Lawns in the Midwestern United States grow best when reseeded or newly seeded during the fall season. Work and prepare the lawn area in late summer so it is ready to sow from mid-August through early October. Choose cool season grass types, such as Kentucky blue grass, perennial ryegrass or turf-type tall fescue, as these perform well in the home landscape. Contact your County University Extension office for recommendations on the type of grass best suited for your area.
Prepare the lawn area by tilling the soil to a depth of 10 to 14 inches with a rotor-tiller and remove all weeds and debris from the area. Take the time to test the soil pH with a home test kit available at garden stores since grass grows best in a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. If the soil pH test shows a pH outside of the recommended range, work ground rock sulfur into the soil to lower the pH or limestone to raise the pH. Follow the package instructions for an application rate based on the current pH. Work 2 to 3 inches of organic compost into the first 6 inches of soil to increase the nutrient composition of the soil at the same time you adjust the soil pH. Smooth the entire lawn surface with a rake, fill in holes or divots and use a lawn roller across the lawn surface to pack the soil. Let the soil rest for two weeks before planting grass seed if you adjusted the pH with ground rock sulfur.
Apply grass seed to the prepared lawn surface by filling a broadcast spreader with seed. Set the spreading rate to release one-half the recommended amount of seed. Roll the spreader in straight lines in a north/south direction across the soil and repeat with a second application in an east/west direction. This will create an even seed spread across the soil surface. Cover the seeded soil with weed-free straw mulch or black lawn sheeting to prevent seed loss to birds, wind or rain. The covering will also increase moisture retention for germination.
Water the lawn for 10 minutes with a sprinkler immediately after applying mulch. Grass seed germination requires a moist environment, so provide water 2 to 3 times a day for the first four weeks after seeding to keep the soil evenly moist. Continue to provide water to the new grass when there is no rainfall to prevent it from drying out. You can remove the mulch once the grass reaches a height of 3 to 4 inches and mow the lawn to a height of 3 inches once the blades are a minimum of 4 inches in height. Use a mower with a sharp blade and do not remove more than one-third the height of the grass.