What if you don't have a compost bin?
Bagged compost is available, and there are bagged organic fertilizers that have things like feather meal, alfalfa meal, granite dust and animal manure. But rehabilitating a yard can be challenging because you have to wean the lawn from the chemicals and rebuild the life in the soil. In some cases, you may want to talk to a professional.
What other steps should we take?
There are three things everybody can do that are fairly inexpensive and very useful. One: add rye or fescue seed to your lawn. These are grasses that are lower maintenance than varieties like bluegrass. It's like having a mutt from the pound as opposed to a pedigreed dog that needs a lot of grooming.
Two: sow clover into the lawn. It's a legume, which takes nitrogen out of the air and puts it into the soil. If your lawn has even 5 percent clover, it can provide half of the lawn's nitrogen. Basically it's your lawn's own solar-powered fertilizer factory. White Dutch clover is widely available and sturdy.