Archive for Shade Lawn

Dog Joy – Shady City Backyards with Dogs

Dog joy – Shady City Backyards with Dogs

Is your small city backyard a mud pit? This blog is dedicated to the family dog. It’s time to stop getting mad at your dog for bringing all that mud and dirt into your house.  They can tell we are mad at them. They must wonder what they’re doing wrong. We don’t really expect them to go outside and not get their feet dirty do we?

Roxy laying in the flower bed

Even dogs like to sit outside and enjoy the flowers. Roxy has a synthetic lawn.

Let me spell it out.  Two scenarios come to mind.  1st   When you moved to this house, there was reasonable lawn but over the past few years (or months) you can’t seem to keep it thriving anymore.  There could be many reasons for this but my favorite is the former home owner had the lawn replaced just before she put it on the market.  2nd  A.  Trees grow and provide more and more shade as they mature.  Lawns require sun.  You haven’t noticed how much sun you have lost over the course of the entire day.  Even 5 years is plenty to change the environment in your backyard.  Sun is the number 1 food for lawns, not fertilizer.  B.  Tree roots take up an insane volume of water and transpire it out through their leaves.  Your lawn needs lots of water and it isn’t getting it no matter how much you water.   Over time your lawn has lost the two things it requires to grow and thrive.  You can replace it, you can reseed the bare spots, but without enough sun and enough water it will not thrive.

So I say give it up.  Happiness and a mud free yard await your consideration if you can let go of the lawn as you once thought of it.

You may not realize there are accommodations that can be made or that your landscape designer can create a solution for this situation.

I swear I would not bring this up if I didn’t have solutions, and this issue comes up in about half of my landscape designs each year.

Fiber ex cedar chip path

Fiber Ex cedar chips make a great alternative for a lawn and are more affordable than using a synthetic product.

Lawnless Backyard

You don’t have to have a lawn in a small shady backyard. Most dogs are perfectly happy with wide paths or areas of cedar chips. You might think this would look agricultural but it doesn’t! It’s easy to take cedar chips into a Northwest Natural or Asian Style Landscape.

Professional playground cedar chips laid 4 to 6 inches deep is very effective.  My favorite product is called Fiber Ex by Rexius Forest Products.  This application will last for a decade and is more affordable than synthetic lawn.

Synthetic Lawn

Other clients are using synthetic lawn quite happily with their pets. It looks good…you don’t need to water, fertilize or mow.  It’s easy to clean up and tough enough that even large dogs can romp and play and chase the ball.  I am installing a synthetic lawn this year on my 10’ x 10’ roof garden/balcony.  We (Daizzie and I) are both going to love the convenience and I like the look of it too.

Exercise your dog at the park

Some clients with very small backyards decide to make the backyard be for people.  We hang out with our pets in the backyard and they need a potty place or two.  Exercise happens at the dog park or on walks. Those backyard designs are all about patio, entertaining space and privacy plantings, not specific dog play areas.

Uchytil dog laying in planting box

A small area of  lawn works well for this client’s dog.

Shade grass seed

They have not made a good shade turf grass.  There are seed strains out there that say they are shade tolerant but trust me…’s not happening.  If the shade is very light there might be some lawns that will be thick enough for people to use but they don’t cut it for dogs to play on.

Give yourself a break from the mud and look at alternatives.  If you are like these clients you will be very happy you did.




Synthetic lawn and your dog-a heavenly match?

Garden Designer Carol Lindsay of Design in a Day talks about her experience with synthetic lawn for clients with small yards and dogs.

I am excited about synthetic lawn?  I can’t believe I am saying this, after all I was born in Eugene, Oregon – home to our nation’s environmental movement.  I love to use natives and also interesting low water ornamental plants and yet I have found some problems where the solution calls for an attractive synthetic lawn.  Studied solutions to problems are rarely black and white……….

This is not Chance but illustrates nicely the problem of too much dog and not enough grass.

Chance,  a huge mastiff weighs in at about 150 lbs.  He drinks gallons of water a day and well……..what goes in must at some point come out.
The owner of Chance is a “plants galore” sort of gardener.  The small lawn she had was already burned beyond hope by the gallons of pee. Staying with conventional grass was not an option.  We looked into setting up synthetic lawn with a layer of charcoal underneath it and irrigation heads that could be run twice a day if desired.  This will wash the urine down into the charcoal layer and help with or eliminate odor completely.  There was some odor so it didn’t work completely for her but she was down to less than 400 sq feet of grass when I last saw her garden.  That’s not enough land for that much dog.

Can a synthetic lawn look real?   Mary, my client in NE Portland says…”The natural setting for this lawn, a lovely landscape of surrounding plantings inspired by my garden designer/coach, consistently fools most everyone who sees it into thinking that my husband spends hours on lawn care.”  Mary and Henry have beautiful trees, and a lush colorful garden but too much shade for grass and 2 dogs, a busy black lab, Milo and a Jack Russell Terrier, Eddie.  The lawn kept dying back due to lack of sufficient light and some romping and tromping from the dogs.  The mud came in to the house on the dogs.  This was not happy.  We had 4 choices:  cut down her beautiful big patio shade tree,  86 the lawn and make the whole back yard a patio, use  cedar chips instead of lawn or install a synthetic lawn.  It took about 2 years and watching the lawn continue to go south for the decision to be made.  Now my client loves her synthetic lawn so much that recently she hosted another client of mine who was considering it.   Mary emailed me to say….”Hi Carol,  Susan and Peanut stopped by last night.  Milo was not the perfect host but it worked out fine.  Susan enjoyed the ‘turf’ tour and I’m glad she got to see it in a dog environment.  An occasional sweep, blower or even a shop vac keeps the lawn looking great.  And for dog owners….clean-up is easy and quick and I’ve never had an odor problem”.  The only negative thing I can say was the initial outlay is steep.”  Yup, synthetic lawn is costly until you add up what it takes to baby a lawn in the shade and that it doesn’t even work. Mary and her husband have an easy, low maintenance situation that fits the entire family, 2 legged and 4 legged.

Designer recommends synthetic lawn for family with small yards and dogs

I am a designer who likes to use native plants, no chemicals, and I was born in Eugene, Oregon, home of environmentalism.  Using anything plastic (and petroleum product based)  offends me but babying a lawn uses a lot of chemicals, and takes a ton of water…………and removing trees to get more sunlight just to grow a water thirsty lawn isn’t high on my values list either!  There are some interesting eco turfs that I am studying that claim to be shade tolerant. You can read about them by going to this link.