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I have been asked to purchase a fertilizer spreader for someone as a holiday gift. I'm completely lost as to what features are worth extra money and what features are not. The recipient has an approximately 10,000 square foot lawn and about half of that is currently completely under leaf cover and very shaded. The other half is grass. The terrain is flat in parts but steeply sloped in others. It is quite bumpy. I believe the spreader may be used for spreading seed as well as fertilizer.

I see spreaders with pneumatic tires get raves, but is that overkill for residential use? Would simple plastic plug tires handle bumps and slopes just fine?

What are the pros and cons of a broadcast versus a classic drop spreader?

Is there benefit to the bigger hopper sizes that will hold enough fertilizer to cover the lawn without refilling, or does it make sense to go with a cheaper model that requires a refill part-way?

Are there any features I should consider that aren't on this list?

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    In my experience on very bumpy surfaces and plastic tires, a bigger hopper will just make it heavier and thus harder to control. Pneumatic tires may be better, I don't have experience there. – bstpierre Dec 2 '11 at 16:06
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As you noted, it depends on several factors. For the most part, you get what you pay for. A drop spreader can more accurately distribute the fertilizer, but a broadcast spreader is much faster. A nice feature some broadcast spreaders have is an edge guard to block on direction to avoid putting fertilizer or grass seed in flower beds. If you are only using it a few times a year on one yard, a simple spreader with plastic wheels is probably good enough.

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When buying a fertilizer spreader, the worst mistake that you can make is to go for something that will just breakdown easily or not perform spreading task as expected.

Therefore, if you a first time buyer, ensure that you have checked the following key components before making your purchase decision.

Hopper capacity;

The size of your lawn will help you determine the type of fertilizer spreader to go for. If a spreader has a smaller hopper capacity and you have a big lawn, it means you will be forced to make frequent refills which is not economical.

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Quality materials;

What kind of materials have been used to construct the fertilizer spreader? This goes a long way in determining the durability of the fertilizer spreader.

Ease of use;

As a beginner, always go for a fertilizer spreader that is easy to use and lightweight.

Assembly instructions;

Most of the big fertilizer spreaders requires to be assembled before you start using them. How are the assembly instructions?

Calibration;

Does the fertilizer spreader come pre-calibrated or requires calibration? You will have to weigh the alternatives.

Added accessories;

Look for additional features such as edge-guard deflectors and hopper cover.

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