Spreading Fertilizer with a Seed Spreader? Here Is How

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When late spring or early summer comes, it’s the best time to give your lawn the boost it needs for leaf growth and proper development by spreading fertilizer. While using the best equipment for the job is always recommended, you might find yourself with a seed spreader instead of a fertilizer spreader.

In such a situation, you can repurpose your seed spreader and use it to apply fertilizer with a few modifications.

Here’s how to use a seed spreader to spread fertilizer:

  1. Measure the length and width of your lawn to get its area.
  2. Load the hopper with the proper amount of fertilizer.
  3. Adjust your spreader to the proper settings.
  4. Test your spreader and measure the dispersal width.
  5. Sweep up any fertilizer and return it to your hopper.
  6. Bring your spreader to the end of the area.
  7. Start spreading fertilizer walking at a slow, steady pace.
  8. Spread your fertilizer in a serpentine pattern.
  9. Once fully covered, water the area.

The rest of this article will describe each step in more detail. It’ll also guide you on the best spreader for your lawn and answer the most crucial spreader FAQs. Let’s get started.

1. Measure the Length and Width of Your Lawn to Get Its Area

To get started, you need to get the area of your lawn. Use a tape measure or any other appropriate tool to measure the length and width of your lawn. 

Next, multiply these measurements to get the area (square footage) of the space you plan to fertilize. Note that figure down. You will need it later when filling up your lawn spreader.

Don’t have a measuring tape? Try the Komelon Self Lock Tape Measure from Amazon. It comes with a push-button and a self-locking mechanism, allowing you to retract and extend the blade smoothly. The case comes rubberized to boost impact resistance, and coated with nylon to further extend durability.

2. Load the Hopper With the Proper Amount of Fertilizer

Do this on your driveway or your sidewalk. Loading it here makes it easier to sweep up any fertilizer that might spill from your hopper or the bag.

Refer to your fertilizer bag for how much fertilizer you need to load into the hopper based on the area of your lawn. Typically, fertilizer bags come with information on how much fertilizer you need to put in your hopper per square footage.

3. Adjust Your Spreader to the Proper Settings

The product you choose to use will have its own recommended settings for proper application. These settings will also depend on the type of spreader you’ll be using.

Here’s a generic way to calibrate your spreader if your bag doesn’t have settings:

  1. Check your fertilizer bag to see the square footage it covers.
  2. Divide this number by 100 and multiply the weight of the bag.
  3. The result is how much fertilizer you need to cover 100 sq. ft (9.29 sq. meters).
  4. Fill the spreader hopper with this much fertilizer.
  5. Measure and mark off a 10 ft x 10 ft area (3 meters x 3 meters).
  6. Use the suggested setting on the fertilizer bag.
  7. If your bag doesn’t suggest one, try using a low setting first. A good point to start at is ¼ inch (0.64 centimeters) open.

The goal is to run out of fertilizer only when you cover the whole 100 sq. ft (9.29 sq. meters) area. If you run out earlier, lower the setting of your spreader slightly. If you still have fertilizer left at the end, you can increase your settings.

Take note of the settings for your next fertilizing session. You can write it on tape and stick it on your spreader’s handle for easy reference. For more on customizing lawn spreader settings to your needs, check out this guide from Garden Health. 

4. Test Your Spreader and Measure the Dispersal Width

Set your spreader to the recommended flow rate setting and slowly walk a few paces forward. Measure the width that your fertilizer spreads on the ground. This measurement will help you map out a dispersal pattern and how far you need to space yourself from your previous path.

5. Sweep Up Any Fertilizer and Return It to Your Hopper

You have already measured the amount of fertilizer in your hopper. So, you will want to sweep up any product off the ground and put it back in your hopper. You don’t want to mess up your calculations.

Caution: Don’t hose any extra product down the sidewalk and into the gutter.

6. Bring Your Spreader to the End of the Area

Once you have your settings down, hopper filled, and your dispersal pattern planned, you can bring your spreader to one end of your lawn. Remember, if you’re using a broadcast spreader, it “throws out” fertilizer to the side. As such, you’ll want to avoid placing your spreader right at the edge of the area.

7. Start Spreading Fertilizer Walking at a Slow, Steady Pace

Open the flow valve and walk at a steady pace in a straight line. Your speed should be around three mph (5 kph), the typical walking pace.

Once you reach the opposite end of your lawn, close the flow valve before moving your spreader over to the side to start your next spreading path. Knowing the dispersal width of your spreader, be sure to overlap your previous fertilizer path by around 6-12 inches (15-30 centimeters). 

8. Spread Your Fertilizer in a Serpentine Pattern

Continue to spread your fertilizer over your lawn. Walk at a steady pace to help ensure even distribution of fertilizer.

Make sure to close your flow valve at the end of each path before opening it again at the start of the following path. This ensures that fertilizer doesn’t end up being dropped or applied excessively at the ends of your lawn.

9. Once Fully Covered, Water the Area

When you finish covering the whole area, use sprinklers or a hose to water your lawn. It doesn’t need to be wet; just damp to around a depth of one inch (2.54 centimeters). Doing this washes the fertilizer off the grass leaves down and into the soil, where it’s easier for roots to absorb the nutrients.

Is There a Difference Between Seed Spreader and Fertilizer Spreader?

There is no difference between a seed spreader and a fertilizer spreader. They’re the same. Both lawn spreaders can be used for different materials and products, including seeds, mulch, fertilizer, lime, sand, and ice melt. 

The reason people use the terms “seed spreader” or “fertilizer spreader” has everything to do with the type of lawn care product they are spreading on their lawns, gardens, or fields. That is, people spreading fertilizers are more likely to use the term “fertilizer spreader” and vice versa.

What Settings to Spread What?

Seed spreaders (particularly broadcast spreaders) often come with multiple spread settings. These make it easier to spread seeds in appropriate amounts. But you might be unsure what settings to use when spreading different types of seeds.

Settings numbers vary depending on the spreader brand. That said, it’s best to use a low-numbered setting when spreading fine seeds (like cumin) and a high-numbered setting when reseeding a lawn. 

Still, because spreader settings vary, you may need to use a conversion chart to determine the proper setting number for your device. 

Can You Use Both a Broadcast Spreader and a Drop Spreader?

You can use both a broadcast spreader and drop spreader. You can use a broadcast spreader to quickly cover the larger, more open parts of your lawn and then touch up smaller, harder-to-reach areas like around flower beds and sidewalks with a drop spreader.

Let’s take a deeper look at each type of spreader.

A Broadcast Spreader

A broadcast spreader is suitable for medium to large lawns because it disperses lawn material in a fan shape. It does this by using a rotating blade to “toss” the material out to the sides and front of the spreader. 

It’s faster than a drop spreader, but with a chaotic dispersal area. Put otherwise, it’s less accurate, meaning the content of the spreader can accidentally be applied to unwanted areas. 

A Drop Spreader

This type of spreader is more precise in its application because, as its name implies, it “drops” content from the spreader to the ground directly below it. The caveat is that it’s slow: the larger the area that needs fertilizing, the more tedious the application. 

Types of Lawn Spreader

You can find lawn spreaders of each type, either broadcast or drop mechanism spreaders. What mechanism combined with what type depends on your needs and the size of the area:

A Handheld Spreader

These are only suitable for smaller gardens and areas below half an acre (2,000 square meters). The Scotts Whirl Hand-Powered Spreader (Amazon.com) or available here on Walmart.com is my top pick in this category. 

The Scotts Whirl Hand-Powered Spread is versatile. You can use it to fertilize, weed, apply ice melt, and spread seeds. It’s also comfortable to use thanks to its adjustable arm support.

Walk-Behind/ Push Ahead Spreaders

These are like wheelbarrows that apply their content into the soil as you push the spreader in front of you. If you have a small to medium-sized lawn, you can try Scotts Turf Builder Mini Broadcast Spreader from Amazon or also available on Walmart.com

This spreader is easy to store and use because it has a fold-down handle and comes pre-calibrated, respectively. It also comes with proprietary EdgeGuard Technology to prevent whatever you’re spreading on your lawn off sidewalks, driveways, and landscaping. 

Tow-Behind Spreaders

These are usually attached to other machines like tractors or ride-on lawnmowers. They’re best for larger areas and fields as well as medium-sized lawns. 

The larger hopper size of the Agri-Fab Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader on Amazon makes it suitable for areas with larger acreage. It has a 130lb (59kg) hopper capacity so you don’t have to keep refilling when covering large areas. 

The Agri-Fab Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader also has large tires and a wide wheelbase. These qualities make it stable when used on rough terrain.


I am always happy to share all my knowledge about how to keep your garden in good condition and make it special.

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