Broadcast vs Drop Spreader: Which One For Your Lawn!?

broadcast vs drop spreader

Maintaining a lush and healthy lawn requires a fair bit of attention as well as a variety of tools to make your job easier. A fertilizer spreader is a handy tool that makes applying fertilizer easier. You can also use the spreader to apply other lawn products and seeding.

Broadcast vs Drop Spreader, what’s the difference? There are two types of spreaders – a broadcast spreader and a drop spreader. These work in slightly different ways. A broadcast spreader releases fertilizer across your lawn in a wide path, while a drop spreader is more direct in its application. A drop spreader only releases the fertilizer onto the lawn beneath its two wheels.

Let’s look at both of these in a little more detail, but before we do, we’ve tested 5 of the best fertilizer spreaders available, click here to read that article.

How Does A Broadcast Spreader Work?

A broadcast spreader primarily flings fertilizer in all directions as you push it along. This means that the fertilizer not only comes out from between the two wheels but also from either side of the hopper. This ensures a wider spread of fertilizer or other lawn products as you walk along.

Most of these broadcast spreaders have a guard on the back. This stops the fertilizer from shooting out and hitting the operator’s legs.

The flow rate is normally controlled with a dial to ensure that the correct amount of product is dispensed in all directions. The speed at which the product is dispensed relies heavily on the speed that the operator is walking at. So, if you walk slowly, the product is dispensed at a slower rate whereas if you walk fast, the product will be dispensed at a faster rate.

Broadcast spreaders are ideal for people who have a large lawn area to cover due their wide-spreading ability. This saves plenty of time because more ground can be covered with every pass.

Pros of a Broadcast Spreader Cons of a Broadcast Spreader
  • Covers a large area of lawn with one pass.
  • Best suited to large lawns.
  • Takes less time because you can cover a large area more quickly.
  • Most have large hoppers that require filling less often.
  • The broadcasting action can be affected by wind.
  • Not suitable for small lawn areas or narrow strips of grass.
  • Lawn products may be wasted if they end up on driveways or garden beds.

How Does A Drop Spreader Work?

Drop spreaders work in a slightly different way. As their name would suggest, they drop the fertilizer as you walk along rather than broadcast it in all directions. Essentially, the product is dropped between the wheels at a rate that can be dialed in. This is generally not controlled by the speed that you walk at.

For this reason, a drop spreader is far more precise as to where the fertilizer is dispensed. It also means that you are unlikely to waste any product because you have complete control over where the product goes.

These types of spreaders are ideal for people who have smaller areas of lawn. They’re also perfect for using on lawns that are bordered by driveways and paths. By walking along the edge of the lawn beside the driveway, you’re not wasting product that would otherwise be broadcast onto the driveway but you’re also ensuring that the edge of the lawn is well-fertilized.

Apart from wasting expensive fertilizer, this also eliminates the possible staining of the driveway caused by the fertilizer.

The only disadvantage to this type of spreader is that you have to be far more precise in how you cover the area to ensure that your entire lawn is well-fertilized. This takes a little practice because it can be difficult to tell where you’ve been.

One way to overcome this problem, is to set your spreader to 50%. Then, cover the lawn in a criss-cross fashion by first walking in one direction in straight lines. Then, cross the lawn area again, walking across the lines that you’ve already completed. So, you would walk in a north-south direction first and then follow that by walking in an east-west direction.

Pros of a Drop Spreader Cons of a Drop Spreader
  • It’s very precise and accurate as to where the product is dispensed.
  • Best suited to small lawn areas and lawns that border driveways, paths and garden beds.
  • There’s virtually no wastage of lawn product.
  • Very easy to use even for beginners.
  • Not really suited to large lawn areas due to the limited spread of the product with each pass.
  • Can have the tendency to form stripes on the lawn with areas that did not receive any fertilizer.
  • Because of the smaller hopper, it may need to be refilled more often.

The Key Differences Between A Broadcast vs A Drop Spreader

So, let’s explore the key differences between a broadcast spreader and a drop spreader. The table below identifies what these differences are.

Broadcast Spreader Drop Spreader
  • Broadcasts fertilizer and other lawn products in all directions as you walk along.
  • Is highly efficient on larger lawn areas.
  • The lawn product is dispensed using a fan that is operated by gears.
  • May dispense fertilizer onto areas like driveways, garden beds and paths. However, some broadcast spreaders have a switch that allows you to close off one of the sides when you’re walking beside a driveway, path or garden bed.
  • The rate of flow is controlled by how fast or slow you walk.


  • Drops fertilizer and other lawn products down between the wheels as you walk along.
  • Is more precise and great for use on small lawn areas and beside driveways, paths and garden beds.
  • Uses gravity to dispense the lawn products as you walk.
  • The rate of flow is not controlled by your walking speed.
  • You have to ensure that you cover the area more precisely as it can be difficult to tell where you’ve been.

In Summary

Whether you choose a broadcast spreader or a drop spreader will depend on the size of your lawn area. As a general rule, broadcast spreaders are better for larger lawn areas while drop spreaders are more convenient for smaller lawns or those that border driveways, paths and garden beds.

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