In photographs only, I had seen (what I'm calling) the gravel technique used at the Joy Creek Nursery. Since I wasn't able to go to the nursery for the handouts, I googled the idea and came across a how-to on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which also credits the Joy Creek Nursery. The basic idea is that you lay gravel, then compost, then fertilizer, and finally grass seed over your existing lawn. It's an easy and relatively inexpensive way to revitalize a sad lawn.
We decided to use the gravel method. We have a small lawn, so it only took about 4 hours (not including prep time). Although it probably cost less than replacing the lawn with sod, it still cost nearly $300 by the time we were done. And it was a workout, as well. Here are some photos of our progress.
We raked a bunch of moss off the lawn before we began spreading the gravel.
The lawn is completely covered.
At this point the compost, fertilizer and seed had also been spread.
We used the chicken wire to keep the dog off the lawn. It sort of worked.
Also, we didn't use quite as much compost as recommended.
This shot was taken three weeks later. The grass clumps are from the lawn, not the seed.
This picture was taken six weeks later. The lawn was growing really well by then.
I am not a lawn person. If I didn't have a dog and a kid, I would be happy just removing the lawn and replacing it with native plantings. However, I am very happy with these results. There are some areas where I will have to spread some more compost, fertilizer and seed this spring; but overall the lawn is much healthier. It was definitely worth the time, effort and money.