Give your plants and lawn a healthy dose of nutrients and you’ll be rewarded with a fabulous garden. But spreading fertilizer can be tiring work, especially on a large plot.
Using a spreader is a simple way to feed your garden in a fraction of the time. Check out our reviews of ten of the best fertilizer spreaders available today, and get ready for great results!
At a glance: Our Top 7 Picks for Fertilizer Spreader
Best Fertilizer Spreader on the Market 2019
1. Agri-Fab 45-0463 Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader
If you’re lucky enough to have an enormous lawn, this spreader from Agri-Fab might be for you.
It’s designed to be towed behind a lawn tractor or ride-on mower. The universal hitch will work with any brand.
The hopper will hold an impressive 130 pounds of fertilizer. That’s enough to feed up to 25,000 square feet in one go.
There are other nice features too.
The gearbox is fully enclosed, so you won’t have to worry about stray fertilizer or grass seed disrupting the mechanism.
There’s a well-positioned on-off lever that can be reached easily from most tractor seats. And the large pneumatic wheels will carry it smoothly over rough terrain. That means even distribution of the fertilizer, without the risk of scorching or bare patches.
The spread width here is ten to twelve feet – far wider than you’ll get with a walk behind spreaders. Of course, that means it won’t be a practical option for smaller lawns or precision spreading.
So are there any downsides?
Well, the hitch may be universal, but the hitch height can be a problem. If your tractor attachment is less than 14.5 inches above ground, the tow bar won’t be parallel to the ground.
That means that some fertilizer will remain in the spreader bowl as you drive. It’s a particular problem on downhill slopes, where the fertilizer won’t be distributed evenly.
Avoid problems by checking the how high above the ground your tractor attachment sits. If it’s less than 14.5 inches, you’ll need to adapt the hitch height or face problems. Unfortunately, Agri-Fab doesn’t offer hitch height adaptors. So if engineering isn’t your strong point, choose another spreader.
Also bear in mind that, while there are multiple spreader settings, there’s no table to match them to your fertilizer. You’ll need to experiment to work out the right setting for the product you’re using.
- Can feed up to 25,000 square feet with one hopper of fertilizer
- Spread width of 10 to 12 feet is great for large acreage
- Fully enclosed gearbox and metal gears
- Will need adjustment if your tractor attachment is less than 14.5 inches above the ground
- You’re on your own when it comes to finding the right setting for your fertilizer.
2. Scotts Whirl Hand-Held Fertilizer Spreader (Our Top Recommended)
At the other end of the spectrum from the Agri-Fab, this hand-held spreader from Scotts is great for smaller gardens.
This is basically a small plastic hopper with a crank. Hold it at the back with one hand, turn the crank with the other, and out sprays the fertilizer. It couldn’t be easier.
There are no different settings to select from, though, so use it with the recommended product for best results. Scotts say it will work with any of their own-brand fertilizers. That means other brands will work too – but you’ll need to experiment with your technique to get the right coverage.
The crank is positioned on the right-hand side, so right-handed gardeners will find it slightly easier to use. At the back, there’s a rest positioned beneath your arm. That helps to take the strain while you’re carrying the spreader.
It’s great for smaller areas. The hopper will hold enough fertilizer to feed up to 1,500 square feet. And its compact design means it’s easy to store too. Just pop it on a shelf in your shed when you’re done.
This is a simple and inexpensive spreader, and there’s not much to complain about. Just be careful that you don’t get too aggressive with that crank! Turn it too hard and fast and it can snap off.
A side effect of holding something that’s spraying fertilizer is that some of it will inevitably end up on you! It’s dusty work, but that’s gardening for you! But if you have asthma or allergies, you may find a walk-behind spreader a better fit.
- Inexpensive option for small spaces
- Easy to use
- Doesn’t require much space for storage
- The single setting means getting the right coverage is all about technique
- Crank the handle too hard and it may snap off
- You’re likely to find yourself wearing some of the fertilizer.
3. Scotts Turf Builder Pro EdgeGuard Deluxe Broadcast Spreader
This walk behind spreader from Scotts has plenty of innovative features to make feeding your garden a breeze.
This is a broadcast spreader, meaning it will dispense lawn fertilizer in a wide 180-degree swath. It’s a good option if you’ve got a bigger garden. If your lawn is less than 5,000 square feet, though, it won’t give you the best results.
It’s a fairly simple design. A large hopper holds enough fertilizer to treat up to 15,000 square feet of lawn. The hopper sits on wheels and there’s a long handle to steer it. That handle is padded as well as adjustable, so it’s comfortable to use for gardeners of all heights.
Attached to the handle is a lever, which you squeeze to start and stop the flow of fertilizer.
Its convenient position is particularly helpful if you have an irregular shaped lawn. Stop the flow to go back over areas that have already been fed. That way you’ll avoid over-fertilizing and scorching the grass.
At the top of the hopper, there’s a bright orange dial. This allows you to select the correct setting for your fertilizer.
We particularly liked “EdgeGuard” technology. Engage this, and the spreader will stop distributing fertilizer from the right-hand side. It means you’ll be able to cover up to the edge of your lawn without dropping fertilizer on adjacent paths.
Having said that, we’ve heard some complaints that the EdgeGuard piece leads to the fertilizer clogging up. Some people have even resorted to removing it altogether.
This isn’t the most expensive spreader, and the overall build quality could be improved. The wheels, for example, are nice and chunky, but prone to coming off. They snap back on easily enough – but it’s a pain.
All in all, this is a decent choice if you have a larger garden and don’t want to spend a fortune.
- Adjustable, padded handle
- Multiple settings, with easy to read dial
- EdgeGuard technology stops you wasting fertilizer on adjacent pathways and borders
- Can clog up
- Wheels are prone to coming off.
4. Brinly BS36BH Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader
Brinly’s BS36BH is another broadcast spreader designed to be towed behind a lawn tractor. It hooks up with a single pin attachment and is compatible with almost any lawn tractor or ride-on mower. It will work with plenty of zero turn ratio mowers too.
The hopper here will carry a whopping 175 pounds of fertilizer. That’s 45 pounds more than the Agri-Fab reviewed earlier. It works best for plots of an acre or more, with room to maneuver.
Unlike the Agri-Fab, which has metal gears, Brinly’s uses glass-filled nylon. They’re not quite as resilient, but they’re very smooth.
There’s a patented directional spread pattern, designed to give even distribution of whatever you’re spreading. It works just as well for grass seed, ice-melt, and salt as it does for fertilizer. And you’ll get a wide spread of 12 feet across.
Another patented feature is the autoflow technology. This automatically stops material from being distributed when the tractor comes to a standstill. That avoids too much fertilizer scorching the grass, as well as preventing waste.
There are a range of settings, and the controls are positioned so that they’re easy to reach while you’re driving. There’s also a locking dial to make sure the settings are secure.
The hopper has a clear cover, allowing you to see inside whilst preventing moisture getting in. It also means you won’t get covered in dust as you’re spreading!
The tires are pneumatic, and wider than those of the Agri-Fab. They’ll make sure of an even spread even where the ground is uneven.
As you might expect with a spreader of this size, there’s some assembly to do.
The manual has pictures to help you on your way, and there’s an assembly video on Brinly’s YouTube channel. It’s not the most straight forward operation, though. Having some axle grease on hand will make the job far easier.
This is an expensive spreader, but it comes with a full 2-year warranty and 180 hours of service.
- Range of accurate settings
- Large hopper capacity of 175 pounds
- Patented autoflow technology and directional spread pattern provide even spreading without scorching or waste
- Assembly takes time, effort and axle grease
- Expensive – but comes with a good warranty and service cover.
5. Chapin International 8620B Tow Behind Fertilizer Spreader
The last of tow behind spreader to make our list, Chapin’s version sports a 150-pound hopper in bright red. Let’s just say you won’t be in any danger of losing it in your garden shed!
It’s a sturdily built machine, with a heavy-duty hitch to attach it to your lawn tractor or ride-on mower. There are 11 different settings to choose from, and they’re easily selected using a gate design adjustment. You’ll get a spread width of 12 feet.
Like the Brinly, this one stops spreading automatically when it’s not in motion. So you won’t end up with scorched patches from too much fertilizer being dumped in one spot.
It comes with 14-inch pneumatic tyres, with good tread depth. They’ll keep the spreader stable on rougher surfaces, so the fertilizer continues to be dispensed easily.
The gearbox has bronze bearings that are coated in oil for a smooth transition. They also minimize friction and wear and tear on the axle.
So far so good. So is there anything not to like?
Well, those oil-impregnated bronze bearings in the gearbox are great, but the gear housing is plastic. That makes it less robust than other models. We’ve heard of one or two instances where the plastic has split.
And like other spreaders of this type, some assembly is needed. It’s not too difficult, but the task would be made easier if Chapin followed Brinly’s example and produced a video.
- 11 settings for accurate spreading
- 150-pound hopper and 12 foot spread width
- Good quality tires will cope well with uneven terrain
- Plastic gear housing isn’t the most robust
- Assembly is taking a bit of effort – and there’s no video to help.
6. Solo 421 Capacity Portable Chest-Mount Fertilizer Spreader
This hand operated spreader comes with a twist –you mount it on your chest. The huge advantage of carrying the weight on your chest is that you can handle much greater capacity with ease. This spreader will hold an impressive 20 pounds of fertilizer.
The hopper is covered in a tight-fitting cap, so you won’t get covered in dust as you’re using it. And you can adjust the direction, flow and volume with levers light enough to be operated by your fingertips.
It’s a big advantage over the other hand operated spreader on our list, the Whirl hand-held spreader from Scotts. You will, though, be paying almost three times as much. If you want accuracy, we think it’s worth the extra investment.
The construction here is high quality, with a mixture of polyurethane and stainless steel components. The gearbox is fully enclosed, and the gears are lubricated for durability. The crank used to operate the spreader runs nice and smoothly too.
It’s versatile enough to be used for a range of applications. Solo claims it will deal equally well with particle sizes from sand to rock salt. We’re not so sure about very fine particles, but for fertilizer, it works like a charm.
The strap is worn across your body to distribute the weight evenly. But this is one spreader we’d strongly recommend trying before you buy. The strap isn’t as adjustable as we’d like, and some people simply won’t find it comfortable.
Put it on and check that you can reach the controls easily. If you can, this could be the spreader for you.
- Chest mounted design makes it easy to carry heavier loads than other hand-held spreaders
- Adjustable flow volume and direction
- Smooth crank and gears
- The strap won’t be comfortable for everyone
- Not the best if you want to use it to spread very fine material.
7. Earthway 2600APlus Walk-Behind Broadcast Spreader
Earthway’s walk behind spreader is a robust machine. It will carry up to 40 pounds of fertilizer in its big red hopper.
The solid build quality here is reflected in the price. The design is similar to the Turf Builder from Scotts, but you’ll be paying more than twice as much. So what do you get for your money?
The chassis is coated in epoxy powder to resist corrosion, while the T-shaped handle is made of steel. And the gearbox is fully enclosed, so it isn’t vulnerable to damage from debris.
The wheels are built to last too. The pneumatic high-flotation tires are 9 inches, and they’ll roll smoothly over rough ground. They also work well on slopes and icy surfaces.
There’s a three-hole shut-off system which is designed to give an even spread pattern. It will provide a feathered spreading edge, allowing you to apply your fertilizer accurately. And you can adjust the drop rate too, so you won’t release too much product over narrow areas of lawn.
The whole spreader has a low center of gravity, keeping it stable and easy to maneuver. There’s also an edge-guard on the left-hand side. Engage it to fertilize right up to your lawn edge without spraying onto paths or borders.
As with the Turf Builder, however, the edge-guard does have a tendency to interfere with spreading. We found the machine would spray fertilizer much further to the right than the left, even when it wasn’t engaged.
You’ll have a bit of assembly to do with this one, and some people may find it a bit tricky. Expect to spend around half an hour putting it together before the first use.
When it comes to storage, this is a spreader that’s surprisingly compact. So if you don’t have loads of room in your shed, it might be a good option.
All in all, this is a more solid proposition than the Turf Builder, and it’s likely to last much longer. Just watch out for the off-center spread pattern.
- Feathered spreading edge and adjustable drop rate for accurate spreading
- Good quality materials and construction
- Low center of gravity makes it stable and easy to maneuver
- Dispenses more fertilizer to the right than the left
- Requires some assembly.
Fertilizer Spreader Buying guide
Still not sure which is the right spreader for you? Check out our guide to the questions to ask yourself before you buy.
How big an area do you need to cover?
Start by thinking about the size of the area you need to fertilize. Do you have a small flower bed that needs some extra love? Or do you have a parched paddock you want to see lush and green once more?
If you’re covering an area of an acre or more, you probably have a lawn tractor or ride-on mower. If that’s the case, a spreader you can tow behind it is a wise investment.
You’ll benefit from a much larger hopper capacity, so you won’t have to stop and refill it every five minutes. And you’ll be able to cover the ground much more quickly than with other designs. You’ll have to pay a little more, but the saving to your time and effort will be worth it.
If, on the other hand, you want to fertilize a small space, a tow-behind spreader won’t be practical. For awkward corners, nothing beats a hand-operated spreader.
Go for something with a capacity that’s just big enough for the area you need to feed. You’ll benefit from the lighter weight as you’re carrying it. And it will be easier to store too.
Finally, for medium-sized areas, a walk-behind spreader is a good choice.
What are the other features you need to consider?
Although size is important, it’s not the only aspect of your garden you need to consider.
If you have very uneven terrain, a walk-behind spreader may struggle. Look for something with a low center of gravity to help keep it stable. (Earthway’s design is a good example.)
A better option may be a hand-operated spreader. If you have a larger area to cover, consider chest-mounted designs like the one from Solo we reviewed earlier. You’ll be able to carry heavier weights without fatigue. Just try before you buy, to make sure that the fit works for your physique.
If your lawn is bordered by an area you don’t want to fertilize, consider a design with an edge-guard. They’re great for keeping fertilizer off paths or patios so you don’t have to sweep up afterward.
Is versatility important?
Do you need your spreader to work with products other than fertilizer?
Spreaders with different settings can be remarkably versatile gadgets. Different spread patterns and flow rates can work well for everything from ice-melt to grass seed.
They’ll be a little more expensive than spreaders with a single setting. But you may find that you save money by avoiding buying separate tools for different applications.
Ready to spready?!
That brings us to the end of our round-up of the best fertilizer spreaders on the market today. Whether you need to feed an awkward patch of lawn or a large paddock, there’s something here to suit.
Our favorite is the Whirl hand-held fertilizer spreader from Scotts. It’s cost-effective and simple to use. But if you need to cover a large area, we like the quality construction of the Earthway walk-behind model.
You may only use your spreader a few times a year – but the right one can transform your garden. Here’s to a lush green lawn and healthy plants for many summers to come!