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What is a Compost Spreader?

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  • Written By: Darrell Laurant
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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The logistics of spreading composted material on lawns or gardens is a problem faced by all "green" homeowners. The small units used for disseminating fertilizer or grass seed often fail when pressed into service to spread compost. That's because composted material typically contains large chunks that clog up the revolving blade at the bottom of the spreader.

Part of the challenge can be eliminated by consistently working the compost pile and breaking up the larger chunks before the spreading process begins. Some gardeners rig up a homemade sifter that will winnow out the looser, finer material and retain the rest, which can then be returned to the pile or broken up more thoroughly. Even so, composted material will never flow through a standard spreader with the ease of grass seed or finely ground fertilizer.

One solution to this, of course, is to simply spread the material by hand. This is impractical on a large lawn or garden plot, however, and many homeowners are squeamish about handling manure-based compost. As composting has become more and more of an accepted practice, then, a number of manufacturers have scrambled to produce a compost spreader that would actually work.

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Among the simplest of these is the Green Culture Compost Spreader®, basically a large drum attached to a handle. Billed as "low-impact," it uses an interior grid pattern to chop up the composted material as it revolves in the drum, then releases it through the bottom. The compost is added through a side door, and the unit can be pulled along behind a small tractor.

Texas-based Bullspreader® has developed a compost spreader specifically for manure, laying it down to a depth from 1/4 inch to three inches (.63 to 7.62 centimeters). The company's Website comes with recorded cattle noises, but says little about how the product works, other than that it uses a "patented" device. Bullspreader® makes both motorized and hand-rolled models.

One of the more sophisticated of the compost spreader models is the Eco-Lawn Applicator®, produced by Compostwerks. The motorized unit has been placed on a three-wheeled base, and is designed to be walked behind like a rototiller. The width and intensity of the application can be controlled as the machine chugs along.

Whatever the make, however, a compost spreader still has its limitations. Most require that the material it disseminates not top a certain percentage of moisture. Again, this requires some preparation with the compost itself.

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Azuza
Post 4

@indemnifyme - I'm glad the manual method worked for your mom. I would definitely recommend either doing it by hand or using an actual compost spreader.

I remember one time when I was growing up, one of my neighbors tried to use a unit that was meant for grass seed to spread compost in his yard. It was pretty much a disaster.

As the article warned, the large compost chunks clogged the machine. In fact, it almost ruined it! He had to take it in to get it service. I think after that, he went ahead and just bought a compost spreader.

indemnifyme
Post 3

My mom had a compost pile when I was growing up, and to the best of my knowledge, she didn't purchase any equipment for spreading the compost. In fact, I distinctly remember once we drove by a compost spreader for sale and she said she thought it was a waste of money.

She usually just distributed the compost by hand. However, our compost pile wasn't manure based. My mom just used leftover fruits and vegetables. I think maybe if she was using a manure based compost, she might have felt differently. But then again, maybe not. I know she's used manure fertilizer in the past.

Mammmood
Post 2

@NathanG - All of the products listed here for compost spreading are great ideas, but you will need money, equipment or brawn to use either of them.

Some require a tractor (which I don’t have) and others are motorized units, which is great but they tend to be pricey.

The manual spreader is one that I looked into before but it’s huge and would require some muscle to use properly.

I think they’re all great ideas but you need to determine what would be the best for your situation. Personally, I’d rather just rig an existing broadcast seed spreader and use it to spread the compost, notwithstanding the problems listed in the article about easy dispersal of the clumps of compost using this method.

NathanG
Post 1

I have a small garden in the back so I used the manual method. I took a steel rake and broke up the soil and the compost and gradually worked it into the soil, often folding it in two or three times to make sure that it was fully absorbed.

I then threw down the seeds and covered it with some topsoil and raked everything over; I then watered twice a week. That’s all that it took really.

However, I can see how that if you had a large plot of land the broadcast spreader would be the ideal solution.

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