Selecting a Spreader

Spreaders are handy for laying down weed killer, fertilizer and other lawn care products that help you maintain the yard or garden. They come in two basic types - broadcast spreaders and drop spreaders - and you may find it helpful to have at least one of each.

A broadcast spreader itself comes in two different varieties, push-cart and hand-held.

The smaller, hand-held style has a large cup-like container that usually holds up to a few cups of dry grass seed or fertilizer beads. You fill the container, then turn a small crank that causes the material to shoot out holes in the bottom. They're useful for spot seeding lawn patches or feeding specific plants.

The larger, push-cart style has a tub with a similar dispenser arrangement, but the whole assembly sits on an axle and wheels attached to a pole with handlebars. You squeeze a lever attached to the handle, thus opening the mechanism at the bottom. As you move forward the wheels turn a rotor that flings seed, fertilizer or weed killer in a broad arc.

Using a push-cart broadcast spreader it's possible to cover a large area in a short time. For applications of combination dry weed killer/fertilizer it can't be beat. But, it does have one drawback. Since the broadcast area is circular and the material shoots quite a distance, it's difficult to cover a rectangular area near the edges very precisely. You may be spreading material onto the sidewalk or garden where you don't want it.

The solution is a drop spreader. Drop spreaders have a similar tub and handle design, but the base of the tub has an entirely different mechanism. Instead of throwing material in a semi-circular arc, a roller lifts as you squeeze the handle and a series of holes is exposed. As the spreader moves forward, material simply drops through the holes, hence the name.

A drop spreader is inexpensive, sturdy and puts material right where you want it in just the needed proportions. A dial on the handle allows the user to select the size of the opening, controlling the amount of material dropped out. You pass along an area just as you would with a lawnmower, back and forth or in a rectangular spiral.

A spreader costing less than $20 can easily last for years, if kept properly maintained. All you need to do is wash out the basin after use, to remove residual chemicals. They can spread seed, but are more often used to spread dry weed killer beads or powder or seasonal lawn care mixtures.

Either of the tub or push-cart spreaders will hold a cubic foot of material - far more than one would use in a typical application, unless your yard is enormous. A layer of material only a few inches deep in a drop spreader, for example, will cover a section of yard 20 feet by 60 feet with beads of grub killer.

Maintenance is simple: simply hose out, let dry and spread a few drops of oil on the axle once in a while.

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