Our property has a relatively small lawn for the quarter acre or so, and just in the front yard - about 500 square feet give or take. Unfortunately I haven't had the time/money/energy to maintain it the way I would like in the 3.5 years we've been here, so it's slowly deteriorated. It has a lot of weeds, but also has had leaves sit for months in the fall, producing bald areas (at least right now). We were considering moving for a while to a place that I would not need to be spending much time on lawncare, but we've just decided to stay for the time being, so I'm in need of some advise as to how to go about getting the lawn in better shape.
I've read about the basics. and have already followed some (mowing and only reseeding in the fall), but not others (preemergent broadleaf weed preventatives, no real watering or feeding).
I guess my main concern right now is whether or not I should attempt to put down any seeds for the Spring. I know it's considered somewhat of a waste of money given the small germination window before it gets too hot for the seedlings to survive. Do you find that it's worth it to try to do this anyway, perhaps in early March when temps might be finally into the 50's on most days, which would give 2-3 months of germination, or is this generally considered a complete waste of money?
Barring doing any seeding this Spring, what can I do before Fall to help get my lawn in better shape? I figure doing some watering during hot dry spells will be needed, and also putting down some corn gluten meal (trying to keep things organic /sans chemicals, since I have a 7-year-old who likes to play a lot outside). I'm thinking of compost (leafgrow) for feeding at some point, maybe early summer?
I've also picked up some tall fescu and rye mixes at Home Depot, but I suppose I should probably just go to a real garden store and ask for recommendations for the best grasses for this area given the fairly small amount of sun we get (3-54 hours per day), drainage, and traffic. I'm just wondering whether paying for a more targeted blend at premium prices is worth the money or can I get away with this big-box-store stuff and do ok?
Thanks for any tips!