Can You Use a Broadcast Spreader for Fertilizer?

It’s no secret that broadcast spreaders are handy tools, especially when dispersing things like grass seeds. However, these spreaders have multiple functions, and you might be wondering if you can use yours to evenly spread fertilizer. 

You can use a broadcast spreader for fertilizer. Broadcast spreaders distribute fertilizer or seeds evenly over a large area. They’re easy to use, and there are several different kinds of broadcast spreaders, but all do an excellent job distributing fertilizer.

In the rest of this article, I will discuss how spreaders work, the different types of spreaders, how to use them properly, and a few commonly asked questions about broadcast spreaders. If you want to learn more about using a broadcaster for fertilizer, read on. 

How Broadcast Spreaders Work

Before using a broadcast spreader, it’s essential to understand how these devices work. The first functional fertilizer spreader was invented in the late 1800s, though farmers explicitly used it to spread manure through crop fields. Since then, however, the broadcast spreader design has been perfected, making it what it is today.

Broadcast spreaders work by funneling fertilizer or seeds through the device and using the inertia from the wheels spinning as you walk or turn a crank; it flings the fertilizer outward in a wide arc. 

This allows for the fertilizer to cover more ground quickly and effectively. With most broadcast spreaders, the user must walk slowly and evenly across the ground they wish to cover. In addition, some models can broadcast further than others, so it’s essential to consider range when using a spreader on your lawn, garden, or field. 

Broadcast Spreaders vs. Drop Spreaders

Now that we’ve discussed how broadcast spreaders work, let’s compare them to another type of spreader: the drop spreader. The broadcast spreader and drop spreader are the two most common types of spreaders gardeners encounter when looking to purchase one of these tools. Both function similarly, but they still both have their differences. 

Broadcast Spreader Pros and Cons

As previously discussed, the broadcast spreader flings fertilizer and seeds from itself, covering more ground. Broadcasters are widely used for reseeding lawns or fertilizing large spaces. There are many pros and cons to using a broadcast spreader. Let’s take a look at them.

The pros of using a broadcast spreader:

  • Covers large amounts of ground quickly
  • Speed is controlled by how fast you walk
  • Holds more fertilizer or seeds at a time

Broadcast spreaders do a great job of getting the job done quickly, and they are ideal if you have a large piece of land to seed or fertilize. Despite their functionality, broadcast spreaders are not without their drawbacks.

The cons of using a broadcast spreader:

  • Distribution isn’t precise
  • Wind or breezes affect the spreader’s accuracy
  • Wastes a lot of product
  • More difficult to use

The downsides aren’t a dealbreaker for most gardeners. If you use it correctly and during good weather, your fertilizer application process should go smoothly. An important thing to note, however, is that you should be careful to quickly remove any leftover fertilizer from your pavers, or they will become stained.

Drop Spreader Pros and Cons

Now let’s look into drop spreaders. These devices are pretty similar to the broadcast spreader, but there are a few key differences. First, both were created to place seeds or fertilizer instead of farmers having to do it by hand. 

The main difference between the two is that drop spreaders don’t fling seed or fertilizer out from themselves; instead, they drop their continents in a controlled manner straight down, hence the name. Let’s learn a little more about some of the pros and cons of using a drop spreader. 

The pros of using a drop spreader:

  • More precise when it comes to product placement
  • Wastes very little seed or fertilizer during the application process 
  • Easy to use 
  • Suitable for small lawns or gardens
  • Functions well in bad weather

Gardeners generally choose a drop spreader when they need more control of where the seeds or fertilizer are landing. Drop spreaders are also the better choice for frugality, as they don’t waste much product.

The cons of using a drop spreader:

  • Difficult to tell what parts of land you have already seeded or fertilized
  • Holds less product
  • Less effective in larger areas

Depending on your needs, a drop spreader could be the better choice, especially if you’re looking for a more controlled distribution method. However, if you want to fertilize or seed a large area quickly, the broadcast spreader is better suited for the task. 

How To Use a Broadcast Spreader

Using a broadcast spreader to apply fertilizer to a yard or garden is a simple, straightforward process. Let’s discuss how to use a broadcast spreader.

You will need:

  • Granular fertilizer
  • A broadcast spreader

How to use a broadcast spreader for fertilizer:

  1. Read fertilizer distribution instructions. Ensure the fertilizer you selected is compatible with your broadcaster and has no special requirements. Some bags will state which dial setting to use for spreading with a broadcaster. 
  2. Fill the broadcaster with the fertilizer or seed. Do not overfill the hopper, or you will end up wasting more product. 
  3. Set the dial to the desired distribution setting. The fertilizer bag or seeds should state what setting to use. If not, use your best judgment. You can always adjust the dial if needed. 
  4. Begin spreading the fertilizer. You can do this by walking in straight lines across your lawn or the ground you are trying to fertilize. Slightly overlap the lines to fertilize the ground more thoroughly. 
  5. Clean your spreader after each use. Pour any leftover fertilizer back into the bag, and give the broadcaster a quick rinse to prevent any wear and tear from harsh fertilizers. 

As you can see, using a broadcast spreader is pretty simple. The trickiest part is learning which dial setting to use. The dial setting controls how far out the fertilizer or seeds will be flung from the spreader. It may take time to learn which setting will work best for your yard’s needs, but the more you use it, the easier it’ll become.

If you are more of a visual learner, Scotts Lawn has a great video where the company demonstrates how to use a broadcast spreader. The video does a great job of walking you through the process and showing you exactly what to do. 

Are Fertilizer and Seed Spreaders the Same?

A commonly asked question is, what’s the difference between a seed spreader and a fertilizer spreader? Are they the same piece of equipment? 

Fertilizer and seed spreaders are the same thing. Broadcast spreaders distribute either seeds or fertilizer along the ground evenly. Basically, any substance small enough to be propelled from the spreader can be inserted and dispersed over the ground. 

These tools are one and the same, which means you can use them interchangeably. For example, a broadcast spreader makes a great addition to any homeowner’s arsenal if you plan on keeping a healthy yard. 

Can You Use a Broadcast Spreader for Topsoil?

I have gone over the different types of spreaders and talked primarily about how they are excellent at distributing seeds and fertilizer. But what about topsoil? Can these devices also be used to place dirt? 

You can use a broadcast spreader for topsoil. A broadcast spreader is a great tool for evenly distributing a new layer of topsoil. Ensure the soil is dry, as moist soil will clog up the broadcast spreader. You can apply topsoil in the same manner as seeds or fertilizer. 

As I previously stated, broadcast spreaders are a multi-functional tool and great to have in your garden shed. 

If you want to learn more about spreading topsoil with broadcast spreaders, you could check out my other article: Is It Possible To Spread Soil With a Seed Spreader?


You certainly can use a broadcast spreader for fertilizer. In fact, that’s one of the spreaders’ primary functions. Spreaders do a great job of distributing seeds, fertilizer, and even topsoil. So if you don’t already own one, you should consider acquiring one to up your yard care.

You can read my other article on how to fertilize indoor and outdoor plants here: How to Fertilize Indoor & Outdoor Plants (Ultimate Guide)

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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