By Dan Simms
Updated Jan 10, 2023
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Fertilizing a large lawn can be a nightmare if you don’t have the right equipment. Most homeowners have a flimsy push spreader from their local gardening supply store that’s barely good enough to use to fertilize a small yard, let alone a several-acre property. If you’re tired of refilling your spreader every thirty steps or killing half a weekend overseeding every spring, you need a commercial spreader.
If you want to use the same equipment used by the best lawn care companies, this buying guide is for you. Below you’ll find our top five picks for the best commercial fertilizer spreaders, along with information about commercial spreaders in general and what you need to know before purchasing one.
There’s no single commercial fertilizer spreader that will be ideal for every individual or situation, but the below five products are the best in the industry overall.
The Spyker P70-12010 Commercial Drop Spreader is a professional-grade spreader that’s perfect for quickly fertilizing or seeding large lawns. Its powder-coated steel frame and 120-pound capacity make it a workhorse you can rely on for any job that requires a spreader, year after year.
The Spyker P70-12010 is a commercial drop spreader in every sense of the word, except it costs a fraction of the price of most professional spreaders. All of the parts on the spreader are made of metal and feel sturdy, although the body is prone to rusting if you don’t care for it properly. The hopper is absolutely tremendous for a handheld spreader, easy to fill, and made of high-quality steel and the hard rubber wheels are a sensibly-sized 13” x 5”, making it easy to push over uneven rocky ground, even when the hopper is full.
Filling only one side of the hopper gives you an even spread width of 18 inches, while filling both sides doubles the coverage to a 36-inch swath, giving you some flexibility for a more targeted application where needed. The spreader also has an easy-to-use mechanism for setting different drop rates, making switching between different applications a breeze.
Anyone who needs to apply fertilizer or grass seed over a large area or spread de-icer on long pathways and driveways will love the Spyker P70-12010. It’s perfect for rectangular yards, and the 36-inch spread mode is much more efficient than the 22-inch spread offered by most plastic hardware store spreaders. However, if you need a spreader to use on commercial properties, you’re probably better off getting a riding spreader or tow-behind since pushing and refilling the Spyker P70-12010 may become tedious for larger jobs.
If you’re looking for an affordable, durable tow-behind broadcast spreader, the Yard Commander Tow Behind Spreader is your best option. It has a universal hitch that makes it easy to attach to most ATVs and tractors and features a wear-resistant, 125-pound capacity composite hopper.
The Yard Commander Tow Behind is a rugged spreader that will hold up to hard use. Its all-metal construction is solid, and the large-diameter tires absorb shocks well, as long as you limit the towing speed. The gears are corrosion-resistant and made from cast aluminum, so you never have to worry about replacing them.
We especially like how easy it is to adjust the spread rate and the large 10–12 foot spreading radius. The seller advertises that the spreader can cover 25,000 square feet with a single hopper-full and, while we don’t think it can quite reach that number, it’s close. Some user reviews mention that the control lever is difficult to reach, but we found it easy enough with only a slight stretch, although it may be a problem for shorter users. An adjustable handle would go a long way towards making the spreader easier to use.
One nice touch is that this spreader comes with a hopper cover, meaning you can still use it in inclement weather without worrying about it clogging. It’s a small detail, but it saves you from having to make an additional purchase.
The Yard Commander Tow Behind spreader is perfect for anyone who tends large properties, especially if you use an ATV or tractor to do your spreading. The universal hitch makes hooking it up fast and smooth, and the large-capacity hopper means less refilling. You can pull this spreader by hand, but we wouldn’t recommend it since it is quite heavy and better manual spreaders are available. However, it’s easily the best tow spreader for the money.
The Agri-Fab 45-0463 Tow Behind Spreader is similar to the Yard Commander but has a slightly larger 130-pound hopper and doesn’t come with a rain cover. However, user reviews suggest that it is more user-friendly and many people prefer the wider wheelbase and larger pneumatic tires on the Agri-Fab.
The Agri-Fab Tow Behind spreader does everything it needs to do well. It covers a large 10–12 foot swath, has an easily adjustable spread rate, and is made from high-quality materials that will last through heavy use. However, the small details are what sets it apart from similar tow-behind spreaders in our eyes.
The Agri-Fab has a wider wheelbase and larger wheels than the Yard Commander, making it more stable in rough terrain. It also has a better control mechanism and lever placement, alleviating one of the primary complaints levied at most tow-behind spreaders and making the Agri-Fab one of the most ergonomic tow-behind spreaders on the market.
Some users find that the larger 130-pound capacity is not enough of a benefit to offset the increased weight, although we think it’s worth it. As long as you’re not operating the spreader by hand, the extra weight is immaterial, and the slightly larger hopper is easier to fill and covers more area.
The Agri-Fab Tow Behind spreader is the best choice for uneven ground where the wide wheelbase and meaty tires make the biggest difference. We recommend this spreader for people with hilly and rocky land, assuming that they will use it attached to an ATV or UTV since the additional weight makes manual use infeasible.
If you’re looking for something different from the standard tow-behind and hand spreaders we’ve covered so far, the Earthway 3100 Professional Broadcast Spreader might tickle your fancy. This unique chest-mounted 40-pound spreader isn’t as large as most commercial spreaders but it makes up for it with its no-frills design and fast setup and tear-down times.
The best part about this spreader is how quickly you can get to work. Once you have the straps set at a comfortable height for you, spreading lawn fertilizer or grass seed is as easy as filling the hopper and walking. The hand-crank used to disperse the pellets or seeds is smooth and easy to turn, and the parts are all made of durable steel. The 40-pound hopper is made from rustproof poly, so you don’t have to worry about exposing the spreader to the elements.
Overall, this spreader is polarizing and certainly not for everyone. Some people love the simplicity of the chest-mounted design and hand crank, while others are left scratching their heads wondering why anyone would choose the Earthway 3100 over a more convenient spreader.
We think people who need to seed or fertilize a large but not huge lawn are the target audience for this spreader. If the area you need to cover isn’t big enough to justify a tow-behind and you want to save money, the Earthway 3100 could fit the bill.
We saved the most extravagant commercial spreader for last. The JRCO 503 Electric Broadcast Spreader is a serious machine for serious lawn care professionals, and it’s probably overkill for most people. However, if you need to spread fertilizer across several acres or salt over a shopping center’s parking lot, the JRCO 503 is up to the task.
A riding spreader attachment like the JRCO 503 is basically required if you have a large property or service multiple lawns in a professional setting where speed can save you time and money. The JRCO 503 has an extremely convenient foot control, and an adjustable spread pattern setting that can spread pelletized or granular lawn products in an up to 24-foot swath. Unfortunately, the 120-pound polyethylene hopper feels small, but it gets the job done.
The build quality is excellent, with mostly stainless steel parts, and the hopper is designed to withstand the harsh chemicals found in ice melt and weed killer without breaking down.
According to user reviews, one of the best features is the stainless steel agitator, which breaks up clumps and ensures even dispersal.
Unless you already own a zero-turn lawn mower to attach the JRCO 503 to, it’s probably more than you need. However, if you are a lawn care professional looking to replace or add a spreader attachment to your arsenal, it’s a great option. All the parts are well-made and sturdy, and the combination of foot controls and supreme adjustability make the JRCO 503 a versatile professional-grade spreader.
Commercial spreaders differ from consumer-grade spreaders in their construction, materials, hopper capacity, and cost. At the most basic level, commercial spreaders are designed for heavier use and are meant for covering larger areas than the cheap plastic spreaders often found in hardware stores. They can spread more fertilizer over a larger area more quickly than consumer-grade equipment, making them ideal for professional use or individuals with large lawns.
Let’s take a look at the different kinds of commercial spreaders.
There are two main types of commercial spreaders: broadcast spreaders and drop spreaders. Broadcast spreaders use a rotating wheel to fling fertilizer or other products out in a semi-circle, making them great at covering ground quickly. Most broadcast spreaders have a guard in the back to protect the operator from being hit with flying fertilizer as they go. They also commonly have an adjustable spread range to make them usable in tighter spaces when necessary and need to be calibrated.
Drop spreaders drop fertilizer as they roll instead of propelling it outward like a broadcast spreader. If you have a small yard or need to apply fertilizer or grass seed precisely, a drop spreader is your tool of choice. They can’t cover large areas as efficiently as a broadcast spreader but excel in tight areas.
If you’re considering purchasing a commercial spreader, you probably want a broadcast spreader. Most professional lawn care services that work on a variety of lawn sizes have both a broadcast spreader and a drop spreader, although the drop spreader would only be used to fertilize small properties or areas alongside gardens and flowerbeds.
The other big choice you need to make when choosing a commercial spreader is whether you want a handheld spreader, tow-behind, or mower attachment spreader. Manual spreaders are typically more affordable options with lower capacities, and they take more effort to use. However, they’re also easier to maintain and are more versatile than other spreaders since they are more maneuverable and well-suited for small lawns.
Tow-behind spreaders are the most popular kind of commercial spreaders, striking the right balance between cost and efficiency for most people. They need to be attached to an ATV, UTV, or tractor to reach their full potential. Most tow-behind spreaders have a larger capacity than manual spreaders and are often built to withstand the jostling they get from being dragged across uneven ground.
Mower attachment spreaders are the most expensive kind of commercial spreader, but they’re also the best at covering huge lawns. A mower-attached spreader is the only option if you need a spreader for covering large lawns.
The best advice for choosing a commercial spreader is to get the right size for the job. It can be tempting to purchase the biggest spreader that fits your budget but larger, more feature-rich spreaders can be harder to work with and slow you down if you don’t need all the bells and whistles. If you mostly need a spreader just to fertilize your lawn, a high-quality manual spreader is probably your best option. On the other hand, if you service businesses with large swaths that need fertilizer, a tow-behind or mower attachment spreader will better satisfy your needs.
Keep in mind that most spreaders can be used in the winter to spread salt and deicer on walkways and driveways. Make sure to purchase a spreader that can hold up to harsh chemicals without wearing out. Rusting is also a concern with some commercial spreaders, especially if you plan on using one during the winter in wet, snowy conditions.
Another important factor to consider is the warranty. Commercial spreaders need to come with reasonable security against unusual damage and malfunction since they typically see more use than consumer-grade spreaders. A commercial spreader with a short warranty period or a warranty that doesn’t cover much is a red flag. Be aware that some resellers on Amazon offer products that don’t come with the original manufacturer’s warranty, so make sure you understand what you’re getting before you pull the trigger.
If you’re considering purchasing a commercial spreader for personal use, you might want to think about hiring a professional lawn care service like TruGreen instead. TruGreen employs lawn care experts who will get the most out of your lawn and save you the time and effort it takes to cultivate a lawn worthy of your neighbor’s envy. Commercial spreaders are expensive, and you can pay for several months of TruGreen’s top-notch service for the same price as a midrange spreader — and your results will probably be better!
TruGreen has several lawn care plans to choose from, so it’s easy to find one that suits your needs and budget. The company also offers standalone services for mosquito defense, flea and tick treatments, and soil amendments. If you want to learn more about TruGreen’s plans and pricing, check out our TruGreen review.
There is no best lawn spreader for everyone, and what type of spreader is right for you depends on how you plan to use it and how big your lawn is. A tow-behind broadcast fertilizer spreader is the best option for large lawns, while a simple push broadcast spreader may suffice for smaller, more manageable yards.
Professionals often opt for a spreader attachment for a riding mower, although most people find these types of spreaders too expensive.
Rotary spreaders are better for covering ground in less time, while drop spreaders are better for precise control in areas around flower beds and gardens. Most lawn care professionals use both, depending on the situation.
Drop spreaders — as the name suggests — drop lawn care products behind it as you go, while broadcast spreaders disperse them using a spinning wheel. Broadcast spreaders are better at covering ground quickly, while drop spreaders are more precise. If you have a small or medium-sized yard, a drop spreader is probably the better option, but larger lawns are easier to fertilize with a broadcast spreader.
There are tons of lawn care companies that make spreaders. Brands like Scotts and Craftsman make traditional consumer-grade spreaders suitable for small yards. These are easy to find in your local hardware store or gardening supply store. Scotts makes a slightly heavier duty spreader called the Scotts Elite Spreader, but it doesn’t come as highly recommended as the spreaders on our list.
If you’re in the market for a commercial spreader, you’re better off looking for brands like JRCO, Agr-Fab, Brinly, LESCO, Chapin, Earthway, Yard Commander, or Spyker.
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