Updated: November 2017

aerator spreader

Lawn/Garden Spreader Reviews:

  • What is a garden spreader?
  • Benefits of using a broadcast spreader
  • How much do drop spreaders cost? Which should I buy?

Springtime is when homeowners and landscapers are out in full strength trying to make their gardens and lawns look beautiful for the summer season. A garden or lawn spreader is a versatile piece of equipment to own so that you can put down fertilizer, seeds, manure, compost, sand, lime/moss out in a quick and organized manner.

I have owned a hand-crank spreader for years and have always dreaded the growing season of my lawn (although it's not big) because the hand spreader doesn't work good enough. I end up getting the fertilizer on my clothing or worse yet on my hands. If there is the slightest breeze, the fertilizer gets blown all over the place before it even reaches the lawn or garden. I finally realized that buying a walk behind spreader would be a wise investment. A garden spreader will certainly allow me to fertilize and seed my lawn in a safe and efficient manner.

The video below shows the basic functions of using a lawn spreader by Scotts:

What to look for in a lawn spreader?

There are generally two types of fertilizer spreaders - drop spreaders and broadcast spreaders. A broadcast spreader (sometimes called a rotary spreader) is perfect for those with larger lawns or acreage. Broadcast spreaders cover lots of territory but they lack control because the spinning disc that drops the materials from the spreader doesn't always put it out in a uniform way.

The area around the spreader gets fertilized the most but the outlying areas are harder to get done evenly. You will find that broadcast spreaders thrown seeds and fertilizer way off target at times. Since coverage with a broadcast spreader has a tendency to be uneven in spots, some experts say you should go over the lawn again. Results are still mixed on broadcast spreaders.

Drop spreaders will certainly not waste any fertilizer as it will be dropped straight out of the hopper in a line. The width of the hopper will be the exact amount of space that is covered by the drop spreader meaning you get quality coverage in a much smaller area than with the broadcast spreader. Sometimes "striping" happens where the fertilizer only gets certain areas of your lawn and the rest goes unfertilized. You will need to be more thorough with a drop spreader to create a nice even finish on your lawn or garden.

The handheld, crank-operated spreaders (that I mentioned above) are recommended for smaller lawns. They function like a mini-broadcast spread in that they spread the fertilizer out in all directions, unfortunately you will probably get some on yourself or your clothing.

Most people use the walk behind spreaders in their yards, but those with more acreage or larger lawns should consider attaching a tow spreader to their lawn tractors for effective usage. Make sure you calibrate the spreader so that your seed or fertilizer will be distributed properly and evenly. When you are finished using the spreader, close it up so that no fertilizer loosely falls out.

You should also clean your spreader with water after every use so that the fertilizer remnants can't cause it to rust. Consumers say they prefer drop spreaders for smaller lawns since they do a better job around planter boxes, trees and shrubs. For those with larger yards, a broadcast spreader may be a faster solution as long as you are willing to give up a little control in pattern consistency.

Lowes carries Agri-Fab spreaders, John Deere spreaders, and Scotts broadcast spreaders. Home Depot carries Scotts and Brinly brands while Sears stocks Craftsman, Lawn Crafter, and Agri-Fab spreaders. Other top brands include Earthway and Lesco spreaders. There are consumer reviews on Amazon.com, some excellent pointers and feedback in the Gardenweb.com forums, and owner opinions on Epinions.com.

Unfortunately we could not find anything from Consumer Reports on lawn and garden spreaders. Popular Mechanics has some articles on lawn care and the use of spreaders, but no particular brands or models are reviewed or recommended. We did our own research at Lowes and read as many online reviews to come up with a short list of the "best lawn spreaders" on the market. You can browse the up-to-date list of best-selling broadcast spreaders here.

drop spreaders

Drop Spreaders:

The Scotts AccuGreen 3000 Drop Spreader ($42.99) is the perfect spreader for those wanting accurate results. The hopper holds up to 10,000 sq. ft. of lawn fertilizer and the 22 inch spread pattern will finish the job in a hurry. The U-shaped handle is ergonomic and the heavy-duty frame makes this spreader stable and durable. Many of the reviews we read online had nothing but high praise for the spreader from Scotts.

Owners say it's an easy and convenient way to feed or fertilize grass that had adjacent vegetable gardens, sidewalks, or plant beds. Drop spreaders are great at keeping waste to a minimum and they do very even coverage. It comes pre-calibrated and no assembly is required for all of us beginner DIY (do-it yourselfers). The end result is a healthy and full lawn or grass area.

To check out how to use a drop spreader as a part of a complete lawn care routine - click the image below to go to video.

garden spreader

Broadcast Spreader:

The Scotts Standard Broadcast Spreader is a high quality spreader that we found at Lowes home improvement store. There is a deluxe version that does offers EdgeGuard, but we think the standard spreader works just fine. It sells for less than $30 and holds over 10,000 sq. ft. of fertilizer. The broadcast, or rotary spreader will give you an almost 5 foot spread ensuring all parts of your lawn will get fertilized.

The broadcast spreaders are meant for those with larger lawn acreage since they can fertilizer up to 5 acres in a short time. A simple level mechanism on the handle lets you control the amount of seed or fertilizer being dropped. Another plus is that no assembly is required on this Scotts broadcast spreader. Customers rate this product very high for features, value, design, and quality. It gets a near perfect score for ease of use which is what all homeowners really want.

Most fertilizer and seed that you buy will tell you specifically how much to use on a given square footage of lawn in your yard. Follow the directions and let the Scotts spreader do the rest. RECOMMENDED - Another top model, though more expensive, is the Earthway 2050P Estate 80-Pound Walk-Behind Broadcast Spreader ($95). The big pneumatic tires make it easy to maneuver, even with a full load, while it spreads accurately and evenly.

Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader:

The Earthway Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader ($80) is a top rated spreader that holds up to 80 pounds of fertilizer. The Earthway spreader has an excellent reputation in the industry and this tow behind model gets great reviews on sites like Amazon.com.

It's designed for use with full size lawn tractors that can pull it behind them. There is a rate control setting on the handle so you can adjust the output as you move around your yard or garden. For this with midsize to large yards, the Earthway 2050TP will apply fertilizer and grass seeds quite easily. Owners say assembly was the easiest they have ever seen for such a sturdy machine and that the wheels are top quality.

Another popular product is the Agri-Fab 125 Lb. Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader ($150) which is almost double the price of the Earthway above. It does hold more fertilizer meaning you can get large jobs done on one single pass and don't have to reload so often. The spread width is 10 to 12 feet and it covers about 25,000 square feet. The pneumatic turf tred tires make for easy towing and the spreader has a more heavy-duty feel to it than the Earthway model.

The one drawback noted by most reviewers on all the tow behind models of broadcast spreaders is that they are hard to set in terms of the amount of fertilizer or seed to be released. You have to keep getting off your lawn tractor to adjust the spreader settings since certain areas of your lawn or yard require more or less fertilizer than others. Most say it's a hassle worth dealing with since the tow behind models cover so much territory in very little time.

lawn fertilizer spreader best garden spreader

Aerator Spreader:

A combination aerator and lawn spreader is an excellent garden tool to have. The Brinly 40 In. Tow-Behind 2-in-1 Aerator Spreader will make quick work of any lawn and solve 2 problems at once. The aerator spreader sells at Home Depot for around $180. The steel tines on the aerator portion of the machine will put holes up to 2 inches deep in your ground which is the right depth to allow nutrients and water in.

The tine stars will resist rust and get your soil ready for a healthy lawn. The 40 inch wide swath for depositing seeds and fertilizer is plenty wide so the work gets done in no time at all. The spreader has a 100 lb capacity so large areas are no problems. You can control the volume of seeds or fertilizer that is delivered over your lawn or ground.

Assembling this machine appears to be more time consuming that what the manufacturer suggests. More than 1 reviewer said it took almost 1 hour to assembly this aerator/spreader, but once put together it functions beautifully. Other owners said that when the spreader is full, the aerator will penetrate the ground properly, but as more contents are emptied from the spreader and there is less weight to help push the aerator down, you get mixed results. The unit is a tow-behind model so you will need either a lawn tractor or other vehicle to attach it to.

More videos and resources are here on our Fertilizer Spreader Resource Page.

tow behind spreader

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