Answer: A heavy covering of leaves can smother the lawn, so perhaps you could hire someone to do a last cleanup mowing or raking in the fall to remove the leaves. They can be raked and added to the compost pile or they can be ground up by mowing with a mulching mower and left on the lawn as a source of organic matter.
In spring you can patch the bare spots using a patch kit (sold where grass seed is sold) or you can loosen the soil down six inches, work in some compost, then rake smooth, seed, and keep it moist until the grass germinates.
A routine lawn maintenance program should help reduce patchiness. First run some basic soil tests to check fertility and pH. This will tell you how much to fertilize and if you need to add lime.
Then mow at a height of three inches during the growing season. Mow often enough you never remove more than one third the grass height at a time. In the spring, this can mean mowing more often than once a week.
You may also find that a core aeration (pulling out plugs of soil, not spiking holes) and a top dressing of compost are helpful in improving the quality of the lawn.
Your local county extension should be able to help you with the testing and interpreting the results and should be able to assist you in developing the optimal lawn care plan that suits your schedule and your desire for a better looking lawn.
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