Are you doing everything necessary to ensure your granular fertilizer applications are a success next season? Wintertime can be a great time to improve your granular fertilizer application methods and equipment. A great start is with fertilizer spreader maintenance, followed by spreader calibration. Winter is also a great time to audit your fertilizer application methods and equipment to determine how efficient your granular applications are.

The most neglected piece of equipment on your golf course could be your fertilizer spreader. We’ve all seen a tired old push spreader sitting in the corner of the shop with several pounds of leftover fertilizer in the hopper. Corrosion often takes place and causes damage to your valuable spreader. Many spreaders don’t see much maintenance and aren’t cleaned or stored correctly. Winter is a great time to tear into your spreaders and do some much-needed maintenance. Start with a good pressure cleaning and inspection to see if any parts need replacing. 

It’s also an excellent time to add paint to any bare metal to prevent future corrosion. Be sure to check all fasteners for tightness as well. Lubrication is also key—this can prolong the life of your spreader and, in some cases, make it easier to push. The owner’s manual will provide some great guidance throughout the process. When all maintenance is complete, store your spreader in a clean and dry location out of direct sunlight. Proper cleaning and storage will help prolong the life of your spreader and ensure a precise and accurate application for many years to come. 

You can’t talk about fertilizer spreaders without mentioning calibration. Calibration is also paramount to an accurate and effective application. It’s always a good idea to take the time to properly calibrate your spreader. The correct spreader settings and accurate calibration are necessary to make an efficient and precise application. Skipping calibration steps can be an expensive mistake causing you to over-apply and waste valuable fertilizer. While over-application can harm your turf, under-application can affect overall plant health. Due to the variation among fertilizers, it is also important that the settings and calibration are updated each time a new fertilizer product is applied to the golf course. Be sure to make notes for future reference.

Now is also a great time to look at the overall efficacy and performance of your current granular applications. Start by looking at the amount of acreage and the number of applications needed during the season. It’s not uncommon to use multiple types of spreaders to do the job. Take time to look at your entire program, including staffing. This may help determine the types and number of spreaders needed for each application. With the cost of fertilizer skyrocketing and the increasing cost of labor, providing the most efficient and effective fertilizer application is a big deal. 

Take a good look at your equipment and available labor to see if your current methods make sense. It could be a good time to purchase new equipment to replace worn-out units with new, more efficient spreaders. There are some unique time-saving options, like Steel Green’s zero-turn spreader/sprayer ride-on machines. These machines offer flexibility and the capacity to cover considerable acreage in all types of terrain. Having the ability to make granular applications within tight windows will allow you to stay on schedule and keep your turf looking great. Due to environmental conditions, golfer demands, and staffing limitations, many superintendents deal with short application windows to make these critical granular applications. Having the ability to make granular applications in a timely manner can be a big help during the busy season.

Often our granular fertilizer application methods and equipment are neglected. Taking the time in the off-season to look at the efficacy of your granular fertilizer applications is time well spent. Providing the much-needed maintenance and taking the time to properly calibrate your spreaders just might save you time and money in the spring—not to mention improving the performance of your granular applications.

Taking a bird’s eye view of your complete fertilizer application process can also be useful. Doing the necessary maintenance on your spreader and updating your equipment and application methods can also be valuable to your golf course. The clock is ticking, and it won’t be long before the fertilizer is flying again. So take advantage of the downtime to make your granular applications the best they can be!