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21. Apply Fertilizers Accurately And Safely

drop spreader

Striving for more precise fertilizer application does not have to be complicated. It requires attention to a few details, beginning with equipment selection.

A drop spreader drops fertilizer granules straight down. Drop spreaders, in general, apply fertilizer precisely and uniformly. However, some drop spreaders cannot handle large granules. Any steering errors with a drop spreader can mean missed strips or areas with excessive overlap—problems that can result in light and dark streaks in the lawn.

rotary spreader

Rotary spreaders throw granules in a semicircular arc in front of the spreader in a 6- to 8-foot-wide swath, covering a given area faster than drop spreaders. On the downside, fertilizer often ends up in nontarget areas such as sidewalks, driveways, and patios. To prevent the fertilizer from washing into storm sewers, be sure to sweep fertilizer off of these areas.
fill it on a paved surface

Whether you have a rotary or a drop spreader, fill it on a paved surface rather than on your lawn. If a spill occurs, it’s easy to clean up from a drive. When filling the spreader, make sure the openings are closed to prevent leaking on the ground.
application diagram

Begin by applying fertilizer along a header strip—an area where you can turn around and realign the spreader at each end of the lawn. After making each pass, close the spreader as you move into the header strip. Then turn the spreader around and open it again while moving forward to make the next pass.
application diagram

Rotary spreaders increase the risk of an uneven application. To avoid creating light- and dark-green stripes, cut the application rate in half and run two overlapping applications in the same direction. The header strips can be covered before running the two overlapping applications.

Read the fertilizer label carefully and follow the recommended application rate–the overall amount of product applied in pounds per 1,000 square feet. Your spreader should include instructions on how it can be set for different application rates.

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