Is It Possible To Spread Soil With a Seed Spreader?

Spreading topsoil on your lawn or garden bed can be a difficult task. But will spreading soil with a seed spreader work? Wanting to optimize your time while optimizing your garden is natural, and using things you already have at your disposal is a resourceful way of stepping up your garden game.

It is possible to spread soil with a seed spreader, though it might be challenging with a handheld one. A pusher seed spreader is better. To spread soil instead of seed, you will have to adjust the distribution setting and be extra cautious about where your soil is going. 

Below, I will discuss the differences between a seed spreader and a pusher and some strategies for spreading soil. Read on to learn more about how you can repurpose these garden tools and make the most of what you have.

Can You Use a Seed Spreader To Spread Soil?

Depending on your garden chore preferences, spreading soil out might seem like a nightmare. You may need to shovel, throw, and pat down an entire bag or two of soil in a large garden. For a lawn, this can mean hours of labor and days of back pain. So will a spreader, which usually just requires a push, do the trick?

You can use a seed spreader to spread soil, but it might not be the most effective method, especially if you’re using a handheld device. Handheld spreaders can only shoot out so much at a time, and spreaders without adjustable settings will only cover so much ground. 

The best spreader to use, if you choose to use one at all, would be to use a fertilizer or compost spreader. These are more interchangeable with a soil spreader. 

A push spreader is also an option, and a much better option than a handheld device.

Assuming your seed spreader is the push type, you could use this to spread soil as long as you adjust the settings. Using a seed spreader that’s handheld is still possible, but it won’t take you any less time. It may be saving you from bending and using your arms a lot, which might still be worth the extra labor hours of using the seed spreader. 

Spreading Topsoil Can Be a Tedious yet Beneficial Task

Spreading topsoil, often called “topdressing,” is a practice usually reserved for lawn care. It’s possible you may want to spread some topsoil over your garden if you want to cover a large area quickly with nutrient-rich soil (through composting or mulching may be the way to go for this mission)

Whether your lawn or your garden is on your to-do list, there’s no denying that topdressing can be a tedious task.

Topdressing can help soil that is suffering from:

  • A low pH
  • Compaction
  • Watering issues
  • Scarce organic life
  • Low nutrients 

As it goes for gardens, topdressing might help with plant nutrition. Topsoil is usually what is already available to you in your yard, and it may not have all the nutrients that your garden needs to thrive. Spreading a fresher, nutrient-rich topsoil can help your garden soil richen with healthy microorganisms and nutrients for healthier plants. 

How Seed Spreaders Work vs. Push Spreaders

Seed spreaders essentially work like watering cans, but instead of water, they’re releasing tiny seeds onto your soil. 

As you can imagine, taking a handful of seeds and throwing it to the wind, then praying your seeds land where you want, isn’t a very effective method. However, seed spreaders help so that your seeds are being spread evenly, all in the same volume, as you walk around with them. 

There’s a variety of seed spreaders available, some more helpful than others. Some seed spreaders are handheld, while others you can push (and these tend to have more settings). The cost will usually reflect how easy a seed spreader is to use and how versatile it is.

Pushers are different in that they don’t have teeny tiny holes, nor any adjustable holes, for seeds to come out through. Instead, they look more cage-like and are typically meant to push out fertilizer or mulch evenly. 

If you need a visual of this, the FIX IT Home Improvement Channel on YouTube posted this video of a compost spreader top dressing a lawn:

As you can see, a pusher works very similarly to a seed spreader.

There are spreaders that can do fertilizer, compost, and seeds, and they’re able to do so with an adjustable hole setting where you can select the type of garden material you’re pushing around. This helps you adjust a “flow rate,” and you must put the accurate material in this setting, so it’s not dropping tons of seeds or barely any fertilizer as you walk along. 

Drop spreaders drop product right onto the ground, while broadcast spreaders kind of spit them out every other way. 

Most bags of fertilizer, seeds, or mulch you buy will give you the exact size of the adjuster you need to optimize your spreading. This is most accurate when you buy a specific brand pusher and its accompanying products, as the numbers are calibrated for each other. 

Using Soil in Your Seed Spreader

The video above showed us how pushers work in the context of compost or fertilizer. In theory, this could also work for spreading your topsoil, but you’d need to go over it a few times for your lawn or garden to be covered entirely.

If you have a pusher or seed spreader that doesn’t have adjustable settings, spreading topsoil will be a lengthy task. Because only so much soil can come out at a time, you’ll have to move back and forth along your garden or lawn for enough to come out to make a difference. 

Additionally, with a handheld spreader, you will be battling against the wind for anything to land on the ground.

Bottom Line: Seed Spreaders Are Best Used With Seeds

Soil spreaders do exist, but they can be expensive. This video here shows what a topsoil spreader does:

They work similarly to seed spreaders and compost or fertilizer pushers, but they don’t spread topsoil at the same volume or speed. Even if you have a seed spreader that adjusts for compost or fertilizer, you might find that the best practice is just to go at it with a wheelbarrow and shovel.

However, we can see a seed spreader being your best option if you have back problems and don’t want to shovel out of your wheelbarrow or pour out of your bag. Drop spreaders, which drop the product directly onto the ground, will work best for this. If you’re okay with going over your lawn over and over again with a seed spreader or fertilizer pusher, more power to you! 

What Are Some Easy Ways To Spread Topsoil?

If you’ve taken a second look at your handheld seed spreader and decided this isn’t the move for spreading topsoil, don’t worry. There are plenty of options for effectively spreading topsoil in your garden. Some may be investments, but those investments could be worth it.

To spread topsoil in your lawn or on your garden, you can use a pusher, shovel, and rake or purchase an eco spreader. Spreading topsoil on your garden or lawn just requires getting the soil onto the ground and spreading it out effectively. 

How you negotiate to do this will depend on your available resources and your personal preferences for garden work. As discussed above, using a seed spreader may not be the best option, especially if it’s handheld. However, using a compost or fertilizer pusher will work pretty well if you can adjust the settings and are willing to go over your lawn or garden a few times. 

If you are just top dressing a garden bed, you might find that cutting open the bag of soil, pouring it, and then smoothing out with a shovel or a rake doesn’t take us much work as a pusher. 

The desire to use a pusher or drop spreader for longer distances, more extensive gardens, or entire lawns makes sense. Again, your personal preference will guide whether this is worth it or not.

Buying a spreader explicitly made for soil is also an option if you have the resources available. These tend to be on the pricier side, but depending on how often you need to spread topsoil, it may be worth it. 


Using a broadcast or handheld speed spreader will make spreading soil more difficult because they will only shoot out so much soil at a time. Additionally, with a handheld spreader, you’re battling against the wind for the soil to get on the ground. Drop spreaders will work much more effectively but still require you to go over your lawn or garden a few times. 

The best options are using the old wheelbarrow and shovel method, enlisting the help of a rake, or investing in an eco spreader.

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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