Do You Need a Fertilizer Spreader? (How To Decide)

Fertilizer spreaders are an excellent way to apply your fertilizer treatment without hassle. When covering a large area, fertilizer spreaders provide convenience and speed while ensuring an evenly distributed application. Not all circumstances require fertilizer spreaders, so how do you decide if you need one?

You need a fertilizer spreader if you are fertilizing a large space, like your lawn, landscaping, or a field. If you are fertilizing a smaller area that requires more than one type of fertilizer, then a spreader is not necessary or useful. 

In this article, we’ll take a close look at the uses of fertilizer spreaders and how to know when you need one and when you don’t. Read on for all you need to know before you invest in a fertilizer spreader for your property.

Key Takeaways

  • Ideal for Large Areas: Fertilizer spreaders are most effective for evenly distributing fertilizer over large spaces like lawns, fields, or extensive landscaping.
  • Types of Spreaders: Rotary spreaders for granular and powdered fertilizers, liquid spreaders for dry, dissolving fertilizers, and drop spreaders for granular or bulky materials.
  • Factors for Consideration: Consider the size of your land, the type of fertilizer, the quantity to be distributed, frequency of fertilization, and garden navigability.
  • Multi-Purpose Use: Rotary spreaders are versatile, useful for spreading seeds or de-icing elements besides fertilizers.
  • Investment vs. Need: Assess whether the convenience and efficiency of a spreader justify the investment based on your garden size and fertilizing needs.

Ways to Distribute Fertilizers

Fertilizer spreaders are most useful for evenly distributing fertilizer over large land areas, including lawns, commercial landscaping, and agricultural fields. 

There are three main types of fertilizer spreaders, which are:

  • Rotary fertilizer spreaders
  • Liquid fertilizer spreaders
  • Drop fertilizer spreaders

These varying types of fertilizer spreaders are made to distribute different forms of fertilizers and yield the best, most steady, uniform results.

Rotary Spreader

Rotary fertilizer spreaders, also known as broadcast spreaders, are used mainly for granular fertilizer types, and sometimes for powdered. These spreaders come in various sizes, including smaller, handheld options and larger, rolling “push” models. 

Rotary fertilizer spreaders require the fertilizer to be dry and granular or powdered.

Because of the rotary spreader’s ability to evenly spread dry fertilizer out in front of it as it moves along, it also makes an excellent tool for spreading other gardening support elements like seeding grass or spreading de-icer on slippery pathways. 

Rotary fertilizers are very commonly used in both commercial and home gardening sectors. The push model, in particular, is a simple, effective tool for evenly fertilizing large areas of land without fuss. 

Liquid Spreaders

Dry, dissolving fertilizers, like powdered fertilizer, can be distributed efficiently using a liquid fertilizer spreader.

This device involves attaching a hose to the spreader, which contains the powder fertilizer inside. As the water pushes through the device, it combines with the powder, creating a liquid fertilizer that can be sprayed directly into the soil or onto the plants.

Because of its spray distribution model, this spreader doesn’t always provide a reliably even, uniform distribution, so it should only be used on light projects that don’t require 100% accuracy. If the fertilizing job is quick and small, this method might be suitable for you. 

Liquid fertilizer spreaders are also great for uniquely shaped areas that require a lot of position adjustment to reach less accessible areas. 

Drop Spreaders

Drop fertilizer spreaders can effectively spread both granular fertilizers and larger, bulkier options like mulch, grass clippings, or compost. These models “drop” the fertilizer through a hole in the bottom as it moves along. 

These fertilizer spreaders come in two main models, pull-along and push-along.

Push-along is most commonly used for home gardening. But for larger plots of land or agricultural fertilizing, pull-along models can be towed by a ride-on mower or tractor to distribute large amounts of fertilizer to more vast areas. 

You can even attach the pull-along version to a riding lawn mower and distribute lawn fertilizer while simultaneously mowing the grass! This type of multi-tasking capability makes a drop fertilizer spreader a great choice for someone with a large plot of land. 

Deciding if You Need a Fertilizer Spreader

Here are seven things you should consider when deciding whether you need a fertilizer spreader:

1. How Big Is Your Plot of Land?

A fertilizer spreader can be helpful and convenient but not exactly necessary when working with very small gardens or lawns. However, if you have a large plot of land that needs fertilization, a fertilizer spreader may be precisely what you need. 

Smaller gardens or lawns will not need much more than a small, handheld fertilizer spreader. These models are simple, easy to use, convenient, and time-saving. A push or pull-along fertilizer spreader will be much more effective when fertilizing a large area, such as a field or generously sized lawn. 

2. What Type of Fertilizer Do You Need to Use?

The type of fertilizer you are planning to use will play a significant role in determining what type of fertilizer spreader, if any, you should purchase.

You will need a rotary spreader for granular fertilizers, while powdered fertilizers require either a rotary or a liquid spreader. Composted materials, mulch, and grass clippings work best in a drop spreader.

If you are using composted materials or mulch that need to be placed specifically around the base of your plants, you will not find much use for a fertilizer spreader. This type of application requires you to manually place and combine with soil to achieve the results you desire.

Fertilizer spreaders are more appropriate for widespread, even distribution of fertilizer throughout an entire area.

If you’re using milorganite, you may not need a spreader. I’ve written about the topic in a complete guide, where I explain how you can spread milorganite by hand and when to do it: Can You Spread Milorganite by Hand?

3. How Much Fertilizer Will You Be Distributing?

If your fertilizing needs do not stretch beyond potted plants or a small garden, you won’t likely need to rely on the use of a fertilizer spreader. However, if you need to distribute large amounts of fertilizer, a fertilizer spreader won’t just be helpful; it will be necessary.

When working with large amounts of fertilizer, it is essential to maintain an even distribution so that all areas of the land get fertilized uniformly. When fertilizer is distributed by hand, there is a much higher margin for error, which can cause issues in your plant growth.

4. How Often Do You Need to Fertilize?

When considering the use of a fertilizer spreader, another important factor you should examine is the amount of time you plan to invest in fertilizing your outdoor space. After setting up a regular fertilizing routine, you might find that you need to reapply fertilizer more often than you’d initially planned.

If you are going to be spending a lot of time out in the garden or on your lawn reapplying fertilizer, using a fertilizer spreader is going to help you to not only apply it evenly and thoroughly but it will also save you time. A fertilizer spreader’s distribution time is much faster than manually distributing the nutrients by hand.

5. Do You Have Other Gardening Needs?

One of the most significant benefits of fertilizer spreaders, particularly rotary spreaders, is that they are multi-purpose.

You may not need to use it for fertilization during the winter months when your grass growth is dormant, and your garden is mulched and protected from the cold. But you may need to apply salt or de-icer to frozen paths and walkways.

A rotary fertilizer spreader does a great job of distributing ice-melting elements to your slippery paths without having to use your hands. Additionally, if you find that your lawn needs to be re-seeded, you can use your rotary spreader to distribute grass seed quickly and evenly! 

6. Is Your Garden Space Easy to Navigate?

Push and pull-along fertilizer spreaders work very well for easy-to-navigate spaces. If your fertilizing needs live in an area that would be difficult to maneuver with these tools, you may not need a fertilizer spreader. 

That being said, if the garden space is large enough, or if you just don’t want to manually apply the fertilizer, there are small, handheld spreaders that work very well in gardens and other uneven terrains. 

You can also consider using a variety of fertilizer spreader types. For example, suppose you need a rotary or drop spreader for large lawn areas but struggle to navigate walkways. In that case, you could switch to a handheld model that is a bit easier to maneuver for these more complicated areas.

7. How Much Money Are You Willing to Invest?

Fertilizer spreaders come in all shapes, sizes, and price tags. Fertilizer itself already takes a bite out of your pocketbook. Add a fertilizer spreader on top of that, and you’ve invested a good amount of money into the success of your garden or lawn.

The ease with which fertilizer spreaders distribute the fertilizer and the time-saving component they offer make fertilizer spreaders worth every penny of the investment. There are fertilizer spreaders available for every budget, from small, handheld inexpensive models all the way up to fancy, rolling models with all of the bells and whistles.

Final Thoughts

To decide if you need a fertilizer spreader, you will need to consider many factors in relation to your outdoor space. Suppose you have a considerably large area to fertilize, plan to spend ample time reapplying, or desire to save time while ensuring effective, even fertilizer distribution. In that case, a fertilizer spreader is probably right for you. 

On the other hand, if your fertilizing plans only include a very small garden, potted plants, or very specific application procedures, you can likely consider a fertilizer spreader unnecessary for your needs. 

Dr. Moritz Picot

Dr. Moritz Picot is a horticulture enthusiast and the founder of, where he serves as the lead content writer. He established the website in 2022 as a valuable resource for both gardening aficionados and beginners, compiling all the gardening tips he has accumulated over the past 25 years. Alex has a passion for nurturing plants, transforming backyards into inviting spaces, and sharing his knowledge with the world.

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