Old houses often have equally old–and by old I mean weed-choked–lawns. If you live in the Northern tier of the country, it’s a pretty good time to start. I hasten to add that getting green grass is not an overnight, once-and-done project. That said, it is possible without hiring a lawn service. Here’s what I do at my house.
First, I get a snapshot of what my lawn needs. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is through your local university extension. Typically, you call them and request a sample-pack. They send it to you with instructions, which usually requires digging up several small samples of grass and soil then mail it back to them. For a few bucks they test it and provide you with a report as to what your lawn needs.
Early Spring. The usual plan of attack is to kill the weeds before planting seeds. I find this gives the grass that is there room to grow. There’s such a thing as planting too much grass.
Step one in that process is to kill the crabgrass before it grows. Spreading a pre-emergent crabgrass-icide is the answer. Pre-emergent crabgrass killers are usually combined with a fertilizer. Read and follow the instructions on the bag for proper application.
Lime. Where I live I add pelletized limestone to my fertilizer application. It really helps the fertilizer do it’s job by adjusting the soil acidity to where it needs to be for my area. Just adding fertilizer is not enough.
Mowing. Put your mower on the highest wheel setting. This enables the grass to grow strong and be uber healthy. Taller grass also makes it harder for weeds to get started.
Late Spring-Early Summer. This is when the other weeds like dandelions start to grow. The way to nab these is with a weed and feed type fertilizer.
Dog Days. Yup, another fertilizer/lime application is the way to go. A fertilizer that I’ve had really good luck with is an organic product called Milorganite. Fair warning, it is processed human waste (they don’t really tell you that on the bag) but it is great stuff. Cheap too.
Fall. There are “winterizer” products out there and honestly I’m not sure how/if they work. I add another round of Milorganite and lime. Also, if the lawn is looking a little lean, this is the time I like to seed. Aerating before seeding can really help too. Milorganite works on established grass and new seeds–another thing I like about it. I skip the lime if I’m seeding.
Work Clean. Most fertilizers are petroleum-base products and are no good once they run down the driveway en route to lakes and streams. The way to minimize this is to blow anything you’ve gotten on your driveway/sidewalk back into the grass. The stuff works great for grass, just not for fish and stuff.
Spring Again. Your lawn should be in much, much better shape by now. If this were shampoo, I’d now say rinse and repeat. Getting a great lawn can take a couple of seasons, but man is it worth it.
I hope this helps.