For many, curb appeal is a key ingredient in the pride of homeownership. And caring for your lawn is a big part of helping your property stand out and look great to neighbors and friends. While different products can be used for your lawn, investing in a good fertilizer spreader to apply those products is something almost every homeowner will want to do. And if you’re in the market for the best drop spreader, then I’m here to help you choose a reliable model that will match your budget, and hold up to regular use.
In today’s article I’ll be discussing everything there is to know about drop spreaders. I’ll share what they are (and how they differ from broadcast spreaders), how they work, provide tips to choose one that’s best suited to your property, and finally I’ll share a few of my favorite models in case you’re hoping for a recommendation and want to buy one today.
Quick Picks – Comparing My 5 Favorite Drop Spreaders
In case you’re just here to find the best spreader for you, here’s a quick side-by-side comparison between what I consider some of the best drop spreaders sold today.
|Drop Spreader||Spreading Width||Capacity||Typical Price Range||Where to Buy|
|Scotts Turf Builder Drop Spreader||22″||25 pounds||Under $100|
|Agri-Fab Towable Drop Spreader||42″||175 pounds||$200 – $300|
|Spyker P70-1210 Drop Spreader||18″ or 36″ |
(spreader has two hoppers w/shutoffs)
|120 pounds||$550 – $700|
|Gandy 36″ Push Drop Spreader||36″||120 pounds||$700 – $750|
|Lesco Drop Spreader||36″||120 pounds||$750 – $800|
Now, let’s dig in and start with the basics.
What is a Drop Spreader?
A drop spreader is a tool usually used for larger lawns. They are used to distribute lawn products evenly across large spaces to ensure equal growth and distribution.
A drop spreader usually features a bucket like body wherein lawn materials like fertilizer and seed are held. Between the wheels there are usually slots that release or “drop” the lawn product directly down onto the lawn as you push the spreader across your lawn. Unlike broadcast spreaders, you get an even amount of product dropped in a single line directly between your spreader’s wheels.
Aside from drop spreaders there are three different types of spreaders each suited for different jobs, lawn spaces, and labor intensity (more on those in a moment).
How to Use a Drop Spreader
Using a drop spreader is very simple as most of them are manually operated.
After filling the hopper with the lawn product, all you have to do is push the spreader. Most of the time, little to no calibration is required as drop spreaders rely mostly on gravity to distribute lawn product.
When using your spreader it is important to keep in mind that drop spreaders are not broadcast spreaders.
This means that the track you’ll take over your lawn while spreading seed, fertilizer, or pre-emergent will need to be more precise.
You may want to run over specific areas more than once in order to ensure proper and full distribution. I recommend splitting your product in half and spreading half of it across your lawn north-to-south, and spread the other half in an east-to-west pattern.
Why Choose a Drop Spreader?
Homeowners often opt for drop spreaders as they are the more affordable option. Drop spreaders are more precise and give homeowners more control over the amount of product being distributed.
They are also more suitable for smaller lawns which is just right for most homeowners.
Drop Spreader vs Broadcast Spreader
Among the different types of spreaders , broadcast and drop spreaders are the most popular and the most similar to one another.
While we have already discussed the ins and outs of drop spreaders, let’s briefly examine how they compare to broadcast spreaders and why you may want to choose a drop spreader instead.
About Broadcast Spreaders
As the name suggests, broadcast spreaders are meant to distribute or “broadcast” more products at one time.
This means that more land is covered, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that the amount of seed or fertilizer spread is and even.
Broadcast spreaders are great for larger lawns but for standard home yards, a drop spreader is often the way to go.
Your results will be more predictable and your coverage will be more even if used correctly.
Buying a Drop Spreader: Factors to Consider
When buying a drop spreader there are a few factors to consider in order to choose the right one for you and your lawn.
You will want to consider factors such as:
- the size of your lot,
- how often you plan to use it,
- durability of the product,
- manufacturer’s brand reputation, and
- the capacity of the spreader.
Size and Capacity
Generally, drop spreaders are better for smaller sized lawns. However, there are different sized drop spreaders to better suit your lawn.
In terms of drop spreader size, you can check and compare the different carrying capacities. Drop spreaders with larger carrying capacities can cover more land with fewer product refills.
That may not seem like a big deal, but it is. If you can do big sections of your lawn with one load of product you’ll be happier with your spreader.
Frequency of Use and Durability
If you are constantly doing lawn work and planning to use your spreader for different products, you will want to consider a drop spreader made for heavy duty use.
This may cost a little more, but it will work better and last longer, and you should value those qualities.
Factors to consider would be spreaders with solid hoppers or heavy duty wheels.
Standard drop spreaders are great for fertilizer and seeds, but other materials such as sand will require you to look into more sturdy alternatives. If you invest in a heavy duty spreader you can use it for rock salt or sand on your icy winter driveway, making it a year-round investment instead of a seasonal one.
The quality of lawn care products and equipment can often be determined by the brand reputation of the company that manufacture’s it.
For example, Scotts is a great brand for everything lawn care related. The fact that they’re everywhere can mean that the quality of some of their products suffer (they rely on their brand recognition and distribution to sell a lot of products), but that volume means their spreaders are available at a lower price.
My Picks: The 5 Best Drop Spreaders for Residential Use
With all the factors to consider above, we have compiled a list for the 5 best broadcast spreaders for residential use. We will be discussing the most notable features, pros and cons, and even the price range to help find the right drop spreader for you.
Scotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader (my top pick for most lawns)
The Scotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader is a great high quality and affordable drop spreader sitting at a price range between $50 and $75 with four different variations to choose from.
The Scotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader is the perfect spreader for residential lawns on a budget. While this spreader isn’t perfect, at under $100 it’s pretty much the best bang-for-your-buck that you can get when buying a drop spreader and it’s a solid choice for small yards and seeding projects.
This drop spreader features a heavy duty frame and handle that ensures durability. The spreader already comes precalibrated and has a coverage capacity of up to 10,000 square feet without refilling the hopper, which is nice.
Additionally, the spreader is compatible with all Scotts products and also works with other brands of seeds, fertilizer, and other lawn products. The nice thing about buying Scotts spreaders is that everyone has them – this means every product manufacturer tells you what setting to use on your spreader for their product.
- Spreader is highly affordable and comes in different variations and prices to choose from.
- Perfect size for medium sized lawns.
- Size warrants for great precision while maintaining a 22-inch spread pattern.
- Comes fully assembled and pre calibrated, ready to use with no hassle.
- Wheels are not pneumatic so they do not have the same performance ability as high end spreaders.
- Since the wheels are not pneumatic, seed or other product can sometimes get stuck in the wheels which affects the performance.
If you have a big lawn and own an ATV or riding mower, a large-capacity tow-behind spreader may be the way to go for your yard. At under $300, Agri-Fab’s 42″ model is a solid choice which performs well.
I recommend using it on dry lawns to keep the metal parts dry during use and to ensure that everything is clean and dry before storing this piece of equipment.
With a 17 gallon hopper capacity, you can spread a lot of product all at once. The manufacturer suggest this will give you about 40,000 square feet of coverage if filled (about one acre). The agitator is now galvanized steel (an improvement over previous iterations where rust was an issue). Comes with a 3-year warranty.
- A low-effort solution ideal for large lawns of 1 acre or more.
- The 17-gallon hopper allows for a larger carrying capacity which means that you would not have to refill the hopper with product as often.
- Great price for a commercial-grade, tow-behind spreader.
- Some customers have complained about a bent agitator – will not work well for some dense products like powdered lime (you’ll have to buy pelletized).
- Can be challenging to assemble.
- Will require more storage space when not in use.
This Spyker Commercial drop spreader is one of the best drop spreaders you can buy and comes at a premium price-tag.
It is generally sold in a price range between $550 and $660 and is available through Amazon and a few other online retailers.
This heavy duty commercial drop spreader includes features such as steel exterior frame, two hopper sections, and a 120lb hopper capacity.
Other features include 13” by 5” inch wheels and either am 18″ or 36” spreadwidth. The fact that you can close one side of the hopper for a narrow application, or open both sides of the hopper at the same time is a nice feature to have. It’s possible to distribute several products at the same time (like grass seed and starter fertilizer) this way, though most homeowners will want to use the full 36 inches and do two separate applications.
- 120lb carrying capacity allows users to get the job done without refilling.
- Dual hopper compartments allows you to distribute two different products at the same time.
- Steel coated frame for added durability
- Steel coated frame and large wheels make the hopper more difficult to maneuver.
- Large spread width does not allow for precise distribution.
- Products are expensive and can be difficult to find through certain manufacturers.
This Gandy drop spreader sits at a price range of $700 to $750 and is popular among professional landscaping companies. It is also used on golf courses regularly.
Homeowners seeking professional results from a high-performing drop spreader (and that can afford its premium price tag) will be really happy with this spreader.
This drop spreader features a heavy duty steel coated exterior, and 13” pneumatic wheels for ensured heavy duty durability.
Other features include a snap on bottom which allows users to clean the spreader easily and for the product to distribute with ease due to the triangular openings which sit at 1 ⅛ inches apart for quick and even distribution.
- Heavy duty steel exterior and pneumatic wheels allow for added durability.
- High quality handle lever that prevents product waste
- Accurate handle allows for precise distribution.
- Evenly spaced out distribution slots allowing even distribution and preventing product from interfering with the wheels
- This spreader is more expensive than its competitors .
- Heavy duty metals and features make the spreader difficult to maneuver.
This Lesco Drop Spreader sits at a price range between $750 and $800. It’s a serious tool and requires a serious investment, but if you have a big level lawn and want one of the best drop spreaders on the market, consider this model.
This Leseco Drop Spreader is a heavy duty spreader that has a 120lb carrying capacity, steel coated exterior, and interchangeable stainless steel hopper bottoms.
This is a great drop spreader, especially well suited for large lawns. Its 36” hopper allows for you to cover a lot of ground quickly in three foot passes.
- The steel exterior and hopper bottom ensure that this product will last.
- Wide spread reach (36″) will require less walking to cover your lawn.
- Dual compartments in the hopper allows you to distribute two products at once.
- Air filled wheels rather than solid rubber, this can lessen durability and leaves the spreader prone to flat tires.
- Assembly is required, this leaves more room for mistakes in the event that the spreader was not assembled properly or parts were damaged during shipping.
- Very expensive.
Calibrating Your Drop Spreader for Proper Application
This short video from the Oklahoma Gardening channel does a nice job of explaining how to properly calibrate a drop spreader (or any kind of spreader) for an application of fertilizer to your lawn:
Choosing the Best Drop Spreader for Your Property
Drop spreaders can be an essential to homeowners who prefer tending to their lawns themselves, but most people will only need one seed/fertilizer spreader for their property.
If you have a small lot with a level lawn, you’ll probably be best served by purchasing a drop spreader. If you have a larger lot with a bumpy lawn that you aren’t motivated to level, then a broadcast spreader might be the most efficient tool for you.
With a drop spreader, you get more control in how you apply seed, fertilizer, and mineral supplements to your yard, and for many homeowners in suburbia, they’re the perfect tool for the job.
Once again, unless you live-and-breathe lawn care, my top recommendation for a residential use drop spreader is the Scotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader. It’s an affordable and durable piece of equipment, and will get the job done without breaking the bank.