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How to Use a Broadcast Spreader

lawn image by Allyson Ricketts from

Use a broadcast spreader for your lawn and garden to spread seed and fertilizer--either in different applications or together. Broadcast spreaders differ from drop spreaders in that they broadcast the material out to the sides and front, whereas drop spreaders only drop material underneath. Broadcast spreaders help get the job done faster, and usually preferred over drop spreaders. Before using a broadcast spreader for the first time, always read the manufacturer directions. Most broadcast spreaders work the same way.

Read the label of the seed or fertilizer package to find the recommend setting for the speed rate gauge on your broadcast spreader. There is a dial on your spreader that you set that allows the correct amount of material broadcast out of the spreader. If you have a broadcast spreader that is not listed on the seed or fertilizer package, read your owner’s manual to know what setting to set it on for seed or fertilizer.

Conduct a test run on a clean driveway or sidewalk. If you couldn’t find what setting to set your broadcast spreader, then set it on ¼ inch first and then try 3/16 inch next. Fill the spreader with a specific amount of material, for example, ¼ lb. of seed. Then, open the shutoff plate (usually near the bottom) and begin to push the spreader and walk at a normal pace (about 3 mph) until all the material is broadcast.

Notice how wide your broadcast spreader spreads. It will be different for the front, left and right sides. Write this information down for safe keeping and future use.

Measure to see how much square footage was applied with the material. It should match closely with what the fertilizer or seed package recommends. For example, if 1 lb. of material is supposed to cover 100 square feet and your ¼ lb. test run covers close 25 square feet, your setting on your broadcast spreader is correct. Adjust as needed and conduct more test runs, if necessary.

Sweep the area of the material and collect to reuse. Do not wash it out onto your lawn, garden or street.

Fill your broadcast spreader with the recommended amount for the area you want to cover, and begin to walk in a pattern, usually in rows, leaving enough space so you are only covering 6 to 12 inches of the same area (the outer edges receive less material). For example, if your spreader broadcasts 2 feet to the right and 1 foot to the left, then the rows that you are walking should be 2 to 2 ½ feet apart.


Keep up your speed and if you have hills and limited material, do the hills first so you don’t begin to run out and then either walk at a faster pace or set the speed rate gauge smaller. Don't skimp on the hills and uneven terrain.

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