Drop Spreader Vs Broadcast Spreader

Spreaders can run the gamut from small, handheld models to heavy duty models that must be pulled with a tractor or ATV.

They are generally divided into two main categories: drop spreaders and broadcast spreaders.

Broadcast spreaders are also commonly referred to as rotary spreaders.

Both types of spreaders feature hoppers with adjustable openings for controlling the volume of seed or fertilizer that siphons through it.

Each type differs in how they spread seed and which type of lawn they are best suited for.

Drop Spreaders

A drop spreader distributes seed or fertilizer in even rows, and this model is known for its pinpoint accuracy.

The seed falls only where the operator walks. The spread pattern of a drop spreader extends only to the length of its wheels which is ideal for precision spreading.

Most manufacturers recommend setting the spreader at roughly 50% and spreading seed or fertilizer in a cross hatch pattern. Not only does this ensure even coverage, but it also prevents striping.

Here are a few things about drop spreaders that users should know:

  • Drop spreaders general work well on lawns that are under 5,000 square feet in size.
  • They are easy to operate and provide precise coverage control.
  • Their wheel base makes them easy to navigate around obstacles and tight spots.
  • Wind does not affect a drop spreader’s performance.
  • Because product is distributed in “swaths”, it eliminates the need to clean up product from other surfaces, like a driveway or sidewalk.

The primary downside to choosing a drop spreader is that they cover less ground each lap than a broadcast spreader, which increases the amount of time needed to adequately seed or fertilizer a lawn.

However, because of their precision, many homeowners and professionals believe the trade-off is worth it.

Broadcast Spreaders

Broadcast spreaders are named because they spread seed in a fan-like pattern.

The size of their spread pattern is dependent on the user’s speed and the spreaders settings.

The further the material is thrown from the spreader, the thinner the coverage.

It is important to overlap pass to ensure an even distribution product. As with drop spreaders, the industry recommendation is to set the spreader at 50% and distribute product in a crosshatch pattern.  This will take longer, but will provide the best coverage.

Highlights of broadcast spreaders include:

  • They cover more ground in less time when compared to drop spreaders.
  • Broadcast spreaders are well suited for wide areas and large lawns.
  • In general, hopper capacity is larger than drop spreaders, minimizing the number of times it must be refilled while it is being used.
  • Because seed is “fanned out”, they can be used to spread product in hard to reach areas.

The main issue that arises from using broadcast spreaders is that they can often spread seeds or fertilizer “out of bounds”, which can waste product.

Although most of the higher end broadcast spreaders have some sort of edge guard to block one side of spray for trim passes.

Most states also have laws in place that require a user to cleanup any product that is scattered on hardscapes, like sidewalks.

Use & Care For Your Spreader

Regardless of which type you choose, you should take the time to carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Get to know your spreader and understand how much product it puts down depending on your pace and settings.

When filling your spreader, always load in on a hard surface where any accidental spills can be easily cleaned up.

Likewise, your spreader should always be thoroughly cleaned after each use, especially if you have been spreading a product that contains chemicals.

The spreader should be completely emptied, and a brush should be used to remove any remaining material. Make sure to keep any moving parts lubricated as well.

With proper use and care, a high quality spreader should provide you with many years of use.