Professional lawn care can be expensive and it can be hard to find a company you like and can rely on. Caring for your property on your own is doable. Lawn sprayers are a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment and with the resources available online today, there is no reason why you can’t get great results from doing it yourself.
One major obstacle that keeps people from applying pesticides and herbicides themselves is not knowing where to start. Today I am going to paint a clear picture of the different types of lawn sprayers, how to select the right one for your needs, and how to use it.
The Different Types of Lawn and Garden Sprayers
There are several different types of sprayers that could be classified as “lawn” sprayers. This list includes the most common types. Within each type, there are many variations.
Also known as compression sprayers, hand sprayers, or hand pump-up sprayers, are a popular and versatile choice for lawn care. They are best suited for small gardens, indoor jobs, or other isolated applications that do not require broadcasting over a large area. If you desire to completely cover your lawn a hand pump sprayer is probably too small unless your lawn is under 5000 square feet.
These sprayers rely on manual pumping to build pressure inside the tank, this propels the solution through the nozzle. The most common ones are made of polyethylene, but heavy-duty industrial options are made from stainless steel or brass components.
They usually have adjustable nozzles on the spray wand to provide the user with different spray patterns. Pump sprayers can be used for various applications, including fertilizing, weed control, spot spraying, and many other things. You can find a more comprehensive list of different applications in this article on pump sprayer uses.
Hand Pump Lawn Sprayer Pros:
- Affordable: Pump sprayers are relatively inexpensive when compared to other types of lawn sprayers.
- Portable: They are lightweight and easy for most people to carry around the yard.
- Versatile: Pump sprayers can handle many different types of liquids, including fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides.
- Adjustable: The ability to adjust the nozzle Gives the operator the ability to spray a solid stream that sprays farther or a cone that provides wide coverage up close.
Hand Pump Lawn Sprayer Cons:
- Physical effort: The pumping action requires manual effort, which can get tiring after prolonged use.
- Limited capacity: Pump sprayers typically have smaller tank capacity, requiring more frequent refills.
Hand pump sprayers are affordable, however, there are common issues that do come up when using a hand pump sprayer. If you are having any issues with your sprayer, then be sure to check out the article on troubleshooting a hand pump sprayer and how to keep a hand pump sprayer from clogging.
Backpack sprayers have increased capacity and they are more convenient to use. This makes them ideal for medium to large-sized lawns and gardens. Obviously named due to the fact that the sprayer tank is worn on the user’s back. They are typically manually operated although some feature electric pumps. The ergonomic design allows users to carry the weight on their back while keeping their hands free for spraying. They are often equipped with adjustable nozzles and spray wands similar to hand pump sprayers.
Backpack Sprayer Pros:
- Portability: With the sprayer on your back you can move about easier than having to carry a heavier sprayer around, setting it down to pump it each time.
- Hands-free operation: Both arms are free to pump and spray continually
- Increased capacity: More gallons in your tank means longer spraying without refills
- Higher cost: Backpack sprayers tend to be more expensive than pump sprayers
- Pumping required: Backpack sprayers still require manual pumping to maintain pressure.
- Weight when fully loaded: The weight of a full backpack sprayer can be heavy. Some individuals may not be able to use them without a lot of effort. Also getting them on your back without help can be a challenge.
Wheeled sprayers, also known as cart sprayers, are lawn sprayers that are mounted onto a small wheeled cart making them easy to move around as you spray. The common versions have 2 wheels and an electric pump, although manual pump versions are available. The spray nozzles and spray wands used on cart sprayers are typically the same as the ones used with backpack sprayers and hand pump sprayers.
Wheeled cart sprayers are perfect for anyone who finds a hand pump sprayer or backpack sprayer to be too physically demanding.
Wheeled Lawn Sprayer Pros:
- Convenience: A wheeled cart sprayer is much less demanding to move than the hand sprayers that you carry.
- Larger capacity: These sprayers allow you to move around a larger tank than if you used a standard pump sprayer.
Wheeled Cart Sprayer Cons:
- Higher cost: Wheeled sprayers generally come with a higher price tag due to their convenient features.
- Assembly required: Some models may require more assembly than other small lawn sprayer types.
Pull Type/Trailer Sprayers
Pull Type/Trailer sprayers are designed to provide even coverage for broadcast applications. They are equipped with electric pumps, eliminating the need for manual pumping. The key feature is the spray boom. Instead of using a hand spray wand to distribute the liquid, the evenly spaced spray nozzles on the boom provide even coverage.
These sprayers can come in a variety of sizes. They often feature a spot spray gun and hose in addition to a small spray boom. Making them capable of being used to accomplish different types of applications.
The smaller versions work well on average lawns, large lawns, and fields require much larger boom sizes.
Pros of a Pull-Type Lawn Sprayer:
- Efficiency: Pull-type sprayers save time and effort with wide coverage, electronic pumps, and high-capacity tanks.
- Versatility: These sprayers can handle both broadcast and spot spraying.
- Excellent coverage: The electronic pumps ensure consistent flow and the boom provides a more even application than spraying by hand.
Cons of a Pull-Type Lawn Sprayer
- Higher cost: Pull-type trailer sprayers are the most expensive option. They have more complex plumbing, larger tanks, and more components than the other lawn sprayer types.
- Requires Lawn Tractor or Other Vehicle: These sprayers require a mower, lawn tractor, or other vehicle to pull them.
- Less Mobile: These sprayers need room to turn around. The boom can also get caught on obstacles. These work best for open lawns with few obstacles.
Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Size Lawn Sprayer
The primary factor to consider when selecting a lawn sprayer is yard size. A smaller yard may only require a handheld or backpack sprayer, while if you have a larger yard you will benefit from the efficiency and effortlessness of using a tow-behind sprayer.
I ran a couple of tests to see just how much time it takes to spray an area with different types of lawn sprayers. You can see the full results in these articles below to help you in determining the sprayer size you might need:
Generally speaking, if you are only spraying isolated areas or just a garden, a hand pump sprayer should do. For lawns under 10,000 square feet, a hand pump or backpack sprayer is adequate. It really doesn’t pay to use a pull-type sprayer unless you are limited physically, but even then I would consider a cart sprayer instead.
If you have an open lawn of about 20,000 square feet or more, a pull-type boom sprayer is going to start to really save you time. For more information on sizing a sprayer, you can read about the testing I did to see how long it takes to spray with different types of lawn sprayers in these articles:
Lawn Layout & Terrain
In most cases, your lawn is probably not a perfect rectangular yard with no trees, sheds, playgrounds, gardens, etc. In addition to the general terrain, hills, ditches, etc., this is super important to consider. If you spray a fair amount you might want to consider a pull-behind sprayer, but it can actually be more of a pain than a benefit if you have to pull a sprayer around a lot of obstacles.
Consider how much turning and obstacle avoidance you have to do when you mow. With a pull-type sprayer, this is even more of a nuisance. It takes more space to turn around and line up the sprayer for another pass, plus you have a boom sticking out each side. You must be careful to avoid hitting anything or risk damaging your spray boom.
If you are considering a pull-type sprayer, this article I wrote about when to use a pull-type sprayer can help you decide if one will work for you.
Frequency of Use
Obviously, it doesn’t make sense to invest in an expensive sprayer if you only spray once a year or have a small area to spray. Take into consideration the different products that you will spray and how often.
With some products, you may want to have a dedicated sprayer to avoid any cross-contamination. Roundup, for example, will kill your grass. You might use it for spot treatments often but would be advised to use a separate sprayer for your herbicides that won’t kill your grass.
So while spraying a small lawn frequently might only require a small hand pump sprayer, you still might benefit from having two of them.
What Type of Spraying Will You Do?
There are two main types of spraying: spot and broadcast. A full explanation can be seen in this article: Spot Spraying Versus Broadcast Spraying. Basically, spot spraying is done with a wand and the operator points the wand and pulls the trigger to spray whatever area or plant they want.
Broadcast spraying on the other hand is using a sprayer to cover an entire area. This is usually done with a boom sprayer, but you can use a backpack sprayer or hand pump sprayer to broadcast spray your lawn. The boom sprayer is designed for broadcast spraying and will offer better coverage.
Spot spray examples: Fencelines, around buildings, cracks in sidewalks.
Broadcast spray examples: Spraying your entire lawn, or entire garden with the same product.
I have referred to some of these articles already, but if you are looking for further information on selecting and using lawn sprayers, refer to these resources:
- How Much Area Can a Backpack Sprayer Cover?
- Troubleshooting a Pump-Up Sprayer
- Fixing a Backpack Sprayer
- Beginners Lawn Spraying Guide
How to Use a Lawn Sprayer
When you have a brand new sprayer, the first thing to do is to fill the sprayer with water, and then run the sprayer at your anticipated operating pressure. Check for leaks and ensure that everything is working properly. If your sprayer has a regulating valve be sure that the pressure responds accordingly when adjusted.
Also, you should familiarize yourself with the sprayer components and controls. The manual should provide guidance on how to operate the sprayer.
Mixing and Diluting Lawn Chemicals
Properly mixing chemicals in your sprayer is crucial to ensure you get an effective application, reduce wasted chemicals, and prevent damage to your lawn.
Carefully read and understand the instructions on the label of the lawn chemical you’re using. There are a couple of key terms to remember: application rate and mix ratio. These are not the same thing. Application rate is the amount of herbicide or pesticide that is suggested to be applied over a given area. The mix ratio is the amount of chemical to water in your sprayer tank.
When you know the amount of chemicals needed over a certain area, usually ounces per acre or per 1000 sq ft, you then have to mix the appropriate amount of chemicals to water in your tank. This will be based on the application rate plus your speed and the nozzle size on your sprayer. Figuring this out is called calibrating your sprayer.
Calibrate Your Sprayer
Calibrating your sprayer is calculating the actual output of your sprayer at a constant speed and pressure over a given area. Usually over an acre or 1000/sq feet. Once you know how many gallons per acre or gallons per 1000/sq feet your sprayer used, you will then know the amount of chemicals to add to your tank for each gallon of water. For example: if your herbicide calls for you to apply 2 ounces per 1000/sq ft and your sprayer sprays 1 gallon for every 1000/sq feet then you need to add 2 ounces of chemical for every gallon of water.
Step 1: Start by measuring and marking off an area to spray for calibration. Because the application rates are typically expressed in gallons or ounces per acre, it is easiest to make your test area an acre.
An acre is 43,560 square feet. If you measure an area 209 feet by 209 feet, you will have just slightly over an acre. You can calibrate over a smaller area, like 1/10th of an acre, then do the math to find the gallons it would take to cover a full acre.
Step 2: Next, you need to fill your tank with water, note the exact amount of water in the tank. Spray at a constant speed and maintain the same operating pressure.
Step 3: Once you completely spray the area, subtract the remaining amount of water from the amount you started with. This is the amount your sprayer actually applied over the area.
You can find more details on calibrating specific sprayer types as well as information on choosing nozzles and changing your application rate in these articles:
- Calibrating an ATV Sprayer
- Choosing a Sprayer Nozzle
- Sprayer Calibration Formulas
- Calibrating a Backpack Sprayer
Using Your Sprayer
Now that your sprayer is prepared, and the chemicals are mixed and calibrated, it’s time to apply them to your lawn.
Avoid spraying on windy days to prevent drift. Ideally, you would want to spray on a calm day with a temperature below 85°F to prevent the chemicals from evaporating too quickly. Spray when temps are consistently between 60-85 degrees F.
When you should spray depends on your region. It is a topic that requires more explanation. That is why I reached out to an extension agent for some guidance. You can see the full details they provided in this article about spraying your lawn.
Cleaning and Storing Your Sprayer
Some lawn care chemicals are harsher to equipment than others, but it is always a good idea to drain and rinse your sprayer after each use to extend its life as much as possible. Using a tank cleaner is recommended and will help prevent cross-contamination of products.
If you have product left in the tank, store it in an empty chemical jug and label it. If necessary, dispose of any remaining solution as instructed on the chemical label. Avoid pouring chemicals on the ground or into drains.
When the sprayer has completely drained, store the sprayer out of the sun. Preferably, in a climate-controlled building if possible. If freezing is possible be sure to winterize the sprayer. You can see a full guide to winterizing a sprayer in this article.