A lawn spreader is commonly referred to as a fertilizer spreader but in fact can be used to spread just about any dry, granular material. In addition to fertilizer, spreaders can be used to apply seed, granular pesticides, compost, topdressing, and even ice melt and sand in the winter.
There are two basic types of lawn spreaders; rotary or broadcast spreaders and drop spreaders.
Broadcast spreaders - also known as rotary spreaders, are easy to use and vary in quality and price from less $50 up to $500 for commercial models. A rotary spreader is basically a hopper on wheels. As the unit is pushed, the wheels turn a spinner which flings the product across the lawn. The product flows by gravity through an adjustable opening at the bottom of the hopper. Rotary spreaders are quite accurate but because of their wide throw pattern, are best suited to medium or large sized lawns.Crank operated, hand-held and chest mounted rotary spreaders are available for smaller applications but they tend to not be very accurate.
When fertilizing with a rotary spreader, be sure to overlap the paths by about 1/4 the width of the throw, to ensure even coverage.
Drop spreaders - are basically a wider, narrow hopper on wheels. Because it disperses the product by literally dropping it out of the hopper, the width of the hopper is the width of the pass. Drop spreaders are the most accurate spreaders but because of their smaller spread pattern, many more passes are needed to complete a lawn than a rotary spreader. Drop spreaders are best used for small to medium sized lawns.
A very small overlap is necessary on drop spreaders to avoid leaving streaks of unfertilized grass.