Growing grass with dogs can be tricky, especially if your canine is a boisterous one that loves to run and dig. Dogs are wonderful family pets and companions, but they are, without a doubt, hard on lawns. Before you opt for (environmentally unfriendly) artificial grass, though, consider a few simple simple expert tips for keeping your lawn healthy without having to keep your beloved pet permanently away from it.
Of course, if extensive damage has already been done, it may be easier to learn how to lay turf and start your lawn from scratch. Don't be afraid of this option if it's a little too late to repair a heavily worn turf. As with so many other garden problems, though, prevention is usually better than cure.
1. Rethink what grass types you sow
If you have a dog that's allowed on your lawn, you need to start thinking about your lawn differently. Instead of approaching it as any other residential lawn, you need to think about your lawn as needing to withstand similar damage to a sports field or golf course. And this means planting tougher, more wear-resistant grass types.
Lewis and Nancy Hill write in Lawns, Grasses, and Groundcovers (Rodale Press, 1995), 'If you need a grass that can stand up to heavy use, consider cool-season perennial ryegrass or tall fescue or warm-season bahia grass, bermuda grass, or zoysia grass.'
2. Change your approach to weeds
Next, it might make sense to wave goodbye to strong weed killers and accept some beneficial weeds on your lawn. Not only do they create greater biodiversity as part of wildlife garden ideas, but they actually protect your lawn from dog urine damage. 'Dog spot' is the brown patches in places where dogs urinate on lawns, depositing high concentrations of nitrogen. Grow clover in your lawn, however, and you'll see the problem greatly reduced, and will enjoy a healthier lawn naturally.
Even if you're using the best weed killer, it may be time to put it to one side for a while and let your lawn repair itself using the power of plants that will naturally grow on it.
Paul Turkey describes the benefits of clover in The Organic Lawn Care Manual (Storey Publishing, 2007) as 'nitrogen fixing', explaining that 'if you grow clover and use a mulching mower to recycle the clippings, your lawn probably has enough nitrogen without additional fertilizers...Clover even resists ''dog spot'' which occurs when female dogs urinate on the lawn.'
3. Try giving your dog a designated play area
If despite best training practice, your dog is doing damage to your lawn, you may find it easier to create a designated play area for the dog to dig and run to its heart's content. Even small garden ideas can benefit from an area the dog is encouraged to use – this is much kinder than not letting your pet use the lawn and is more likely to counteract undesirable behaviors. Use dog treats to reward your dog for using the designated area.
What to do if your lawn is beyond repair
If these are a little too late for your lawn, you may be better off reseeding the lawn. If you go down this route, you must keep your dog off the lawn for the first six weeks, to allow the grass to take root and establish. Water regularly throughout these crucial first weeks – a lawn that's been well hydrated will be much more resilient.
You can find out how to plant grass seed in our expert guide.
Anna's background is in academic research – she is the author of London Writing of the 1930s, published by Edinburgh University Press. She is a keen urban gardener and has an impressive collection of house plants.
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