Walk-behind spreader maintenance, calibration tips

July 23, 2019 -  By
Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply

CONSISTENCY IS KEY Keeping a constant walking speed during the day can help with calibration efforts. Photo: SiteOne Landscape Supply

Every lawn care operator (LCO) needs a spreader that can get the job done. With features for efficient applications, walk-behind spreaders are a go-to solution.

To learn how to best maintain walk-behind spreaders, we spoke with Tom Hackworth, category manager, equipment and safety for SiteOne Landscape Supply, and Michael Falconer, president of manufacturer Walk Behind Spreaders and owner of Lawngevity, a lawn care company based in Sarasota, Fla.

Choose to walk

In areas where access is limited, walk-behind spreaders help get the job done. They can get through tight gates, small yards or around obstacles like swingsets and landscape beds, Hackworth says. LCOs also should consider using walk-behind spreaders on steep hills for safety, he adds.

The smaller, lightweight design of Falconer’s Walk Behind Spreader brand makes the unit easy to maneuver and control, he says.

Falconer adds that walk-behind spreaders are less likely to get stuck and easier to get unstuck.

Greased up

It starts with preventive maintenance. What LCOs do — or don’t do — on a daily basis affects a spreader’s effectiveness. Greasing the wheel bearings should be performed daily or weekly at least.

“Greasing the bearings keeps out moisture and fertilizer dust,” Falconer says. “Bearings will begin to rust without routine greasing, and the unit will decline.”
The biggest thing?

“Never let a spreader sit with fertilizer left in it,” Falconer says. Empty the fertilizer hopper every day and wash the unit. And be sure not to let a spreader sit unclean at the end of the week, he adds. Washing the spreader and drying it will help prevent any fertilizer dust buildup.

It is also important to keep the spreader impeller clean, according to Hackworth. “Dust on the impeller can cause the spread pattern to be compromised,” Hackworth says. “Which potentially could lead to misapplication of product.”

Even with preventive maintenance, spreaders are subject to some wear and tear. When a mechanical issue appears, Hackworth recommends immediately fixing the problem. “There is nothing worse than being without a spreader in the middle of a round,” he says.


Calibration is important because products need to be applied at the correct rate. Determining how to calibrate a spreader depends on a variety of factors.
According to Falconer, an LCO’s walking speed and the size of a property determines proper calibration.

“You can’t just set the machine and (have) it be right. It’s going to depend on the lawn size and the speed of the LCO walking,” he says.

Everybody walks at a different pace, and Falconer says LCOs should be fine-tuning calibration throughout the day. Calibration will be different for smaller, residential yards versus large commercial properties. Hackworth recommends maintaining a constant speed all day.

“Typically, an applicator will move quicker in the morning and could underapply product,” he says. “Applicators also tend to move slower in the afternoon, and the result will be overapplying product.”

Underapplication can cause poor performance and increased callbacks, he says. Overapplication is wasteful and may cause environmental and legal concerns.
Following instructions for spreader settings on a bag of product is a good starting point, Hackworth says.

He also suggests using higher-quality products that have consistent particle sizes.

“Keep in mind, the larger the particle, the farther it will be distributed. Inconsistent particle sizes could result in misapplications,” he says.

Danielle Pesta

About the Author:

Danielle Pesta is the senior digital media manager at Landscape Management's parent company, North Coast Media. She started writing for the green industry in 2014 and has won multiple awards from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA). She can be reached at dpesta@northcoastmedia.net.

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