There are several differences between drop and rotary spreaders, and it's important to read the label on the bag carefully to apply the correct amount of fertilizer. This segment also shows the proper way to spread the fertilizer evenly.

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Using Rotary and Drop Spreaders

We have two different types of spreaders. This one is a drop spreader, and the other one is a rotary spreader. With a drop spreader, the fertilizer falls out just between the wheel tracks. With the rotary spreader, the fertilizer is spread out over a wide band. The width of the band can be changed depending on the type of fertilizer that you’re using, and on wind speed.

These are two different spreaders, and they have two different settings on the bag. Make sure that you read the bag and use the correct setting for the right spreader. Also, different spreaders have different settings. So, when you’re reading the back of a bag of fertilizer, make sure that it specifies the spreader that you are planning to use.

If you don’t the type of spreader which is listed on the bag, then you can use an alternative method. Turn down the dial to a low setting, and spread the fertilizer out evenly across the yard – going back and forth many times until it’s all spread out across the yard evenly.

The settings on the spreader are represented by a series of numbers or a series of letters. It’s important to understand that the numbers aren’t linear. For instance, when you read your spreader recommendation setting on the bag, and it says that you should use number 6, if you should decide to use half as much product, you can’t just turn the dial to a number 3. It won’t work to just divide the number by 2.

The drop spreader has a fixed width. It can’t be changed. The width of the rotary spreader will change depending on the type of product used. When you’re using the spreader setting on the bag, that spreader setting is calibrated so that when you’re applying the fertilizer, it goes from edge to edge. So you apply the fertilizer in one direction. Then, you turn around and go the opposite direction and apply the fertilizer on the edge from the previous row.

An alternative method that is recommended is to turn the spreader setting down low. Then, go from wheel track to wheel track. So, drive the fertilizer spreader down a row, and turn around and drive down the wheel track left from the previous row. Keep walking in a grid pattern until the fertilizer is gone.

This feature story prepared with Rodney St. John, former Kansas State University Research and Extension Turfgrass Specialist. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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