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Michael Wheeler: Now is time for calibrating your lawn spreader
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This is the time of year many homeowners are probably thinking about fertilizing or renovating their lawns.

And the only way to see what your lawn requires regarding fertilizer is to pull a soil sample. Luckily, the Hall County Extension Office at 734 E. Crescent Drive, No. 300, in Gainesville will accept the soil sample and send it off for analysis.

The results will give homeowners a game plan to work from when doing any type of lawn work. But if you don’t test the soil, you are just guessing.

Once the results are in, homeowners can determine what kind of spreader and fertilizer to use.

Two types of spreaders for seed and fertilizer are available.

The first type is a drop spreader. This type of spreader drops the product the width of the spreader, which is good around areas you do no need to add grass seed or fertilizer, such as flowerbeds or driveways.

The second type of spreader is a rotary spreader. This is good for large areas, because it slings the product out in a circular pattern and allows you to cover more area at one time.

Even though the fertilizer manufacture has settings to use for the most popular spreaders, they are approximations at best. So calibrate your spreader to ensure you are putting out the right amount of product on the yard.

For a drop spreader, make a cardboard box fit under the spreader and catch the fertilizer as it comes out. Set the spreader to the manufacturer’s suggested setting, then multiply the spreader width by the distance to give you 100.

Next, weigh the fertilizer you catch and multiply it by 10. This will be the amount of fertilizer spread over 1,000 square feet.

Finally, adjust the setting until you get the right amount of fertilizer caught in your box. The soil test report will tell you the amount of fertilizer to add per 1,000 square feet.

For example, if you have a 2-foot wide spreader, divide 100 square feet into 2 feet. It gives you 50 feet. This is your course length.

Now, let’s say you collected 20 ounces, which is 1.25 pounds. Multiply 1.25 by 10 and you need to spread 12.5 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet.

For a broadcast spreader, it is more difficult to calibrate since you cannot catch the fertilizer it throws out.

To calibrate, weigh out an amount of fertilizer to cover 100 square feet. This will be one-tenth the amount of fertilizer recommended by the soil test report.

Mark a starting point and push the spreader 10 to 12 feet to measure the width over which the fertilizer is spread.

Now calculate and mark off 100 square feet and finish spreading the fertilizer over the area.

Increase the setting number if some material is in the hopper, or decrease the setting if you run out before the end.

Move across the yard so you do not over apply the fertilizer in one place.

With both methods, record the setting so you do not have to calibrate it next year.

One final tip: Do not calibrate it in the driveway. This will keep fertilizer running into the streets and in the streams and Lake Lanier.


Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, His column appears weekly and on

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