steady rain shower."
1. Rotary Fertilizer Spreaders
The rotary spreader is used for spreading dry, evenly sized fertilizers such as granular fertilizer. Rotary spreaders provide even coverage for soil and can also be used to re-seed lawns and spread salt on winter ice. The rotary fertilizer spreader releases fertilizer onto a disk that throws in a semi-circle ahead of the machine.
Sizes range from small, handheld spreaders (for smaller gardens) to larger push-along models (for larger yards). Handheld models are ideal for small areas and spaces near walkways and patios as they allow a greater degree of accuracy. The user must turn a hand crank at a steady rate to ensure even coverage.
Push models are most effective when covering more open areas, as they can lay fertilizer in an arc up to 3 feet around the hopper. You must walk at a steady pace when using this model to avoid applying fertilizer unevenly to different areas.
TIP: Susan adds, "Clean your spreader throughly between uses."
2. Drop Fertilizer Spreader
The drop spreader can be used for granular fertilizer or uneven materials like mulch or compost. It requires open space for the best results, as it must be worked in straight, overlapping lines. On each pass of a drop fertilizer spreader, you cover half of the previous pass. This is usually accomplished by matching up a marker with the wheel track of the previous pass.
These fertilizers work by pushing fertilizer out through a gap in the bottom of the hopper to the ground directly below, hence the name “drop” spreader. The two most common sizes for drop fertilizer spreaders are push-along models and pull-along. Pull-along spreaders attach to riding mowers and sprinkle fertilizer as the grass is cut. This makes them an ideal choice for the even application of mulch and grass clippings from a mower bag. Push models are effective in smaller areas where a riding mower is not able to make even passes.
3. Liquid Fertilizer Spreader
Liquid fertilizer spreaders work by attaching a garden hose to a canister with an adapter nozzle. The canister contains dry fertilizer that is designed to dissolve quickly. The fertilizer is then sprayed out the end of the adapter nozzle. Liquid spreaders are good for quick, light fertilizing jobs, but lack the accuracy and even application provided by rotary or drop spreaders.
TIP: Susan advises, "Manure tea fertilizer can be applied any time of the year and is often all a lawn needs to thrive."
To choose the best fertilizer spreader for your project, decide what type of fertilizer you plan to use and how large an area you wish to cover. Consider whether you will be working around walkways, patios, gardens, or other obstructions. You may need more than one type of spreader if you are working in a varied landscape or if you plan to use more than one type of fertilizer.