What is a Fertilizer Spreader?

Mary McMahon

A fertilizer spreader is a piece of agricultural equipment people can use to apply even, aerated coats of fertilizer to lawns, beds, and fields. Fertilizer spreaders can come in the form of tractor attachments or standalone devices and are readily available through agricultural suppliers and gardening stores. It is often possible to rent one, for people who only need to apply fertilizer periodically and do not want to invest in a piece of equipment for this purpose.

A blue synthetic plant fertilizer.
A blue synthetic plant fertilizer.

Some fertilizer spreaders operate with a gravity feeding mechanism. A chamber on top of the device holds the fertilizer while the spreader is pushed or dragged across an area. As it moves, the fertilizer shakes down and out through small holes at the bottom. This provides an even coat with aeration, as the fertilizer is tossed while it is spread. The coverage tends to be narrow and multiple passes may be needed to apply enough fertilizer to a given area.

Lawn care professionals recommend dethatching the area before using a fertilizer spreader.
Lawn care professionals recommend dethatching the area before using a fertilizer spreader.

A rotary fertilizer spreader dispenses fertilizer from a rotating barrel. The application is more broad than with a gravity fed device, and can be more suitable for big fields and lawns. Aeration is provided by the rotation, and as long as the device is moved and rotated at a steady rate, the fertilizer coverage will be very even. Fewer passes are needed to cover all the ground.

A farmer spreading fertilizer.
A farmer spreading fertilizer.

Both designs can hold solid and liquid fertilizer, and it is also possible to use a fertilizer sprayer for controlled applications of liquid fertilizer. A fertilizer spreader may also be adaptable so people can use it to spread seed, making it a multipurpose tool for farming and gardening. Even, broad coverage can be useful with grass, grains, and certain other crops. It may be possible to adjust the flow rate for the purpose of seeding efficiently.

Fertilizers typically contain nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous to feed plants and foster growth.
Fertilizers typically contain nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous to feed plants and foster growth.

As with all agricultural equipment, the fertilizer spreader works best when it is well maintained. The operator should keep moving parts clean and oiled to prevent snags. When not in use, storage out of the elements is advisable, and at the very least, the fertilizer spreader should be covered so rain and sun don't damage the parts. One potential advantage of renting, rather than buying, is that someone else will handle storage and maintenance. People can also consider a tool or equipment share with a group of close friends and neighbors, allowing regular access to equipment they can store in a central location.

Organic fertilizer pellets.
Organic fertilizer pellets.

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