Please Comment on My Reseed-Lawn Action Plan

I am planning to reseed my lawn in early September (that will be early fall in my area -- Northern New Jersey Zone 6). Last year my reseeding plan failed. This year, I want to do this correctly. Please comment on my action-plan to see there is anything that needs to improve.
My lawn actually is not that bad. There are only a few weeds here and there, and the lawn grass look "OK" to me. The only thing that I don't like is that fact that the lawn in my front-yard and side-yard is kind of thin. The situation is not getting better nor getting worse; this is just not as good as I want. I believe this "thin lawn" problem is caused by two things:
1. I only mow once a week in spring and in fall when the grass is fast growing. I should be mowing at least twice a week to encourage the lawn to grow thick.
2. The front yard and side yard has relatively thin top soil (1" and 3" respectively).
3. The heavy snow that fell last winter compacted the grass and the soil near the driveway and the walkway.
I intend to correct this problem by doing all of these:
1. I will mow more than once a week during grass growing seasons.
2. I will top-dress the lawn often with either top soil or finished compost.
3. I will re-seed the lawn to help the lawn to have a good head-start -- especially near the driveway and the walkway.
I will be concentrating on reseeding in this post.
My action plan for re-seeding is:
- Target date: Sept-6-2003 Let's call it the BIG DAY.
- Reserve the aerator from the tools rental place one week before the day of reseeding. Also order finished compost one week ahead for deliverying the compost to my driveway in the morning of the BIG DAY. Also purchase all the grass seeds (a blend of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass) and starter fertilizer (that is high in the middle number, and should be quick release).
- Start mowing the lawn twice a week one week before the BIG DAY. Gradually lower the mower in order to cut the grass to the minimum height while not mowing more than 1/3 of the grass height in each mow. The minimum height for the Kentucky bluegrass that I have in my lawn is one and half inch (according to the Ortho's book about lawn). I will bag all the grass clippings in order to help seeds-and- soil contact.
- Water deeply the lawn the morning before the BIG DAY to help the grass to cope with the stress that I am about to put on the grass during reseeding, and to ease the aerator to work on the soil.
- Mow the lawn one last time in the evening right before the BIG DAY (or any time during the day as long as the grass is dry enough). Again I will bag all the grass clippings in order to help seeds-and-soil contact.
- In the early morning of the BIG DAY, I will park all my cars at the curb and away from my driveway.
- While I am waiting for the delivery of compost, I use the aerator to aerate the whole lawn. And then, I rough up the soil using a metal rake.
- I use a drop-spreader to put seeds into the lawn.
- Then, I use a rake to spread a 1/4" layer of compost onto the lawn.
- Lightly water the lawn to get everything settled.
- For the next 20 days, I will lightly water the lawn frequently (such as twice every day for 15 minutes each time: once in the morning at 6:00am, another one in late afternoon like 4:00pm). Water once a week when the grass start germinating.
My questions are:
- I choose a blend of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass with the understanding that bluegrass takes a long time to germinate and perennial ryegrass can establish quickly. Basically, I am trying to increase my chance of success. Just in case bluegrass doesn't germinate, I will still have perennial ryegrass showing up. And this is the only reason why I will use a blend of seeds instead of using bluegrass seeds exclusively. But I am not sure if this logic makes sense to me. If I were doing landscaping for other people to make a living, I might use this approach to make sure some grass will come out and the home owner will not ask me for a refund. But I am not doing this to earn a living. If I really want Kentucky bluegrass, I am wondering if I will be better off using Kentucky bluegrass exclusively?
- Do I really need to rough up the soil surface if I am going to put compost on top of the soil anyway?
- Should I put compost first, or should I put seeds first? I assume that putting compost on top of the seeds will ensure good contact between seeds and soil (or compost). But I am wondering if the grass seeds can germinate if they are covered with 1/4" of compost? Do seeds need some sun light to germinate?
- If I am going to put seeds on top of the 1/4" compost, should I use a roller (with water inside to weight it down) to roll over the seeds in order to enhance the contact between seeds and compost?
- Am I missing anything? Any potential problem in my plan?
Thanks for any comment in advance.
Jay Chan
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The cause of your thin lawn is not because you only mow once a week. Its thin because it may lack one or all of the following 1) Nitrogen 2) water 3) sun
Your plan to core areate sounds fine and compacted soil may also be a cause of your thin lawn. I would areate, overseed and top dress with compost. You don't need to rough up the soil before seeding because the areating will create lots of soil contact areas. I would not use started fertilizer since you are really just overseeding and not starting a lawn from sctratch.

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Yes, compact soil may have something to do with the thin lawn. The areas where the lawn thins the most are more or less the same areas where I pile up the snow (near the driveway, near the walkway, and near the curb). I really don't know for sure. Areating the soil should help this problem if this is the cause of the problem.
Lack of water may also have something to do with the thin lawn. The front yard and side yard only have a thin layer of top soil over sandy soil. Therefore, they don't hold water that well. Top dressing the lawn should help this problem if this is the cause of the problem.
By areating the soil and top dressing, I think I can get all the bases covered.

I understand your suggestion of skipping the step in roughing up the soil surface. This is great! This means I can skip this time consuming step. Thanks.
But I don't understand why I should skip using starter fertilizer. I still need to use starter fertilizer to encouraging the grass to establish roots, and I still need to use some quick release fertilizer to help the young grass seedlings to grow, right?
Jay Chan
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