Moved into a rental home with a lawn that is mostly weeds and dirt patches. Not sure what I should try to do with it prior to winter. I'm from Texas, so the weather is radically different here and I'm not familiar with the dusty dirt (I'm used to clay).
In order to properly assign your question to one of our experts, we need to know what part of the state you live in (just the county is fine). Soil, climate, and growing conditions vary greatly across the state of Oregon.
I'm in Klamath Falls. I actually started this discussion from the Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center website, so I thought that was a given. I'll be sure to include that detail next time!
I bought some winter rye to fill in a spot where we plan to keep chickens next Spring. Should I also plant it in the dirt patches to prevent errosion and improve the soil, or do something entirely different? I have clover seeds that did great in Texas, but I'm not so sure clover will thrive in Southern Oregon through the winter months. Help please!
Because of your elevation and snow cover, there are only a couple of choices for good lawn mixes. The one that will work the best is a mix of creeping red fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. It is too late to plant Kentucky bluegrass so your only real choice right now is creeping red fescue .
You can either spray out the existing grass with glyphosate *(e.g. Roundup) (or leave it). If you spray it, wait two days before seeding. Then rake the surface with a hard tined rake (or rent a dethather) to scarify the surface. Apply the seed at 6 - 8 lbs of seed per 1,000 sq. ft. with a drop spreader. Applying a higher rate will not hurt anything and may provide better coverage. It will likely take 2 weeks to germinate given your colder night temperatures. You need to seed it as soon as possible. After seeding, lightly rake the area to cover as much seed as possible with soil and then roll over the ground and seed with a water filled roller to get good soil-seed contact.
After seeding, apply a fertilizer at 1 lb of Nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft. If your fertilizer has 25 % nitrogen (the first number on the bag (e.g. 25-5-15), then dived 1 by 0.25 to get 4 lbs of fertilizer per 1,000 sq. ft. to give you 1 lb. of nitrogen.
Finally, beginning watering. Water lightly so the water does not puddle on the surface (6 - 12 minutes). If the soil is really dry at the start, you can water the first time for 30 minutes but turn the water off if it begins to puddle. The goal is to keep the surface moist. Ideally, you would want to water once in the morning and a couple times in the afternoon. Once the grass germinates, and grows for a week, you can reduce the number of times you water, but water for a longer time. Keep watering at least once in the afternoon for a few weeks.
Once the grass gets to 2 inches, mow it. Turn the water off for a couple of days before hand so the soil is not soft to prevent rutting with the mower wheels. Mowing your lawn frequently during the establishment will help it thicken much more quickly.
Next year, in late Spring, you can seed Kentucky bluegrass to your fine fescue lawn, if desired.