A Comparison – Drop Spreaders VS Broadcast Spreaders: Which is Best?

By Brian Mounts | Apr 07, 2020
Drop VS Broadcast Spreaders

All homeowners dedicated to keeping a well-manicured lawn with a vibrant green color need to own a quality spreader and the decision to choose a drop spreader vs. broadcast spreader can be tough for some people.

This is a tool that you will use throughout the season depending on if you are applying a pre-emergent or post emergent herbicide, nitrogen and other growth fertilizers, or seeding.

All lawn care regiments involve spreading fertilizers, herbicides, or grass seed in the turf and using a spreader is only way to efficiently and evenly apply the materials.

This helpful comparison guide will let you make the right decision for your context and take away a lot of the confusion between drop spreaders vs. broadcast spreaders.

What is a drop spreader?

As the name implies a Drop Spreader is designed to utilize gravity and deposit fertilizer, herbicide, or seed directly below the spreader from the bottom openings. As the spreader vibrates the materials fall down through a row of holes to be evenly deposited.

Drop spreaders come in both manual and tow behind models. They allow you to set the flow rate depending on the specific project at hand and due to this control is very helpful when using in a urban setting that you need to avoid spreading material into adjacent flower or vegetable beds, the neighbor’s lawn, or onto the driveway.

Benefits of a Drop Spreader

  • Is very precise due to the spread being directly below the spreader.
  • Will not waste material or spread it on areas such as the neighbor’s property, up against the house, or even worse into your flower beds along the edge of the grass.
  • The dispersal rate from the hopper bucket is easy to calibrate to control the flow of material.

Negatives of a Drop Spreader

  • Easy to create lines in your yard. If you do not spend an extra second before going down each row making sure to overlap it is easy to create lines with no material. These lines in your yard are created by small strips not getting seeded or fertilized.
  • Will require more trips around the yard to cover the entire area.

What is a Broadcast Spreader?

A broadcast spreader is either pushed manually or can be towed behind a lawn mower or other small vehicle like an ATV. As the material drops from the big green hopper it will land on flywheel. This flywheel plate has specific grooves in it thatspins while moving the unit forward causing the material to spray in a wide arc evenly applying the seed, herbicides, or fertilizers.

These are effective in covering a very large surface are at a single time as it disperses the materials from the bottom, the front, and the sides.

Benefits of a broadcast spreader

  • Capable of a very fast spread, covering a much larger surface area at once. You do not need to be as focused on walking straight lines and overlapping your path back and forth. You can quickly move across your yard and being close enough to your path will allow you to evenly apply your material.
  • Due to the large coverage areas this is ideal in open locations where precision placement is not as consequential.
  • Saves time. The ability to cover areas quickly reduces the amount of time it takes as well as the number of trips back and forth that you would have to walk when using a manual version.

When a Broadcast Spreader is Best

A broadcast spreader excels when you need to cover a large area of turf grass with product and you do not need to be concerned about accidently applying on sensitive areas.

Most homeowners don’t want to spend hours and hours doing lawn care maintenance and the broadcast spreader is a major time saver and helpful in getting maximum coverage in a minimal amount of time. This can help you stay on track with a complete lawn care regiment of pre-emergent herbicides during the early spring, nitrogen and growth fertilizers heading into summer, and seeding during the fall.

When a Drop Spreader is Best

Small yards are best served by a drop spreader. Smaller lawns make it easier to stay on path when walking back and forth and due to the need to overlap your paths it won’t be that much of a burden compared to using on huge grass lawn.

Using a drop spreader around areas that are sensitive is highly suggested versus a broadcast spreader, because you don’t want to toss grass seed into the flowers or vegetable garden or worse have an herbicide land in those areas.

The simple fact that a drop spreader allows you to be very precise with your work is the biggest reason that lawn experts will always have both tools.

Using a broadcast spreader for the middle and bulk of the yard and then coming along the edges with a drop spreader is how most pro’s will apply material in urban settings, getting the best of both worlds for their work sites.

Selecting the Best Spreader for Seeding

Seeding a New Lawn with a Spreader

When seeding an entire lawn go with the broadcast spreader. It will provide the best coverage.

For overseeding during the fall season, you can set the dispersal rate so there is a heavy flow from the hopper onto the fly wheel. Then keep your paths tight as you walk back and forth, and the broadcast spreader will lay down a ton of seed ensuring you get a thick lawn once the grass germinates.

Spot Seeding with a Spreader

A drop spreader is the one to choose for situations where you are spot seeding sections.

Whether you had some work done in the yard and have a patch that has been damaged or you need to fill in a bar spot that is too big to seed by hand. The drop spreader will heavily apply the need to specific areas that you walk back and forth and will not waste seed flinging it into areas that you will not be doing all the steps necessary to grow grass from seed.

Selecting the Best Spreader for Fertilizing

Overall, when applying fertilizers as well as herbicides, go with a broadcast spreader. The application of the materials will be more consistent, and you will not create stripped lines through the yard for areas that you were not able to maintain a perfect straight path.

A Few Parting Thoughts

Each spreader has their own unique benefits, but in general when you are focused on a very small urban setting a drop spreader will be the best choice and if you have a larger suburban lawn or acreage in a rural setting a broadcast spreader will suite your needs best.

If you are still undecided on which one will be best for your context go with the broadcast spreader. Overall due to the simplicity in applying an even load of material the average homeowner can ensure that they get the most consistent coverage by using a broadcast spreader.

Just be extra careful and leave room around your edges if you have special plants or a neighbor that will take issue to a few particles landing on their side of the property line.