Things to Know Before Buying a Lawn Spreader
Applying fertiliser or grass seed to your lawn doesn’t have to be the chore of days gone by.
A lawn spreader removes both the tedium and ‘chance’ element from this task. It will allow you to spread product evenly over your lawn so that no parts are left untreated, whilst cutting time – essential for any gardener!
That said, the quest to find the best lawn spreader isn’t without its problems – there are a lot of different designs to choose from, and some may be more suitable for you than others. If you’re considering purchasing a lawn spreader but you’re not sure where to start, take a look at these pointers to help you make an informed decision:
Rotary Vs. Drop Spreaders
These are the two main types of lawn spreader available. Depending on your garden, and preferences, one may suit you better than the other. Both spread seed/fertiliser as you walk along with the unit.
A rotary spreader, sometimes referred to as a ‘broadcast spreader’, works by flinging fertiliser/seeds out as a rotator spins. These spreaders will allow you to cover larger spaces in less time; quite desirable if you have a medium to large size area.
They are not generally as hard to push as drop spreaders, providing a lighter workout, and the speed of distribution is determined by your pace.
However, the application of a rotary spreader may not be as even as a drop spreader; there may be more product that lands closer to the unit and less nearer the parameters of its spreading reach.
They can be good tools to use if you have longer grass because a rotary spreader is better equipped to get the product distributed over the long grass.
Drop spreaders offer a more accurate application than rotary spreaders. There are no flying seeds, or granules of fertilizer, whizzing through the air with these machines. If you have a smaller garden, or an area which is bordered by flowerbeds which you don’t want to treat by accident, these might suit you better.
Their placement is very uniform, as they will only drop seeds through the hole in the base of the unit’s hopper.
You’ll have a lot more control with a drop spreader, but it will take you longer to apply seeds or fertilizer to the whole space.
You can generally choose how slowly or quickly you wish the product to ‘drop’ as well, altering the density of distribution.
Choosing the Right Hopper Size
This hopper is the container where the grass seed or fertiliser is unloaded from.
A hopper that’s too small will need frequent refilling so the job will take you a lot longer. If the capacity is too large, you’ll be pushing unnecessary excess weight.
Ideally, you want to find the perfect balance between ‘as few refills as possible’ and ‘maintaining manoeuvrability’. This will depend on the size of your lawn and the density of product that you want to spread.
If using a rotary spreader, you may find that you use less seeds/fertiliser because it casts them further but less densely. You can still achieve a denser application with a rotary spreader, but you’ll need to complete more passes of the lawn which will take more time.
If using a drop spreader, the application will be more concentrated and therefore you may use more product. You need to be especially careful not to stop still when using a drop spreader – if the aperture is open, the seeds/fertiliser will be heaped in one place.
Adjusting the Distribution Rate
Most lawn spreaders have adjustable settings so that you can easily dictate the rate at which the seed and fertiliser is distributed.
The majority of these machine come with instructions that recommend which settings should be used for different purposes. These generally include information about recommended walking pace to ensure good results.
You should always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions because different models can vary dramatically.
However, here are some general guideline references:
For spreading fertilizer, choose a setting which results in the aperture being 3/4 open.
For spreading seeds, 1/2 open is generally considered to be about right.
Of course, the correct setting will depend on a lot of different factors, including your stride length, so there will likely be a certain amount of trial-and-error when you first start using your spreader.
Generally, a lightweight, durable metal frame and a hopper made from plastic or lightweight steel signify a high-quality spreader.
Make sure that the materials won’t rust by liming their exposure to the elements. Keep your lawn spreader dry and out of direct sunlight as much as possible to prolong the life of the metal and plastic components.
If your lawn is bumpy or on a slope, it’s worth getting a spreader with pneumatic tyres. This can make the job easier; the spreaders won’t get stuck on uneven ground (interrupting distribution) or damage your lawn.
Wide tyres spread the weight of the unit more evenly, which is definitely desirable when looking to protect your lawn.
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Lawn Spreader FAQs
How do lawn spreaders work?
A lawn spreader helps you distribute grass feed, seeds and fertiliser quickly and easily. It ensures you apply your product evenly, saving you serious time when it comes to lawn maintenance.
For larger lawns, rotary spreaders might be more appropriate because they cast the seeds/fertiliser further. There are push or hand-carry models available. However, they can be less accurate than drop spreaders.
Drop lawn spreaders distribute the product in line as you walk. They are very accurate, but can be less suitable for large lawns because they take longer to spread product.
How do I apply lawn fertiliser with a lawn spreader?
- Set the spreader settings according to the amount of fertiliser you want to apply – following the advice of the fertiliser manufacturers, as well as the instructions provided with your spreader.
- Start with the edges of your lawn first, moving at your usual walking pace. Once you’ve gone all around the edge, move back and forth between the edges. It’s best to overlap your previous path slightly to avoid missing out sections.
- When you reach the end of a row, turn the spreader off as you turn round to avoid applying the fertiliser unevenly.
- Once you finish, water the lawn to wash the fertiliser into the soil (unless your fertiliser states otherwise).
How do I maintain my lawn spreader?
It is important to clean your lawn spreader after each use.
Begin by pouring any unused product back into its packaging. Then wash the spreader down. You can use hot soapy water to remove stubborn grime. Clean the hopper and let it air dry before storing it away. Make sure you clean axles and wheels, too.
You can lubricate axle bushings with a light spray lubricant to protect them from rust.
How can I make sure I’m spreading fertiliser evenly?
Spreading seed or fertiliser in both directions, in a ‘lattice’ type pattern can help achieve an even application.
You can start lengthways and then repeat the process widthways. Remember to adjust the amount of seed you are applying on each pass to counteract the double application.
My lawn has some bare patches and I want to re-seed it. How do I do this?
- Choose a quality grass seed mix.
- Cut the existing grass and remove the clippings.
- Aerate the lawn and apply a thin layer of compost. This will provide good growing conditions for the new seed.
- Use a lawn spreader to evenly distribute the seed – apply additional seed to bare patches if required.
- Once the seeds are sown, water them daily, or more if the weather is very dry and warm.
- When the seeds germinate keep them moist until the new grass is well established.
- Use your lawn spreader to apply fertiliser once the seeds have germinated, then cut the grass once the whole lawn is about 6 cm.
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