How to Calibrate and Use Tow Behind Spreader the Right Way

How to Use Tow Behind Spreader?

Towing behind a spreader is probably the most convenient way to fertilize. You can typically fertilize at least twice as much ground in the same amount of time when you tow a spreader as you can when you hand spread.

This is because you don’t have to walk behind the spreader with a backpack to manually spread the fertilizer. You can use a lawn fertilizer spreader on almost any piece of equipment. If you have a tractor or a truck with a flatbed, you can use it to tow a fertilizer spreader.

The tow behind fertilizer spreaders has been manufactured with a couple of different types of materials. You can get spreaders that are made of steel, aluminum, and even plastic. The best material is one that is durable and well made.

The aluminum spreaders can be particularly appealing because they are lightweight. The lightweight spreaders can be more expensive but they are easier to tow with and they don’t weigh as much as the steel spreaders.

Steps for Using Tow Behind Spreader

1: Start by setting the flow control

Do this by first consulting with the application chart in your owner’s manual and the instructions on the fertilizer bag to select the proper flow rate setting. Determine the square footage of the area to be fertilized to estimate the amount of material required.

How to Use Tow Behind Spreader
Set Flow Control Use tow behind spreader

2: Adjust the Control Lever

Move the control lever to the closed position, then push in on the flow dial and turn it to the desired setting. Note that the higher the setting, the wider the flow plate in the bottom of the hopper will open and the more fertilizer will be spread.

3: Speed and Material

The application chart and the owner’s manual is calculated for the light to the heavy application at a vehicle speed of three miles per hour or 100 feet in 23 seconds with the dial set to 5. The flow plate should be about halfway open. With the flow plate completely closed, now fill the hopper with the proper amount of fertilizer.

Breaking up any lumps or clumps note that the manufacturer does not recommend the use of any powdered lawn chemicals due to the difficulty in obtaining a satisfactory or consistent material distribution pattern.

Calibrate and Use a Spreader

Always start the tractor in motion before opening the flow plate and be sure to close the flow plate before turning or stopping your tractor. If too much fertilizer is used in a small area, soak that area with a garden hose to prevent the lawn from burning to ensure uniform coverage.

Make each pass so that the broadcast pattern of the fertilizer slightly overlaps areas you’ve already passed when spreading weed control and lawn fertilizers.

Make sure that your broadcast pattern doesn’t hit evergreen trees, flowers, or shrubs. As the overspread may damage your plants. And be sure to use a vinyl hopper cover to keep your fertilizer product dry during heavy moisture conditions or protect it from high winds.

How to Calibrate Tow Behind Spreader?

If you are fertilizing the lawn using tow behind spreader, be sure to calibrate it before you use it. There are several factors that can affect the accuracy of the spreader, especially if it’s been a while since you used it. Before fertilizing, calibrate tow behind spreader to make sure it’s working properly so you don’t spread too much or too little fertilizer.

  • The first step to calibrate tow behind spreader is to check the spreader hitch for proper tightness. The spreader hitch should be tight enough to prevent the spreader from shifting, but not so tight that the wheels of the spreader are lifted from the ground.
  • The next step is to drive forward at a constant speed.  Once the spreader is moving, hold a tape measure at a 90-degree angle to the ground just above the spreader to measure the drop distance.     
  • If the spreader is set too high, the drop will be less than ten inches from the ground. If the spreader is set too low, the drop will be greater than ten inches from the ground. You can adjust the spreader height by removing the bolts on the spreader bracket and altering the position of the spreader bracket.
  • Once the bracket is secured, use a level to ensure that the spreader is perfectly vertical and slowly drive forward to measure the drop again. Repeat this process until the distance is 10 inches.
use tow behind spreader


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I am Ricky Martin, a seasoned landscape designer, a passionate gardener, and a barbecue enthusiast. With 12 years of experience in building and restoring, I welcome you to my website