Lawn fanatics: Need your advice on broadcast spreaders & sprayers

Alright, we're giving our lawn service the boot, and I'm going to see if I can make our lawn look as good or better than the lawn service could, at a much better price of course.
I need advice from all of you lawn-care turf-grass fanatics out there. I know I'll only do this on an ongoing basis if it doesn't take a lot of time and isn't a pain in the you-know-what. So all advice on how to do this is appreciated!!
I'm going to buy a good broadcast spreader to apply fertilizer 4 times this year to our 1/4 acre Minnesota lawn. I want a broadcast spreader that is going to be trouble free, easy to push and hopefully provide many, many years of service. The cheap ones, I've learned, aren't worth buying. I've been reading up, and it seems like the best ones have pneumatic tires, stainless steel parts that resist rusting, and upper end gear boxes, something like this Earthway broadcast spreader: (Amazon.com product link shortened)89&creative25&path=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fgp%2Fproduct%2FB0000BYDXN%2Fqid%3D1143655890%2Fsr%3D1-2%2Fref%3Dsr_1_2%3F%255Fencoding%3DUTF8%26s%3Dgarden%26v%3Dglance%26n%3D286168 .
Would this be a quality spreader at a decent price, or are there other, better built or more dependable broadcast spreaders that I should consider that don't cost a fortune?
Secondly, I need a good weed sprayer that has a high enough capacity that it doesn't have to be refilled constantly, and I like the idea of the ones that don't have to be pumped constantly. I couldn't find much info online about what the best sprayers are, but this one on wheels, with a 4 gallon capacity, that doesn't need pumping, seems to get good reviews on Amazon: (Amazon.com product link shortened)89&creative25&path=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fgp%2Fproduct%2FB00006LPPE%2Fqid%3D1143656366%2Fsr%3D1-1%2Fref%3Dpd_bbs_1%3F%255Fencoding%3DUTF8%26s%3Dgarden%26v%3Dglance%26n%3D286168 .
Is this a good sprayer, or is there a better one out there that has high capacity and doesn't cost a fortune? Are there any commercial sprayers that would work better? Are backpack sprayers any better?
Also, does anyone know where to get the best prices online, for either a broadcast spreader or sprayer?
I'm planning to buy my fertilizer, and possibly weed chemicals, from a farm-supply store, rather than at a normal retail gardening store. By buying the more generic fertilizer and chemicals, I'm hoping I'll save a lot compared to the $55 per visit that the lawn care companies charge. Does this sound like a good battle plan? Anyone else saved a lot of money doing this?
Any advice, suggestions or feedback on my grand plan here would be appreciated, as would any spreader or sprayer recommendations. Thanks in advance for your help!!
DK
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To get the best performance, I would suggest not using commercial fertilizers, but an organic program with only emergency resort to any chemicals such as fertilizers or herbicides. It sounds like you're trying to maintain a fairly large lawn with golf-course quality grass-only appearance, which is not very feasible - or good for the soil underneath. Allowing some clover to intergrow, weeding pernicious weeds by hand, and making sure to 1) let the grass grow at least four inches, while never cutting it less than three, and 2) making sure your mower's blade is always super-sharp are the two best ways to maintain healthy turf.
Using this system, plus an occasional cheat of a 1/4" of compost (from my community's recycling program, not dirt-cheap but cheaper than fertilizer!), I was the absolute despair of my next-door neighbor, who was retired and spent most of his time working on his lawn.... mine was always greener, despite the fact I spent much less time fussing with it.
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wrote:

To put it another way... you shouldn't be concentrating on growing a good lawn, you should be concentrating on growing good dirt.
If you manage that, the lawn will take care of itself.
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The best advice here is #1, never cutting the grass less than three inches. Now, most folks look down at the grass after they've cut it, and three inches are not going to look good. But: if you get in your car and drive around the block, you will see the best looking yard on the block as you drive back home. In other words, it's the distant look that will be gorgeous with a three inch cut. However, all too often amateurs want to look down and see the grass shaved to the ground and give in. The roots are now in the sun and the slightest drought turns it brown instead of green. So, resist the temptation and follow the thread above.
John
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<snip>
I cn't comment on the particular spreader - mine is a tow-behind, generic and it works fine. I began doing all of my own work and it's a big money saver with nearly as good results. It also, puts down less fertilizer than the pros want to throw down. I'm only doing spring and fall and some spot shot on problem weeds like thistle. The dandelions aren't hard to pull or, in the case of some of the ones that won't die, I inject deeply into the root with vinegar.

work better? Are backpack sprayers any better?
<snip>

You want more than I am familiar with.

Yup, see above.

I tried some of the more natural ways for two years and lost all of the beauty of my lawn. I used corn meal gluten and soy meal as recommended and it was a steady decline. I now use a comb of chems and naturals. In addition to the things stated above I use soy meal and a light dressing of mushroom compost. I'm thinking of converting to using a liquid compost tea using this product. The improved 'tea' method is to put a couple of scoops of any compost into a 5 gal bucket and fill with water. Insert an aquarium aerator into it and let it cook in the sun for a couple of days. Strain the liquid and spray on the lawn. If you check the lawn forum on www.gardenweb.com . Be sure to do your own research instead of taking the word of a goober like me.

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