Two Types of Fertilizer Spreaders and How They Work
Broadcaster spreaders and drop spreaders are push-powered workhorses that share many features in common. At the heart of both is a hopper with adjustable holes in the bottom. A gauge mounted on the spreader’s handlebar allows you to accurately set the size of these holes (following the recommended setting listed on many bags of lawn products), allowing the proper volume of material to uniformly exit the hopper. Alongside the gauge, a flow lever controls when the material drops onto the lawn by opening and closing a plate under the hopper holes. But the two machines have their differences, too.
Drop spreaders lay a trail of material the width of their hopper (less than 24 in.). They work best on small lawns and in yards with numerous flowerbeds, sidewalks or patios where you need to carefully control the spread pattern. Unless you’re meticulous about lining up adjacent passes, the payload either is laid too thick or misses portions of the grass, resulting in visible striping.
Broadcast spreaders are the choice of the pros and the focus of our story. Broadcasters work best for yards larger than 4,000 sq. ft. They deliver their payload more quickly over a wider area—and without striping the lawn. One of their wheels is geared so that as you push the broadcaster, the drive wheel turns a whirling impeller plate under the hopper that catches and throws the payload. When the shutoff plate is open, the impeller broadcasts the material in a 180-degree arc 7 ft. to 11 ft. wide (depending on the product’s granular size and your walking speed).