On test: Lawn seed and fertiliser spreaders

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Avoid waste and get the best from lawn treatments, fertilisers and seeds with a tool to deliver the right amount in the right place, quickly and efficiently. Tim Rumble tests six lawn seed and fertiliser spreaders

Distributing lawn seed for a new lawn, or to thicken up your existing grass, can be a haphazard business if it’s broadcast by hand. The same applies to lawn feed, and weed and moss killers. So a mechanised spreader with adjustable delivery to put the right amount of product exactly where you need it makes sense.

There are two type of spreader: hand-held devices, with some electrically powered while others rely on elbow grease; and wheeled push-along hoppers that either drop product, or spread it in a wide arc. Accurate delivery is an issue as you don’t want grass seed or weed, and moss killing products sprayed across your flowerbeds. Spreading the right volume gives the best performance without waste. Hand-held units can also be used for delivering granular or pelleted fertiliser on flower and veg beds.

We tried a range of six products covering all of these designs to help you choose the best for your garden.

 

Deluxe Greenkey_191158772_288434712web

Deluxe Seed & Fertiliser Spreader

£14.99

Score: 13/15

Tel: 01594 560200 Website: greenkey-garden.co.uk

 

Features ****

Hand-held 3-litre capacity spreader with extending forearm support for stability and comfort. Hand-powered, with four aperture settings. Broadcast width approximately 2m.

Performance ****

Easy to select setting, fill hopper and extend forearm support, which gives good stability. Light in use even when full. Handle smooth to turn and offers good control of flow by speeding up or slowing down. Worked well with lawn seed and granular lawn treatment, and gave a light though adequate spread of chicken-manure pellets on the highest setting. Built-in bias to the left helps to avoid overshoot onto borders.

Value *****

Good price, versatile and very handy if you have a smaller garden.

 

Evergreen Rotary_191158782_288434712 for web

Evergreen Rotary_191158782_288434712forwebx2

EasyGreen Rotary Spreader

£30.00

Score: 13/15

Tel: 01276 401300 Website: lovethegarden.com

 

Features ****

Rotary spreader with large hopper. Ten different settings for granulated-fertiliser and grass-seed application. Broadcast width 1.8m. Lever on/off mechanism, and stand to keep cart upright. Handle and stand fold for easy storage.

Performance ****

Easy flow adjustment, nice light trigger mechanism. Good control of product distribution by adjusting walking pace. No ‘side’ bias as with hand-held devices, but you can see where the product is falling so very little overshoot onto borders. Worked well with lawn seed, granular lawn treatment and pelleted chicken manure. Comfortable to use and covers a big area fast.

Value *****

This is the one to buy if you need to treat a big lawn.

 

Twist and Grow_191158791_288434712forweb

Twist & Grow spreader

£6.00 plus £4.50 delivery

Score: 10/15

Tel: 01904 468551 Website: newitts.com

Features ***

Twist/gravity-powered hand-held spreader with four different settings (using dial on base of tub) for seed and granular feed. Snap-close lid with integral handle and 3.5kg capacity.

Performance ***

Top falls off when opened, but easy to snap back on. Dialling one of four settings is simple. No noticeable spill of product before twisting the tub. Walking while twisting and swinging the tub delivers a slightly haphazard but quite acceptable flow of product. Worked well with granular lawn treatment and pelleted chicken manure, but difficult to get a good flow setting for lawn seed.

Value ****

A well-priced, simple tool for smaller gardens. It works well if you’re not too worried about accurate distribution.

 

Wheeled drop_191158792_288434712 for web

Wheeled drop_191158792_288434712 for web top

Lawn Drop Spreader

£24.99

Score: 13/15

Tel: 01480 443789 Website: gardenhealth.com

Features ****

Wheeled drop-spreader. On/off switch with nine settings mounted on 12-litre capacity hopper for distributing lawn seed, fertilisers and moss killer including lawn sand. Broadcast width 16in.

Performance *****

Fiddly assembly. Contains enough to cover a big area. Light to push and easy for accurate delivery. Product contained between wheels so no accidental spreading. Worked well with lawn seed. Granulated lawn treatment needed care to get the right setting – start low! It just about managed pelleted chicken manure giving light coverage on highest setting.

Value ****

Simple, strong and reasonably priced offering very accurate control. Not so good for uneven surfaces.

Bosch_191158762_288434712forweb

Bosch Isio 3 Spreader*

£20 plus £5.95 delivery

Score: 11/15

Tel: 0344 7360109 Website: shop.bosch-do-it.com/gb/en

Features ****

Rechargeable 3.6V lithium-ion battery/motor unit and handle for a range of attachments. Spreader has 1.5-litre capacity, broadcast width 1.8m. Four flow settings. Not suitable for powdered products or winter de-icing salt.

Performance ****

Snap power unit onto spreader, select setting, fill hopper and pull trigger to start spreading. Built-in right-hand bias to help protect borders. Tends to throw out a big clump of product before settling into even spreading. Worked well with lawn seed, granulated lawn treatment and pelleted chicken manure. Charging cable stiff to plug into back of Isio unit.

Value ***

A worthwhile and versatile accessory for smaller gardens if you already own the excellent Isio battery trimmer.

(*The spreader is an accessory to edging and shrub shear set £70)

 

BEST BUY

lawnspreaderagbestbuy2018

Whizz_191158802_288434712

Evergreen Wizz Year-Round Spreader

£26.99 rrp

Score: 15/15

Tel: 01276 401300 Website: lovethegarden.com

Features *****

Battery-powered, hand-held rotary spreader with lock and trigger on/off mechanism. There are 23 settings for accurate distribution of fertiliser and lawn seed in summer, and salt on paths in winter. Broadcast width 1.5m. EdgeGuard mechanism to prevent product straying onto borders. Storage hook. Takes
4x AA batteries.

Performance *****

Excellent, clear controls. Battery cover fiddly to remove. Safety lock, on/off trigger and dial flow-adjuster worked well and gave good flow control. Delivered an even spread of lawn seed, granular lawn treatment and pelleted chicken manure with ease. Sliding EdgeGuard into place gave clean right-hand bias to delivery to protect borders, but setting needed turning up half a click to maintain flow. Enough power in batteries to do quite a big lawn.

Value *****

Easy to use, lots of adjustment for accurate volume delivery, handy EdgeGuard to keep product where you want it, and versatile to use
with different products.

Lawn Care: It Takes Two

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It pays to follow the times-two rule, as former Gardeners’ World host Toby Buckland explains how ‘double-doing’ can benefit your lawn

CP43B7 Gradener mowing the lawn in april. Cutting the grass. Gardening jobs

Mow twice a week for a thick and healthy sward

 

Measure twice, cut once. If you want to do something well it pays to do it twice, whether you’re pruning – check twice before you cut – or planting (remember to dig a hole at least twice as wide as the roots).

The times-two rule also applies when cleaning paving slabs. They always come up clean on the second blast from the jet-washer, and as for deep cultivation nothing comes close to double digging. It might be heavy work and its efficacy debatable, but it’s kept cash-strapped chiropractors busy for years!

‘Double-doing’ makes the most difference, though, on the lawn. Mowing twice a week is the fastest way to achieve a thick and healthy sward, as cutting encourages the grass to grow sideways and fill gaps.

 

At The Double

CR4KN8 Gardener using a rotary lawn feed spreader

Use a wheeled applicator to deliver the correct amount when feeding your lawn

 

If, like me, you share your garden with a wannabe Ronaldo, unless the lawn is well fed, it’ll turn into a right old Messi as the World Cup’s starting! Feeding helps improve a lawn’s ability to cope with wear and tear by reducing the moss that thrives in a tired and thin lawn.

I’ve been applying an eco-fertiliser and moss killer to my grass that feeds the sward, encouraging unwanted moss to grow up into the blades of the mower and killing what the blades can’t with a naturally occurring moss-eating bacteria.

When dosing any lawn with fertiliser, moss killer or weed-and-feed, a wheeled applicator that delivers the amount recommended on the side of the pack is really helpful, especially on larger lawns. Get it wrong and the results will be patchy or large swathes of grass will be burnt black by the slats in the feed.

 

Get It Right

That’s why it always pays to apply the fertiliser at half strength in two passes, ideally at right angles, so the feed falls evenly into the sward. If the granules in the first run empty sooner than expected, adjust the rate of the second or omit altogether. And when it comes to feeding grass, feed twice but never give second helpings.

 

Lawn Feed Essentials

CNAYKH Gardener casting lawn weed and feed granules by hand

Lawn applicators have a hopper to hold the feed and an adjustable slot at the base. As the wheels turn, a paddle inside pushes the feed towards the slot so it falls out evenly. They suit medium and large lawns, with smaller areas best fed by hand. Calculate the size of your lawn and weigh out the amount of fertiliser recommended to cover the same number of metres squared. Divide the feed into two batches and, wearing gloves, broadcast the first over the lawn, keeping the second batch back to top-up/catch-in missed areas.

 

Toby’s Top Tips

CNAXHE Pouring lawn fertilizer and weedkiller into a rotary lawn feed spreader

1 Some feed formulations will stain paving, so make sure you fill the applicator buckets on the grass. If you get any spills, disperse with a broom.

 

YOUR GARDENING WEEK 1 SEPTEMBER 2012 LAWN CARE/MICHELLE WHEELER SCARIFYING LAWN WITH SPRING TINE RAKE

2 If you are killing moss, you need to mow and scarify (rake) the lawn in two directions, then apply the moss killer.

 

 

All photos: Alamy/TI Media

Succeeding with self-seeders

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Tamsin Westhorpe celebrates self-seeders and offers advice on getting the best out of these generous plants

ETBT1G Foxgloves in a cottage garden. Path leading to hut.

Foxgloves are a typical cottage-garden plant that will self-seed prolifically

 

There’s so much to celebrate about footloose and fancy-free self-seeders. These plants are annuals, biennials or perennials that simply scatter copious amounts of seed. For this reason, they pop up everywhere and, once you’ve planted them, you find that you tend to have them forever.

Most gardeners are grateful to self-seeders for their ease. They produce free plants, and they position themselves in inventive places that can lead to an unexpected display. However, they are like mischievous children who do whatever they choose and on occasion must be controlled. Control is the key to having success with these plants. It’s up to you to edit out those that overstep the mark.

Many of these efficient plants have picked up a bad reputation for being invasive, but without them our gardens would be very contrived. A few self-seeders mixed with your better-behaved ornamentals will create full borders where plants merge and cushion each other in a natural way. It is these we must thank for the large drifts and swathes of natural planting that so many of us aspire to create.

Self-seeders should also be praised for their fundraising skills. It’s these plants that raise lots of money for charity as they are the ones that are plentiful enough to pot up and sell on for a good cause. As the old saying goes, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’.

 

Right plant, right place
If a self-seeder has germinated and formed a healthy plant, it is likely to have found the perfect place to thrive. This explains why, in some gardens, a plant will become very prominent and in others not so. When I gardened on a sandy soil in Dorset, Verbena bonariensis sprung up everywhere, but in my heavy clay border in Herefordshire I can’t get even one plant to survive.

My garden is made more enchanting thanks to self-seeders. Over the years the fritillaries have created enviable drifts near the pond and the giant Inula racemosa stands like a row of soldiers along the edge of my garden path. In this gravel path erynguims self-seed and I quickly whip them up and pot them on before they get trodden on.

Alchemilla mollis makes a home between gaps in the paving, and the species tulip, Tulipa sprengeri, is positively abundant after years of self-seeding. The self-seeder year in my plot starts In March with the biennial Smyrnium perfoliatum adding a vibrant lime-green to the borders, which is quickly followed by foxgloves and then aquilegia.

This early summer symphony all started with the purchase of three plants and cost me about £20, so what’s not to like about that?

 

Rooting power
When choosing to grow prevalent self-seeders it’s worth finding out how they root. Many are easy to lift and pull up, such as Nassella tenuissima, forget-me-nots, Leucanthemum vulgare (ox-eye daisies), primulas and hardy geraniums. All these have fairly shallow roots and can be easily removed, when young, from a border with a hand trowel.

It’s those with a tap root such as Inula racemosa and comfrey that are hard to lift and can become a nuisance. If you decide that you no longer want to share your garden with a particular self-seeder, be aware that the seed can sit in the soil for many years before germinating.

You might think you have weeded out the culprit, but don’t be surprised to see a few more plants to germinate the following year. On balance, I’m all for sharing the garden with self-seeders. All the best things in life are unplanned and unexpected, and these plants allow me to pick guilt-free bunches for my vases.

 

Five tips for success with self-seeders

• Research self-seeding plants before committing to them. Will they be easy to pull up and remove?
• If self-seeders are deep rooted and hard to remove from the garden, cut off the flowers before they have the chance to set seed.
• For those people who have steep banks and inaccessible areas of their garden where soil can’t be turned easily, self-seeders could be the answer. Some will grow in the most inhospitable places.
• Edit out self-seeders that are taking over – the ideal time to do this is in early spring. Learn to identify their seedlings so you can lift them when they’re small.
• Many self-seeders are vigorous in some gardens and not in others – ask a neighbour if they have trouble with a plant before growing it.

 

6 reliable self-seeders

Verbena bonariensis

FCT9NJ Verbena bonariensis. Argentinian vervain.

The perfect plant for the middle or back of a sunny border. It is more likely to set seed in a sandy soil than in heavy clay. Reaches 3ft 3in (1m) in height. Flowers June-October.

 

Verbascum olympicum

M4J7D5 Verbascum olympicum, olympian mullein. Image shot 07/2017. Exact date unknown.

A perennial that often dies after flowering and setting seed. Perfect for the back of the border, reaching 6ft 6in (2m) in height. Wonderful yellow flowers in summer.

 

Centranthus ruber

DH1B2R Red Valerian

Commonly known as red valerian, this attractive perennial can have crimson, white or pink flowers mall summer. Thrives in poor soil and a sunny spot. Height 1ft 8in (50cm).

 

Erigeron karvinskianus

F57D25 Erigeron karvinskianus. Fleabane flowers.

Easily mistaken as a rather healthy bunch of lawn daisies. Perfect for cracks in paving and flowers June-October. Fully hardy. Reaches a height and spread of 1ft (30cm).

 

Aquilegia

There’s an army of different aquilegias to choose from. They commonly cross-pollinate so, after time, you’ll have a rainbow of colours. Perfect for semi-shade. Average height 50cm.

 

Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’

EH6A15 Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing' - Dark Stemmed Cow Parsley

A short-lived perennial with deep-purple foliage. The pink-tinged flowers are a wonderful addition to a cottage garden. Sun or semi-shade. Height 3ft 3in (1m).

 

All photographs: Alamy