How to Calibrate a Spreader for Efficient Landscaping



Creating a lush, green lawn or a vibrant garden requires more than just the right seeds and watering schedule; it involves precision and care in the application of fertilizers and other lawn care products. One indispensable tool in your landscaping arsenal is the spreader; knowing how to calibrate it is key to achieving efficient and effective results. Whether you're a seasoned landscaper or a budding green industry professional, understanding how to calibrate your spreader is the key to efficient and effective landscaping. In this guide, we'll walk you through the steps of calibrating your spreader, ensuring that you can achieve the perfect application every time.

Spreader Calibration Checklist

  • Know your product
  • Measure your area
  • Perform a test run
  • Adjust the spreader settings
  • Measure and calibrate
  • Fine-Tune as needed
  • Record Your settings

Understanding Your Spreader

Before we delve into the calibration process, it's crucial to understand the basics of your spreader.

What is a Spreader?

A spreader is a tool in landscaping and agriculture designed for the even and controlled distribution of materials such as fertilizers, seeds, pesticides, or other granular substances. It typically consists of a hopper to hold the material and a mechanism to disperse it evenly over a designated area. 

Types of Spreaders

Spreader types can vary, with the two main categories being drop spreaders and broadcast spreaders. Drop spreaders release the material directly between the wheels, while broadcast spreaders disperse it over a wider area as you walk. Each type has its advantages, but the calibration process remains similar.

Why Calibration Matters

Calibrating your spreader might sound like a technical task, but it's essential for several reasons. Firstly, it ensures that you are applying the right amount of product, preventing over-application that can harm your lawn or garden. Secondly, proper calibration saves you money by preventing unnecessary product waste. Lastly, it contributes to environmental sustainability by minimizing the risk of runoff into water sources.

Step 1: Know Your Product and Gather Tools

Different lawn care products demand different application rates, so begin by familiarizing yourself with the product labels. Whether you're spreading fertilizer, grass seed, or pesticides, these instructions are your roadmap. Additionally, ensure you have the necessary tools ready:

  • Measuring Tape and Marking Flags or Cones: Accurately measure and mark the dimensions of the area you intend to treat.
  • Catch Pan or Bucket: Position this beneath the spreader during the calibration test to collect dispensed material.
  • Digital Scale: Weigh the collected material to verify the accuracy of your spreader settings.
  • Notebook and Pen: Record measurements, settings, and adjustments made during the calibration process.
  • Wrenches, Screwdrivers, or Knobs: Have these tools on hand for adjusting the spreader settings.
  • Gloves and Safety Glasses: Prioritize safety during the calibration process.

Step 2: Measure Your Area

Determine the size of the area you plan to treat by measuring the length and width and multiplying the two values. This crucial step lays the foundation for calculating the correct amount of product needed.

Step 3: Perform a Test Run with Additional Tools

Before diving into calibration, conduct a test run on a small, easily measurable area. Use marking flags or cones to outline the test area and the measuring tape to ensure accuracy. This not only helps you assess the spreader's performance but also identifies potential issues early on.

Step 4: Adjust the Spreader Settings

Refer to your spreader's manual to locate the adjustment settings. Most spreaders have a setting control that regulates material flow. Adjust this setting based on the recommended application rate provided on the product label.

Step 5: Measure and Calibrate

Fill the spreader with the desired product and set it to the recommended settings. Walk at a normal pace, covering the predetermined test area. Once the test run is complete, use the catch pan or bucket to collect the remaining product in the spreader. Weigh this material using the digital scale. This measurement will help you determine the actual amount of product applied per unit of area.

Step 6: Fine-Tune as Needed

Compare the measured application rate to the recommended rate. If adjustments are necessary, modify the spreader settings or your walking speed accordingly. Repeat the calibration process until you consistently achieve the correct application rate.

Step 7: Record Your Settings

Once calibration is successful, record the settings for future use. This simple step saves time and ensures consistency in achieving optimal results across different applications.

Benefits of Proper Calibration

Resource Efficiency:

Calibrating your spreader ensures you're using the right amount of material for the given area, preventing over-application and unnecessary waste.

Cost Savings:

By optimizing material usage, you'll save money on inputs. Efficient calibration directly translates to a more cost-effective landscaping operation.

Environmental Stewardship:

Precision in application minimizes the risk of runoff and contamination, promoting environmentally responsible landscaping practices.

Enhanced Client Satisfaction:

Delivering a well-manicured lawn with precise application of materials not only meets but exceeds client expectations, enhancing your professional reputation.


Calibrating your spreader may seem like a small detail in the grand scheme of landscaping, but it can make a significant difference in the health and appearance of your lawn or garden. By taking the time to understand your spreader, follow product instructions, and perform a thorough calibration, you'll not only save money but also contribute to a more sustainable and beautiful outdoor space. As the preferred landscape and irrigation supplier, Horizon empowers professionals like you with the knowledge and tools needed for success. So, the next time you step onto a landscape project, armed with a calibrated spreader, know that you are not just applying materials – you are crafting a masterpiece.