Most people seed a lawn in early spring, but fall is the ideal time to plant lawn grass. "Warm soils, cool temperatures and autumn rains," according to Cornell University, allow for better germination and growth. Additionally, your young seedlings won't compete with as many weeds or suffer through the long, hot summer.
Assess your lawn site. Turf lawns work best in sunny, well-drained areas. If your yard receives less than four hours per day of sunlight, consider shade-loving ground covers such as periwinkle and bugle. Consider terraced walls and ground covers for steep slopes, which are difficult to mow.
Scoop soil into the bags or vials provided with your soil test kit. Mail the test kit to your local county extension office. You'll receive a detailed soil analysis report indicating your soil's texture (sandy or clay), nutrient deficiencies and pH level, as well as recommendations for improving your soil.
Remove any existing weeds or vegetation. Treat perennial weeds such as quack grass with a herbicide according to package directions.
Adjust the slope if necessary to ensure that water drains away from the house by adding soil around your foundation and gently sloping it with a rake.
Wet peat moss thoroughly with a hose until it is as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Spread it on your soil in an even layer. Spread a 3- to 6-inch layer of compost on your soil. Till the soil with a rototiller and rake to smooth.
Apply a starter fertilizer to the soil as directed on the package.
Fill your seed spreader with half of the recommended amount of seed for your area. Walk across the lawn in a back and forth motion. Fill your seed spreader again and walk across the soil at a 90-degree angle to your original path.
Spread a 1-inch layer of straw on the soil to protect the grass from moisture loss and weeds.
Water your newly seeded lawn two to three times per day with a gentle mist. Continue this watering schedule for the first three weeks until seedlings emerge. Adjust your watering for dry or rainy conditions. Cut down on your watering schedule gradually after seedlings are 1 to 2 inches high. Stop watering in late fall when the grass becomes dormant.
Mow your new lawn when the grass is 3 inches high. Use a sharp blade so you don't tear the fragile roots out of the ground. Because you've planted in the fall, you'll probably only need to mow one or two times until the following spring.