In some situations, a hand-cranked spreader is more practical than a wheeled model. When spreading granules in nurseries, beds of flowers and ornamentals, and other restricted areas, a wheeled spreader can be difficult or impossible to use.
Hand- or strap-carried, hand-cranked spreaders are a viable option in such cases but they should not be used whenever a wheeled spreader is practical.
One specific area where a hand-cranked spreader is useful to a homeowner is for spreading fire ant bait on lawns. Even though a wheeled spreader is usually preferable for most lawn uses, most wheeled lawn spreaders cannot deliver the low rates typically recommended for ant baits (sometimes as low as 1 pound per acre), whereas many hand-cranked spreaders are capable of the low rates. Since insects are mobile and will forage for the bait, the application uniformity of a wheeled spreader is not necessary, and a hand-cranked spreader is a good choice for ant baits.
Application Uniformity and Rate
In general, the pattern and rate from a hand-cranked spreader will be more subjective and operator-dependent than from a wheeled spreader. Many operator variables can affect pattern and rate with a hand-cranked spreader. Factors that can affect rate and pattern from a hand-carried spreader include the angle at which the spreader is held (pitch, roll and yaw), cranking speed, height and walking speed in addition to normal spreader variables relating to product characteristics and weather (temperature and humidity).
Types of Hand-cranked Spreaders
Several types of hand-cranked spreaders are available. The least expensive has a very small hopper and is held with one hand while cranking with the other (Figure 1). Larger units are carried on a strap around the operator’s neck. These are generally of two sub-types. One type is designed to broadcast granules both right and left (Figure 2); the other type broadcasts primarily to one side (Figure 3). For some applications, it is easiest to walk along one side of a bed and throw material in only one direction. Using one of the one-sided spreaders and angling it somewhat in the predominant direction can often give a good one-sided pattern. The hopper may be a plastic container or a cloth bag. There may or may not be a pattern adjustment, but there should always be a rate adjustment that is often combined with the on-off control.
Using a Hand-cranked Spreader Effectively
One of the most critical things you can do to get good coverage with a hand-cranked spreader is to be consistent. Always hold it at the same height and the same angles (remember, there are three angles to consider), crank at a consistent speed and walk at a constant speed. The best way to obtain the pattern you seek, whether one-sided or two-sided, is to look at the material coming out of the spreader and then either change the pattern adjustment on the spreader or angle the spreader (yaw angle) until the pattern looks right.
In summary, hand-cranked spreaders are useful for some special situations where wheeled spreaders cannot be used. Good results depend on the skill and consistency of the operator.