Mow High: The basic rule of organic lawn care is setting your lawn mower at or near the highest setting. Let the clippings fertilize the lawn unless they form masses, a situation that is uncommon if you don't use artificial fertilizers.
Avoid chemicals and poisons.
Patience: If your lawn has been steeped in chemicals, it may take some time to recuperate and to generate its own survival system.
Remove Weeds: A healthy lawn without weeds needs only a few minutes of hand-weeding several times a year to remain reasonably weed-free.
The initial weeding may be a bit tedious and time-consuming if the lawn has run wild. Think of it as quiet meditation in collaboration with nature. You are also making a statement to your neighbors about your commitment to a poison-free environment. Do it over the space of months, a half hour at a time. It is a lovely way to celebrate a sunny day in spring or fall. Or a cool summer evening after a steamy day. Or a joyous summer sunrise before the day becomes hot. However you remove the weeds, once they are not there, a modicum of hand-weeding on rare occasions is enough to keep your lawn looking suburban.
Compost spread by hand once every two or three years will feed your lawn and help it grow abundantly. Dump a heavy dose of compost on any spot that seems to be asking for help.
What else? Your Eastern lawn will like some lime occasionally in spring or fall, since we have acid soil in the East. If Japanese beetles are everywhere, distribute milky spore disease, their natural predator in Japan or the nematodes sold for this purpose. Keep it simple.
Do not blow off your topsoil with loud blowers. Gently rake your leaves. It takes no longer than a blower and is much kinder to your ears, your neighbors' sanity, the topsoil that nourishes your lawn, and the world's petroleum supply. Rakes are not as thorough as blowers; they leave behind the bits of organic matter that your lawn needs for fertilization. Nor do they destroy the structure of your topsoil, so crucial for a healthy, attractive lawn.
See an example. The lawn at 56 Gordonhurst Avenue in Upper Montclair has not had any poisons or chemical fertilizers since 1975, nor has it felt the impact of a leaf blower or power mower. Nor has it been subjected to monitoring, testing, aeration, or thatch removal. Nor has it been watered. Yet during the 1999 dought it remained the greenest lawn on the block.