Spring may be the season of growth and renewal, but if you"re serious about cultivating healthy and beautiful grass, it"s what you do in fall that makes or breaks next year"s lawn.

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Resist the temptation to apply fertilizer manually; use a spreader or call in a pro.

Theoretically, you could spread granular fertilizer over the lawn by hand. The reality is, however, that doing the job manually leaves too much room for error. While underfertilizing isn’t a catastrophe, overfertilizing is a real concern, and it’s easy to apply fertilizer too abundantly if you’re totally winging it.

Indeed, there’s a reason why professional landscapers use walk-behind spreaders. These outdoor tools include a flow-rate lever, which enables the user to set the precise amount of fertilizer to be dispersed per square foot of lawn area. If you’re serious about lawn care, a fertilizer spreader is a tool worth buying (view example on Amazon).

If you can use a lawn mower, you can use a lawn fertilizer spreader.

You’ll notice that on your purchased package of fertilizer, the manufacturer lists the ideal number of granules to be applied per square foot. You can set the spreader to output precisely that amount, but here’s a superior method: Set the spreader to disperse half of the recommended volume, run the spreader over the lawn in one direction, then take it in the reverse direction, hitting the areas you initially missed. Because theeffects of fertilizer are confined to the area immediately surrounding the spot where the granule hits the ground, the key to success is even dispersion.But when in doubt, underfertilize.

Bear in mind these additional tips for using and maintaining a fertilizer spreader:

Fill the spreader in the driveway, not the lawn, to avoid spilling and overfertilizing one particular area.For the spreader to operate correctly, both the tool and the fertilizer granules must be dry.Wearing gloves is a sensible precaution to take when you’re handling fertilizer granules.Also note that if you’re left with a partially full bag of fertilizer, you’re best bet is to seal it airtight and keep it in a dry place. Exposed to the air, fertilizer hardens up and becomes unusable.

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