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How to Use a Pull-Behind Spreader for Even Fertilizer Distribution Full Guide of 2023

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how to use a pull behind spreader for even fertilizer distributionDo you want to achieve a lush and green lawn but don’t know where or how to start? Take your yard up a notch with the right tools like pull-behind spreaders.

Pull-behind spreaders are great for distributing fertilizer, seed, lime, dry sand, salt, and more in an even manner.

In this article, we will guide you on different types of pull-behind spreaders available today, as well as tips on using them effectively for uniform granular product applications when distributing fertilizer across large areas.

Key Takeaways

  • Pull-behind spreaders are efficient tools for distributing fertilizer evenly over a large turf area.
  • Calibration of the spreader is crucial to ensure accurate coverage and avoid skips or overlaps.
  • Measuring the effective swath width and conducting test runs are important steps in achieving uniform granular product application.
  • Regular cleaning and lubrication of the spreader help prevent buildup and corrosion, ensuring its optimal performance.

Types of Spreaders

how to use a pull behind spreader for even fertilizer distribution 1
Discover the differences between rotary spreaders and drop spreaders to help you find the best option for your fertilizer application needs.

Rotary spreaders are widely used, with adjustable holes in their hopper allowing a wide range of product distribution sizes.

On the other hand, drop spreaders have rectangular hoppers with equally spaced holes and an effective deflector that promotes even product distribution.

It’s important to note that each type of seed selection will require its own set of techniques when it comes to application. This is why calibration is so important! Calibration involves testing different models across various swath widths and adjusting settings accordingly until desired results are achieved.

This should be done separately regardless if two models look identical from one another due to possible variations in density, size, or nutrient content found within each model.

To get accurate coverage without skips or overlaps, make sure two coverage passes over a grid pattern area can help mask any inconsistencies during applications.

Finally, always remember tips like uniform granule size selection helps avoid bouncing/rocking issues, while starting to walk before opening up the hopper hole prevents spotty distributions.

Calibration Basics

Calibration Basics
Calibrating a spreader correctly is essential for achieving the desired outcomes from granular products, and in some cases, it can even save you up to 25% of product costs.

The process involves measuring the effective swath width and conducting test runs with a scale, bucket, chalk or flags, and a calculator to determine how much fertilizer has been applied.

Depending on whether it’s a rotary or drop spreader, it will change what needs to be done next. For rotary models, an adjustable lever should be used to regulate product distribution while also taking into account any changes in density that could affect performance.

This is important when changing from one pound of nitrogen per 1000sqft application rate to another type such as phosphorus, which can vary greatly depending on brand/formula choice.

In addition, measuring out your effective swath width by placing pans at various distances along the path helps ensure accuracy across different operators too. This is because it directly affects how wide each pass should be made over turf areas.

This visual representation of the distribution pattern also allows adjustments needed if skewing occurs due to uneven terrain surfaces, etcetera.

Finally, adjusting settings after testing using collected data based on desired coverage rates is key.

Calibrating Rotary Spreaders

Calibrating Rotary Spreaders
To ensure precise product distribution, calibrating your rotary spreader is essential to get the most out of granular products. The process involves measuring the effective swath width and conducting test runs with a scale, bucket, chalk or flags, and a calculator to determine how much fertilizer has been applied.

To accurately measure an effective swath width for walk-behind rotary spreaders, you’ll need individual clear plastic tubes. These tubes can be placed at various distances along the path to ensure accuracy across different operators.

The swath width directly affects how wide each pass should be made over turf areas.

The calibration process also includes adjusting settings after testing using collected data. This is based on desired coverage rates while taking into account any changes in density that could affect performance.

For example, when changing from one pound of nitrogen per 1000sqft application rate to another type such as phosphorus, the performance can vary greatly depending on the brand/formula choice.

During the calibration test runs, you may also use a catch pan. This helps prevent excess product from being dispersed onto neighboring surfaces. By calculating the weight needed to achieve the desired coverage rates and weighing the contents afterwards, you can verify the accuracy of the application.

If skewing occurs due to uneven terrain surfaces, you can adjust the devices provided by high-quality models for better evenness overall.

Measuring the Effective Swath Width of Your Rotary Spreader

Measuring the Effective Swath Width of Your Rotary Spreader
Measuring the effective swath width of your rotary spreader is key to achieving an ideal, balanced broadcast. To do this accurately and efficiently, you’ll need a few tools: a scale (preferably one that can measure in pounds), chalk or flags to mark off test strips during calibration runs, and a calculator.

With these items at hand, you should be able to easily determine the width of your spreader’s effective swath.

First off, it’s important for each operator to establish their own unique settings by conducting multiple test runs using different types of scales. Either bucket-style or digital ones will suffice here, as long as they are accurate enough for measuring product weight changes after each run.

The desired application rate also needs to be taken into account when determining how much fertilizer should be used per test run. This will allow adjustments to be made later if necessary, based on observed results from the test strips marked with chalk or flags mentioned earlier.

Once all data has been collected following the methods outlined previously, adjustments can be made accordingly until desired coverage rates have been met.

Calibrating Drop Spreaders

Calibrating Drop Spreaders
Getting your drop spreader in tip-top shape is easy – just follow a few simple steps to ensure consistent coverage. Calibrating your drop spreader will help you achieve the effective swath and uniform product distribution necessary for successful application of granular fertilizers.

To begin, measure the weight of fertilizer required per test run and set aside a medium-sized turf area for calibration tests. Next, adjust the setting on your spreader accordingly based on this measurement.

Then, mark off flags or chalk lines along each side of an imaginary center line running through the middle of where you’ll be testing. These will serve as guides when making two passes with your machine over that same space later on.

After completing both runs (in opposite directions), use pans at either end to collect any skips or overlaps, which can cause inconsistent application and turf damage if left unchecked. Weighing these should indicate how well calibrated it currently is compared to what’s needed! Finally, check that there are no major differences between amounts from the left/right sides versus those collected near the center.

Tips for Making Uniform Granular Product Applications

Tips for Making Uniform Granular Product Applications
For a successful application of granular fertilizers, using similar granule sizes and avoiding bouncing or rocking your spreader are important tips to ensure uniform product distribution. To get the most accurate results, it’s best to conduct test runs with an equal number of pans across the swath width that you will be applying product over.

This will help determine if you need to adjust settings on your broadcast spreader in order for it to apply the desired amount of fertilizer or rock salt within a given area.

Additionally, calibration tests should also be done regularly as different products have varying weights and densities; this information can inform how much material needs adjusting when calibrating one’s machine before each use.

Here is a helpful list:

  • Conduct regular calibration tests
  • Adjust settings based on weight/density of product
  • Weigh skips & overlaps during testing

By taking these steps into account prior to any application process, users can rest assured knowing their broadcast spreaders are putting out materials at optimal levels while being safely used with accuracy and precision in mind – all essential components needed for success when looking for even coverage throughout larger areas!

Handy Conversions for Granular Products

Handy Conversions for Granular Products
Gathering the right information is key when using a pull-behind spreader for even fertilizer distribution. To get the most accurate results, it’s important to know how to convert linear and square measures into rates of application and weights.

Linear Measure

Calibrating your pull-behind spreader can drastically change the way you apply granular products, allowing for remarkable coverage that will astound even the most experienced turf specialist! Conversion factors and application rates must be taken into account when adjusting settings, as well as swath width and granule size.

Test runs should be done on a 50- to 100-foot strip of turf for proper calibration results.

When set correctly, this ensures a uniform flow of product over large open areas without skips or overlaps, avoiding damage to delicate grasses.

Square Measure

You can further refine the spreader’s product distribution by converting square measures into linear measurements for more precise control. To do this, you’ll need to know the substrate quality, soil preparation, and nutrient requirements of your landscape, as well as which organic fertilizers are best for your chosen plants.

For large distances between application points, using shallow cake pans will help determine a known weight of the product.

Rates of Application

Accurately adjust the application rate of your granular product to get even coverage with a pull-behind spreader. Select the best fertilizer spreader for overseeding rate and balancing fertilizer, and calibrate it correctly using techniques such as measuring swath width, making test runs, and adjusting settings accordingly.

For large amounts of product, consider drop or push spreaders instead. They can help apply more uniform distribution in less time than rotary units require! Ensure you use the correct amount of product for each area.

Too little won’t do enough, while too much can cause damage to turf. Apply calibration techniques and select an appropriate unit before spreading any material.


To achieve the desired application rate and even coverage of granular products, you need to accurately measure the weight of fertilizer in each test run. Calibrate your spreader like a pro; use a scale as your guide! Adjust settings accordingly based on the germination rate, type of fertilizer used, and the size and shape of granules.

Elite rotary spreaders with their steel frame are preferred for large areas, while Agri-fab tow is suitable for smaller ones.

Top 6 Fertilizer Spreaders

Top 6 Fertilizer Spreaders
Choosing the right fertilizer spreader for your project can make all the difference in achieving even distribution of granular products. Whether you need an overall best spreader, a drop spreader, a broadcast spreader, or a lawn aerator, there is something available to suit every job.

For those looking for ultimate convenience and portability, handheld models are also available. In this article, we will look at the top six fertilizer spreaders and how they can help you achieve even distribution of fertilizers on your turf area.

Best Fertilizer Spreader Overall

Choosing the best fertilizer spreader for your project can make all the difference: Best brands, size considerations, price point, ease of use, and spreader types. For large areas, check a 100-foot strip in the closed position to determine speed and coverage.

Researching business models helps you find the best handheld or aerator spreaders for budget and job requirements.

Best Drop Spreader

A drop spreader is like a painter’s brush, carefully distributing granular fertilizer with each pass. The best brands offer options for different types of lawns and fertilizers to cover any size coverage area.

Spreader types range from handheld to pull-behind models that require operating instructions for correct use. This helps ensure the best results when using a pull-behind spreader for even fertilizer distribution.

The size of the hopper openings should be adjusted based on the product type and desired coverage area.

Best Broadcast Spreader

Broadcasting your lawn with a quality broadcast spreader ensures an even distribution of granular products. Learn best practices, fertilizer types, and how to maintain the spreader for a perfect application every time.

Adjust swath widths and use calibration techniques like those found on the back of most hoppers.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Use appropriate settings based on the product type.
  • Monitor coverage while applying.

Best Push Spreader

Push spreaders make lawn care easy and efficient. They deliver an even coating with minimal effort, making them ideal for large areas. Comparing features helps you find the best push spreader to meet your needs. Spreader maintenance is key for getting the most out of it, while using fertilizer types and settings correctly makes a difference in results.

Best Lawn Aerator

Aerating your lawn is an important part of keeping it lush and healthy. Benefits include improved soil preparation, better watering methods, absorption of small amounts of fertilizer products, and increased grass root growth.

The Old House Reviews Team highly recommends independent reviews before selecting a spreader with a short height for garden beds.

Best Handheld Spreader

Handheld spreaders are a must-have for any lawn enthusiast, providing an effortless way to quickly and dramatically transform your turf! Researching the best brands is key; reviews of features, advantages, and disadvantages should be considered.

Start by measuring the left-of-center pan when calibrating – this initial research will help with home products and the research process. Further information on additional details can be found online or in gardening books.

Fertilizer Spreader Buying Guide

Fertilizer Spreader Buying Guide
When it comes to choosing the right fertilizer spreader for your project, capacity, coverage area, distribution method, and material composition are key considerations. Pull-behind spreaders are a great choice when you need to cover large turf areas with even fertilizer distribution.

With a wide variety of capacities and materials available on the market today, selecting the right pull-behind spreader can be daunting but is essential for the successful application of fertilizers in your lawn or garden.


Calibrating your spreader correctly can help ensure efficient and accurate application of granular products. Consider container size, weight capacity, hopper design, spreading rate, and adjustable settings when choosing a model for the job at hand.

Latest versions come with more robust designs to handle heavier loads over longer distances in less time.

Coverage Area

Accurately setting up your spreader will help you achieve consistent results for granular application. Measuring the effective swath width is key in determining a satisfactory coverage area. It should be done for each product and operator to get favorable reviews from satisfied buyers.

To calibrate, use plastic tubes or strips of wallpaper over an area where you want to apply fertilizer. Then adjust the rate according to the weight measured. Always double-check settings by conducting test runs on different surfaces with experts’ assistance if needed.

With appropriate calibration, you can also gain enough knowledge and experience about the amount of work required per project through in-house expertise.

Distribution Method

Experience the difference of your turf with proper spreader setup – you’ll be amazed at how uniform granular product applications can be! Accurate calibration through test runs and effective swath width measurement is essential for consistent results.

A catch pan can help detect any skewing in product distribution, while older models may produce negative reviews due to improper set up. Key sources of information are expert advice and manufacturer recommendations that will lead to a positive experience when applying fertilizer or other products.

Check out affiliate disclosure notices before buying so you don’t end up wasting money on an unsuitable model.

Material Composition

When shopping for a spreader, it’s important to check the material composition and understand how different products will interact with your turf. Even though pull-behind models are commonly used to apply fertilizer, they may not be suitable if you’re dealing with heavier granules or uneven terrain.

To ensure great success: 1) Use similar granule sizes; 2) Avoid bouncing or rocking the spreader; 3) Measure the effective swath width for each product; 4) Clean and lubricate after use; 5) Calibrate using test runs & weight measurements.

Lawn Fertilizer Tips

Lawn Fertilizer Tips
Calibrating your spreader correctly is critical for achieving a beautiful, lush lawn – take the time to ensure that you get it right!

Here are four essential tips for successful fertilizer application:

  1. Understand the type of fertilizer you’re using and its associated benefits. Different types of fertilizers provide different composting benefits, so be sure to select one suitable for your soil type and condition.
  2. Test your soil regularly to determine which nutrients need replenishing most urgently or if weed control needs attention too. This will help inform which type of fertilizer should be used, as well as how much needs applying over a specific area.
  3. Know when it’s best to apply fertilizers during the growing season. Usually, early spring is ideal, but timing can vary depending on where you live.
  4. Finally, calculate exactly how much product should go into each area by calibrating your spreader appropriately. Check settings carefully according to manufacturer instructions and conduct test runs prior to full application at regular intervals thereafter.

    This ensures an even distribution, providing maximum benefit from both a cost-saving perspective and aesthetic results, without risking turf damage due to environmental misapplication resulting from incorrect calibration techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often should I calibrate my spreader?

You should calibrate your spreader every time you use it with a different granular product. This ensures precise and uniform distribution, minimizing the chance of turf damage caused by skips or overlaps.

Calibration is a quick and simple process that only takes a few minutes, providing you with confidence for effective applications.

What are the benefits of using a pull-behind spreader?

Using a pull-behind spreader can offer you greater control and accuracy for evenly distributing fertilizer. It is ideal for larger turf areas, allowing for consistent coverage with minimal skips or overlaps.

What is the best spreader for my lawn size?

The best spreader for your lawn size depends on the area of turf. Walk-behind, ride-on, or pull-behind rotary spreaders are ideal for larger areas, while drop spreaders work great in smaller spaces. Each should be calibrated separately to ensure accuracy and uniformity when applying granular products.

What is the difference between rotary and drop spreaders?

Rotary spreaders have adjustable holes in the hopper to regulate product distribution, while drop spreaders feature a rectangular hopper with equally spaced holes and a deflector for better uniformity.

Rotary spreaders are best for large areas, while drop spreaders work well on small lawns and lightweight granules.

How can I prevent skips and overlaps when applying fertilizer?

To avoid skips and overlaps while applying fertilizer, employ two coverage passes in a grid pattern. This technique conceals any irregularities in the application process, guaranteeing a uniform distribution of the product.


In conclusion, proper calibration of spreaders is essential for uniform application of granular fertilizers and pesticides. Take, for instance, a homeowner with a small yard. They might opt for a drop spreader with a rectangular hopper and equally spaced holes, as this will give them better application uniformity than a rotary spreader.

Calibration involves measuring the effective swath width and conducting test runs to determine the amount of product distributed. Following this process and adhering to the manufacturer’s instructions will ensure that the right amount of product is applied accurately and uniformly.

Finally, when applying granular products, remember to avoid bouncing or rocking the spreader and start walking before opening the hopper holes for better application uniformity.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim is a published author and software engineer and agriculture expert from the US. To date, he has helped thousands of people make their yards lush and thick.