Most new lawns and many old lawns have soils with zero nutrition. They must be well fertilized for a period of time to get lawns started and healthy.
Our soils are mainly alkaline. They do not need lime. Just the opposite– they need to be more acidic. Lime on an alkaline yard is not reversible, so do not do it. We sell a $2.98 soil test kit that will let you know for certain.
Use a fertilizer that contains Iron. We sell an Encap Iron product that works quite well for greening up a lawn with an iron deficiency.
Forty two years ago I received a 50 pound bag of grass seed with an experimental label on it. I sure wish I had saved the label because it was the only one I have ever received. The label was for Rebel Turf Fescue. We were the first Garden store to sell the grass seed in our area. The same year I went to a lawn seminar at the Scotts Company and they talked about how they were experimenting with a 90% turf Fescue and 10% Bluegrass Mix. I came home and began selling my own blend with the name Sherbondy’s Tough Stuff. As the industry added newer and better varieties we changed the mix to 3 hybrid turf-type fescues and maintained the 10% bluegrass. Most companies in our area have followed in our footsteps.
Shady lawns are a struggle. I have recommended people begin considering clover in some of those areas. It will do better in the shade and drought type conditions created under shade trees. It germinates faster than skeeters in a slough. Clover is a legume and puts nitrogen back into soils. The other good alternative is a ground cover called Yellow Archangel, or Latin style, Lamiastrum Galeobdolon. Most people can see that it is shady in a spot, but fail to realize that the big tree-dog is lapping up all the available moisture.
Weed Free Zone is a fertilome product that will control most any weed in a lawn (especially ground ivy). Use it below 80 degrees. We also sell Turflon Ester, which contains the active ingredient trichloplor. This is hot stuff so use it with caution and follow the label. It will kill about any broadleaf. For your information, trichloplor is the same active ingredient that is in most brush, tree and stump killers. So it is hot. Tree and stump killers if spilled on the ground can travel and kill trees or shrubs. Be very careful with this type of product.
Soil tests from a university or soil lab can be difficult to comprehend if you are not a seasoned agronomist or horticulture major. Call ahead if you need me to read it. It is just some simple math that a simple guy can figure.
Thin lawns that require overseeding should be aerated first, then seeded and fertilized. A lawn that has a lot of spindly grass in it is probably just starved to death. Generally you can do more for a thin lawn with fertilizer than you can with seed. It’s just like a baby–if you don’t feed it, it ain’t gonna grow.