Whether you’re tending to a new yard or acres of land, a fertilizer spreader is a convenient home tool to have. Not only are fertilizer spreaders far more accurate than hand spreading, but they also greatly reduce the time and effort it takes to fertilize and treat a yard. “A fertilizer spreader makes performing tasks more efficient and effective as you are able to evenly spread the application where it needs to be,” says Melissa Lallo Johnson, a master gardener based in Kansas City, Missouri.
From rotary spreaders to drop spreaders, there are numerous fertilizer spreaders to choose from. We researched the best fertilizer spreaders, evaluating products based on their type, size, holding capacity, coverage area, and precision to help you find the best one for your yard’s needs. Our best overall pick, the Scotts Elite Spreader, provides exceptional accuracy, distributes product efficiently, and has an ergonomic handle for comfortable operation.
Read on to discover the best fertilizers, backed by our research.
Best Overall: Scotts Elite Broadcast Spreader
Ergonomic handle with phone holder
Folds down for easy storage
Has other uses
Not ideal for rough terrain
May leave stripes on your lawn
With a large coverage area and easy operation, the Scotts Elite Spreader takes our top spot. It can hold up to 20,000 square feet (larger than a hockey rink) of lawn product, making it a solid choice for midsize yards. Also, the Scotts Elite Spreader is for year-round use: In addition to spreading seed and fertilizer, it comes in handy for spreading rock salt and ice melt in the wintertime. It measures 20.02 x 23.63 x 23.31 inches wide, and the handle folds down for compact storage. Since this unit arrives pre-assembled, all you need to do is snap on the wheels and unfold the handle.
The ergonomic handle makes it easy to maneuver, and the product is equipped with a smartphone holder for added convenience. Thanks to dual-rotor technology, the Scotts Elite Spreader can distribute products twice as fast as some other products, allowing you to cover a large area in minimal time. What’s more, it spreads product evenly on a 6-foot path for accurate coverage. However, since the rotary spreader discharges in a line, stripes may appear on your lawn.
The soft plastic wheels roll smoothly on most terrain, and they’re filled with foam, which means they never go flat. However, the product struggles to glide over rough ground, and some material can become stuck in the tires.
Price at time of publish: $128
Best Budget: Scotts Turf Builder EdgeGuard Mini Broadcast Spreader
Pre-calibrated and fully assembled
Folds down for easy storage
Not ideal for rough terrain
Wheels may block broadcast
At less than $50, the Scotts Turf Builder EdgeGuard Mini Broadcast Spreader is ideal for budget-friendly shoppers who need to complete light-duty jobs. The walk-behind fertilizer spreader holds up to 5,000 square feet (about the size of a basketball court) of lawn product, making it suitable for yards up to 10,000 square feet. Measuring 45.25 x 20 x 16 inches and equipped with a fold-down handle, this compact spreader is easy to store. At just 1 pound, it’s also lightweight and easy to maneuver.
The EdgeGuard Mini Broadcast Spreader is suitable for spreading seed, fertilizer, ice melt, and more, but the manufacturer notes it’s not to be used with rock salt. For accurate coverage, a control dial allows users to select the appropriate setting for the material they’re spreading. A curved hopper and dual-bladed agitator helps smooth application and make coverage more consistent.
This unit features EdgeGuard Technology, which prevents lawn products from being spread onto driveways, sidewalks, and landscaping. For added convenience, this spreader comes pre-calibrated and fully assembled. The only downside is the hard plastic wheels, which don’t perform as well as air-filled tires on varying terrain. They don’t roll as smoothly on uneven ground and can block the spread of the product.
Best Splurge: EarthWay 2150 50 LB Commercial Broadcast Fertilizer Spreader
Fully enclosed gearbox prevents clogs
Long shipping times
You can find similar machines for lower prices, but this commercial-grade spreader from Earthway has plenty of heavy-duty components and convenient features to justify its high price tag. The rustproof poly hopper, which has a 50-pound capacity, is ideal for yards up to an acre in size. A patented three-hole drop system spreads fertilizer, salt, or seed evenly, and side-spread control allows for precise application. And, thanks to a fully enclosed gearbox, you don’t have to worry about clogged or blocked drop holes.
Measuring 23.63 x 14.5 x 15.75 inches, this walk-behind spreader features an adjustable handle, with two height positions for comfortable operation. The wide, 13-inch pneumatic tires roll smoothly on any terrain, and they never go flat. Plus, the sturdy frame improves stability in rugged conditions, and the spreader has an impressive 175-pound load-bearing capacity.
The mechanically inclined can assemble this product with little trouble, but it is time-consuming. Also, depending on where you buy this product from, it may have longer shipping times.
Price at time of publish: $376
Best Drop: Scotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader
Pre-calibrated and fully assembled
Not ideal for rough terrain
Plastic parts are flimsy
The Scotts Classic Drop Spreader is ideal for properties with plant beds, tree rings, and other heavily landscaped areas that require precise application. Its large-capacity hopper can hold up to 10,000 square feet (roughly larger than two regulation basketball courts) of lawn product. With a 22-inch spread pattern, the Classic Drop Spreader delivers superb coverage and accuracy; plus, a gate control on the handle allows users to adjust the flow rate. (Just note that it is only designed to be used for seed and fertilizer.)
This unit arrives fully assembled and pre-calibrated, and measures 47 x 32 x 18 inches. Although the heavy-duty, tubular frame is durable, the other parts are made of lightweight plastic, which may feel flimsy. Like other basic spreaders in Scotts’ lineup, it has hard plastic wheels that struggle on uneven terrain. If it breaks over time, you can take advantage of Scotts’ “No-Quibble” guarantee: If you are not satisfied with your purchase, they will issue a refund or provide a replacement. (Proof of purchase is required.)
Best Handheld: Scotts Whirl Hand-Powered Spreader
Arrives fully assembled
Easy to operate
Plastic material doesn't corrode
The Scotts Whirl Hand-Powered Spreader is a great handheld choice for small yards under 5,000 square feet (about the size of a basketball court). Its compact size—measuring 8.5 x 8.7 x 13.1 inches and weighing just over 1 pound—makes it convenient to carry and store. Thanks to its slide-out, adjustable arm support and smooth handle, it’s comfortable to hold for an extended period. This spreader holds up to 1,500 square feet of lawn product, so it's great for smaller yards and hard-to-reach grass areas.
This unit arrives fully assembled and ready to use, a major plus. It’s very easy to operate: All you need to do is fill the hopper, pull the trigger, and crank the handle clockwise. An adjustable dial allows you to control the amount of product you want to apply. Another advantage is it’s made of plastic, so you don't have to worry about fertilizer, ice melt, and other materials corroding it—a common concern with metal fertilizer spreaders.
The downside to a handheld spreader is it’s not as accurate as larger, walk-behind models. Since the application rate varies depending on how fast you walk and crank the handle, results aren’t always consistent. This spreader clogs easily, but it is covered by the manufacturer’s “No-Quibble” warranty.
Price at time of publish: $26
Best Tow-Behind: Agri-Fab Agri-Fab 45-0463 130-Pound Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader
Universal hitch fits most lawn tractors
Glides over any terrain
Awkward to operate from driver seat
The Agri-Fab 130-Pound Tow Behind Broadcast Spreader can be hitched to a lawn tractor, riding lawn mower, tractor, or other vehicle to spread product over large-acreage lawns. With a universal hitch, it attaches easily to any tractor. Its heavy-duty hopper has a 130-pound capacity and a spread pattern of 10 to 12 feet. Thanks to four 13-inch pneumatic wheels, it’s incredibly stable and easy to maneuver, even on curves and uneven ground. It measures 31.5 x 27.13 x 46 inches, and you can use this pull-behind spreader to apply seed, fertilizer, herbicide, ice melt, and more.
A steel-flow control arm offers precise setting adjustments for even spreading. (This lever, which is located behind the driver, is a bit awkward to maneuver from a mower seat, however.) The enclosed gearbox prevents clogs and other malfunctions. Also, this product requires assembly, which can be a bit tedious and time-consuming because of its numerous parts.
Price at time of publish: $250
Best for Large Yards: Agri-Fab Agri-Fab 130 lb Push Broadcast Spreader
Glides over any terrain
Pricier than other options
“It is imperative to use a large spreader to evenly place fertilizers and various other treatments on the lawn and landscape,” says Melissa Lallo Johnson, a master gardener based in Kansas City, Missouri. Thanks to a flow control with adjustable stop on this push broadcast spreader from Agri-Fab, you can apply a precise amount of product to your lawn. Its wide, 12-foot spread pattern helps ensure efficient and uniform coverage, and its 130-pound capacity makes it ideal for yards up to 1 acre. The product is intended for year-round operation, so users can spread lawn products in warmer months, and ice melt in wintertime.
Measuring 33.62 x 27.12 x 48 inches, this product features large pneumatic tires, which are easy to maneuver and provide a smooth ride, even over rough terrain. The enclosed commercial-grade gearbox, which features aluminum beveled gears, prevents clogs.
This unit requires assembly and needs to be calibrated. (Assembly is straightforward and should take about an hour or so.) At over $200, this is a pricier fertilizer spreader than other options on this list. If you encounter any defects, the product is backed by a 3-year warranty if you’re not fully satisfied.
Price at time of publish: $250
Best with Aerator: Brinly AS2-40BH-P Tow Behind Combination Aerator Spreader with Weight Tray, 40-Inch
Most garden experts advise aerating your lawn before fertilizing because this enables the soil to ingest additional oxygen and nutrients. For most yards, this task takes about an hour with an aerator—longer if you have a large green space. But if you have a mammoth space that needs fertilizing, we recommend the Brinly AS2-40BH to aerate your soil while dispensing fertilizer. As you tow the product, with a tractor or riding mower containing a hitch plate, 132 three-dimensional galvanized-steel tines bore holes in the soil.
This product is truly designed for larger spaces. One side of the all-steel hopper holds up 100 pounds of fertilizer or seed—enough to cover a space the size of a football field. You can control the rate of disbursement with an adjustable flow control. However, some users report no guidance for this in the user manual, which can result in too much fertilizer dispensed and a “burned-out” lawn.
Obviously, this product is best used in oversize yards, which require the use of a riding mower or tractor. If your home has that much green space to fertilize, and you wish to cut down the time needed to do it, you may wish to consider this rather expensive product.
Price at time of publish: $460
Our best overall pick, the Scotts Elite Spreader, allows users to apply products quickly and evenly in yards up to 20,000 square feet. For smaller yards, the Scotts Turf Builder EdgeGuard Mini Broadcast Spreader is a budget-friendly option that comes fully assembled and delivers precise application.
What to Look For in a Fertilizer Spreader
Two types of spreaders can apply dry lawn products: broadcast spreaders, which are also referred to as rotary spreaders, and drop spreaders.
A rotary spreader is equipped with a rotating base plate that slowly dispenses fertilizer granules or seeds from a hopper. While in motion, it broadcasts the product within several feet of the spreader—typically at the front and along the sides of the unit. Rotary spreaders cover a much larger area—often three times their width—with each pass. Although they spread dry products much more efficiently than drop spreaders, their application isn’t as accurate.
If you need to cover a specific area, a drop spreader is the best tool. Since this kind of product only distributes through a narrow opening between its wheels, users can limit the application to a precise location. Drop spreaders are also ideal if you’re tackling a narrow space or negotiating obstacles like plant beds and sidewalks. The downside of a drop spreader is it takes a lot longer to traverse a lawn with one than with a broadcast spreader.
A handheld spreader is a suitable choice for small lawns up to 1,500 square feet (about half the size of a tennis court). For medium-sized lawns up to 5,000 square feet (basketball court size), a compact walk-behind spreader gets the job done. A large walk-behind spreader works best for yards up to 20,000 square feet (just over hockey rink proportions). If you need to cover half an acre or more, a tow-behind spreader is definitely your best bet.
Almost all fertilizer spreaders can be used for grass seed and other lawn care products. However, not every spreader can handle sand, powdered lime, rock salt, or ice melt. Some lawn-care products are corrosive and can cause steel parts to rust. Always refer to the manufacturer’s guide to be certain you’re using a product that’s compatible with your spreader.
Holding capacity specifies the maximum square footage that one hopper load covers. A larger-capacity hopper allows you to spread more material before it needs refilling, or it might be large enough to cover your lawn in one pass.
Drop spreaders are the most precise options because they are calibrated to deliver a consistent flow rate. When operating a drop spreader, the user must walk at a steady pace to achieve even coverage. Broadcast spreaders can provide even coverage, but they are less accurate than drop spreaders.
What is a pre-calibrated fertilizer spreader?
Fertilizer spreaders that are pre-calibrated avoid you having to calculate how much product should be distributed over a particular area over a set amount of time and space. If this is not done, you risk applying too little fertilizer or worse, applying too much, resulting in a burned-out lawn. Calibrating is a rather complicated process that involves determining how much fertilizer you need to cover 100 square feet, adding this material to the spreader, and testing it over a prescribed distance. You need to do this for each uncalibrated spreader you use, and for each type of material you spread with the product, since each material broadcasts differently. Unless you feel confident to do this, we recommend purchasing a fertilizer spreader that comes pre-calibrated.
What do the numbers on a fertilizer spreader mean?
The numbers on a fertilizer spreader reflect the different rates of product distribution over as specific area. This is important because broadcasting the proper amount of fertilizer ensures that your lawn gets just what it needs and not too little, which is ineffective, and not too much, which can "burn out" patches. When shopping for a fertilizer spreader, make sure you can easily read these numbers, which most products display as sliding bars (though we have seen products with dials instead). Correlate these numbers with the product's NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) percentages, listed on the fertilizer bag.
Why does the size of a fertilizer spreader matter?
Of course, you need a product that contains enough fertilizer or seed to cut down on the time you need to administer your green space without having to constantly stop and fill it; doing so can cause irregular-looking spots and stripes on your lawn. But too large a machine for too small a space can result in collateral damage to other growing things. "Be careful not to use huge spreaders in tight areas," advises Melissa Lallo Johnson, a master gardener based in Kansas City, Missouri. "Small grass seeds/fertilizers will blow in the wind and get right into your garden beds.”
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Sage McHugh, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce who specializes in the home and garden sector. To select the best fertilizer spreaders for this roundup, she considered dozens of products, carefully evaluating their type, size, holding capacity, coverage area, and precision. For additional insight, she interviewed Melissa Lallo Johnson, a master gardener based in Kansas City, Missouri, and the host of Art of Gardening, a vlog and podcast that features influential gardeners from around the world.