Can I use a broadcast spreader for compost?




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You will deliver wonderful benefits to the soil in your garden or your lawn when you compost.

Enhanced soil will fuel growth and help produce more beautiful blooms in your garden and encourage a lush, green, weed-free lawn.

Composting rookies might wonder about how to apply compost to their gardens or lawns. If you are a composting devotee, on the other hand, you might be curious about different ways to do it.

  • You can spread your compost with a shovel and then rake it into the soil  
  • You can create a “tea” – a mixture of water and food for microbes  – and then spray it onto the soil
  • You can hire someone to blow compost onto your soil
  • You can use a spreader

Spreaders are the handiest and easiest. There are several types, and the most popular among them is the broadcast spreader.

What are the types of broadcast spreaders?

There is a variety of lawn and garden spreaders that fall into three primary categories: tow-behind, hand-held, and push-along.

Each of these types is available as a broadcast spreader (as opposed to a drop spreader). Broadcast spreaders throw material in a swath in all directions in a wide pattern to provide uniform coverage.

Broadcast spreaders are effective for spreading seed and fertilizer, which are small and dry, but what about compost? You may ask, can I use a broadcast spreader for compost? Yes, you usually can.

Which broadcast spreader is right for me?

Compost tends to be thicker and moister than seed or fertilizer, so as a rule of thumb bigger is better.

A broadcast spreader works by allowing gravity to spill your material through an aperture in the bottom onto a horizontal plate.

The plate spins to spread the material evenly in a swath.

The spinning of the plate is powered by the turning of the wheels of tow-behind or push-along broadcast spreaders, or by manually turning a handle on a hand-held broadcast spreader.

Bigger is better when it comes to using broadcast spreaders with compost because your compost must be able to move smoothly through the aperture and onto the spinning plate and then be broadcast onto your soil.

Hand-held spreaders

Hand-held broadcast spreaders are necessarily smaller so that you can comfortably hold them and easily carry them when you use them and are most popular for smaller areas like your garden or a small patch of lawn.

Consequently, these types of broadcast spreaders are often unsuitable for spreading compost because of their low capacity and small aperture size.

Some composters use hand-held broadcast spreaders if they are experimenting with compost pellets, which may not be as effective in your garden.

Tow-behind spreaders

As the name implies, these broadcast spreaders are designed to be towed behind your lawn tractor. They are best for very large areas because of their greater capacity.

Tow-behinds spreaders tend to be sturdy and durable.

Push-along spreaders

Push-along broadcast spreaders are by far the most popular. They are terrific for large lawns or large gardens.

These are most commonly used to spread seed, fertilizer, lime, or even ice-melt salt, but they are also are a great choice for spreading compost. 

It is important to remember that you want to select a larger push-along broadcast spreader because compost is heavier and wetter.

You should choose a broadcast spreader that has the capacity to carry enough material to cover 15,000 square feet.

How do I use a broadcast spreader?

Regardless of which type of broadcast spreader you use to apply compost, the only rule is to try to spread your material evenly over your entire target area.

You can accomplish this by doing your best to make sure that the spreader is moving at a steady speed and in pretty straight lines. Don’t be concerned about a little overlap.

How much compost do I spread?

It depends on where you are spreading it. For best results:

In your garden

Spread 1 to 3 inches of compost, and then gently work it several inches into the soil.

On your lawn

If you can, it is best to first aerate your lawn, spread 1/4 to 1/2 inch of compost, and then gently rake it into the soil.

How often should I spread compost?

One of the great things about spreading compost is that you don’t have to do it all the time. You can maintain healthy soil for your plants and lawn by spreading compost every two to three years.

When is it best to apply compost to my lawn?

The type of grass you have on your lawn determines the best time to apply compost.

If you don’t know, you can usually bring a sample to your local nursery or cooperative extension service office for a simple analysis. You will find either warm-season or cool-season grass in your lawn.

Warm-season grass

These are often called southern grasses because they enjoy warmer climates. It is best to apply compost to these types of grasses in the spring about four or five weeks before you expect really hot weather to arrive. The types of grass in this category are:

  • Bermuda
  • St. Augustine
  • Centipede
  • Zoysia
  • Bahia
  • Carpet

Cool-season grass

These hardy grasses are sometimes called northern grasses because they are typically found in cold weather climates.

You should apply compost to these lawns in the fall about four or five weeks before the onset of frost. You have cool-season grass if it’s any of these:

  • Bent
  • Rye
  • Kentucky Blue
  • Fescues

Why should I apply compost?

Compost performs miracles for the soil in your garden and your lawn. Here are the benefits of composting:

  • Helps your soil retain moisture
  • Loosens the soil so that roots can spread and get more oxygen
  • Helps water drain to minimize root rot and promote breathing
  • Suppresses plant diseases and pests
  • Encourages the production of good bacteria and fungi to break down organic matter


Tow-behind and push-along broadcast spreaders are labor-saving tools for spreading compost. Compost is important to maintaining healthy soil.

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