Indestructible Ground cover for a dogs backyard

Blister

Member
We have 2 fairly large dogs with about a half acre fenced in yard. Roughly half is wooded, and the other half was once a nice semi-shaded lawn. They are young and energetic, playing and chasing each other for several hours each day between indoor naps. I am looking to plant anything that will survive in semi-shade, loamy forest soil with good old So. Md. clay and gravel about 2 inches down. I am open to any suggestions, other than astroturf.
 

jazz lady

~*~ rara avis ~*~
First and foremost, there is NO such thing as an indestructible ground cover for dogs. But some grasses and ground covers do better than others. This article outlines the three I would choose between:

Kentucky Bluegrass

Kentucky bluegrass is widely recognized as one of the best grass types for cool-weather climates. In temperate coastal areas, this high performing grass will grow actively during the spring and fall. It spreads by rhizomes and fills in damaged areas, like urine spots, if allowed time to recover.

Perennial Rye Grass

Also suitable for temperate coastal climates, this grass performs best in cooler temperatures but will withstand warmer days when well watered. Perennial rye grasses are hardy and withstand wear and tear well. This aggressive grass grows quickly to recover from urine damage and paw and claw marks.

Turf-Type Tall Fescue

This relatively new type of grass is tougher than most lawn grasses, but still fine enough for an attractive landscape. Although it should be watered during dry seasons in its first year, this grass is drought tolerant once established and survives poor soils, salty soils and a range of temperatures from cold to hot.
http://homeguides.sfgate.com/lawn-types-can-stand-up-dogs-26746.html

I always used the perennial rye grass and it stood up well to my two to four big dogs at any one time. Plus several cats. :lol:

There are also ground covers that are pet friendly:

https://www.installitdirect.com/blog/dog-friendly-ground-cover/
 

Blister

Member
Luckily they are not diggers at all. They also always go back in the wooded area to do their business, they are proper young ladies and like their privacy. They do pace the street side fence line when the mail man and school buses arrive. I saw the same article in your link, and I guess I'll just try a mix of everything and hope something spreads. Not looking to make a showplace garden, just want to lessen the mud coming in on paws.
 

mAlice

professional daydreamer
First and foremost, there is NO such thing as an indestructible ground cover for dogs. But some grasses and ground covers do better than others. This article outlines the three I would choose between:



http://homeguides.sfgate.com/lawn-types-can-stand-up-dogs-26746.html

I always used the perennial rye grass and it stood up well to my two to four big dogs at any one time. Plus several cats. :lol:

There are also ground covers that are pet friendly:

https://www.installitdirect.com/blog/dog-friendly-ground-cover/
Right now, our moose has possession of the back yard. That's going to change in the very near future. Our front yard is much larger, it just needs to be fenced in. That will become his domain. It has nice grass right now, so we'll see how it holds up. He hasn't done too much damage to the back yard yet, except for a few holes he has dug, and plants he has pulled up and dragged onto the deck to nom, and chewed up a couple of bags of potting soil and planting pots....:ohwell:
 

jazz lady

~*~ rara avis ~*~
Right now, our moose has possession of the back yard. That's going to change in the very near future. Our front yard is much larger, it just needs to be fenced in. That will become his domain. It has nice grass right now, so we'll see how it holds up. He hasn't done too much damage to the back yard yet, except for a few holes he has dug, and plants he has pulled up and dragged onto the deck to nom, and chewed up a couple of bags of potting soil and planting pots....:ohwell:
Hey, a puppy has to have something to chew on while teething. :lmao: On the plus side, you will have plenty of fertilizer! :jet:
 

Chris0nllyn

Well-Known Member
A few things to note so you don't waste your time and money.

Bluegrass and Ryegrass are not shade-loving and I wouldn't recommend them for your application being half-wooded and semi-shaded. You'll want a cool season, shade-tolerant grass like fescue. Personally, I'd go with a tall fescue.

That being said, it's never as easy as "throw it and let it grow".

Preferably, you'd get a soil test and make up for any nutrient deficiencies with fertilizers but that's probably more than one is willing to do for a yard their dogs run around in. In order to have the best chance to establish and maintain a nice lawn is to first, dethatch. If you've never had it done, or your lawn (or whatever is left of it) is spongy, go ahead and dethatch it and remvoe any dead grass and/or roots to allow nutrients, air, and water to get to the roots .

Next, you want to aerate. Rent (if you don't have one) a nice plug aerator. This thing sticks a hollow metal plug into the ground and pulls out thumb-sized plugs of dirt. This allows the soil to become less compacted and allows immediate entry of nutrients, air, and water to the root system.

Next, apply starter fertilizer and I like to apply Milorganite (an organic fertilizer with Iron). Be sure you apply it per the instructions on the bag. Over applying does not help and can actually hurt the lawn (especially applying too much synthetic fert like the starter) and to a larger extent, can run off and enter our waterways.

Now, lay down a layer of topsoil. You'll only need about 1/4" (and fill in the holes made by the plug aerator). When that's done, apply the seed with a rotary or drop spreader (or by hand if the area is small enough). When the seed is laid down, be sure to use a roller (one of the large ones you fill up with water) and press the seeds into the soil for good seed-to-soil contact.

Immediately water the lawn. You'll want to water at least 1" every 3 days (split it between morning and evening) or so until the seed starts to germinate (usually, that takes about 21 days, give or take. Could be longer with shade). The best way to know how much you;re watering is to use the "tuna can trick". A tuna can is 1" deep, so set it in the lawn, run your sprinklers, and figure out how long it takes to water in an inch. Mind you, this can take some time depending on your sprinkler setup and lawn size. For example, my lawn is covered with 3 sprinklers and it takes 3 hours to lay down 1" of water. When seed germinates, cut back watering to 1" per week. I like to do (2) waterings at 1/2" during the week.

New grass is delicate, so a ton of traffic on new grass could kill it, so I'd get some temporary fencing and fence off certain areas to allow the grass to grow. Let the grass get to be 3-4" before mowing the first time and only mow a max of 1/3 the height off the grass at a time. You may want to get one area established, wait until Fall and do the same process over again for the other area.

After 3 mowings, apply Milorganite every other month during the growing season (remember that fesues are cool season grasses, so don't apply in the super hot summer months as the grass is dormant). I typically do it around Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. Milorganite, as I said, is organic and contains Iron. Iron is what gives grass that deep green, almost blue hue and while you can't overfertilize with Milo (it won't burn your lawn like synthetic ferts), you will waste money, so apply per the instructions on the bag. In MD it's 36lbs for a 6,000 sq ft. lawn so it goes a long way.

Now that you're completely bored out of your mind thinking "I'm not doing this ####", you need to know when to overseed. While fall is the best time to overseed with cool season grasses (it gives the roots a chance to establish before the hot summer months), it certainly can be done in the Spring. You'll want to be sure no frost will happen and that soil temps are around 55*-60* with air temps around 70*.

Also, don't apply any pre-emergent like weed killer/preventer or crabgrass preventer until at least your 3rd mowing.

UMD Extension Office has a good wed site on overseeding:
https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/faqs-lawns-overseeding-and-renovation-spring#recently
http://extension.umd.edu/sites/extension.umd.edu/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG102 Lawn Establishment Renovation Overseeding.pdf

Milorganite info (you can find this at any home store. Home Depot, ACE Hardware, etc.)
https://www.milorganite.com/




All else fails, try sod. :lol:
 

Chris0nllyn

Well-Known Member
Tall fescue is what they already killed. It wasn't perfect but had been established for years.
Then they'll likely kill whatever you want to put down also, unfortunately.

An option may be to trim some of the trees to allow more sunlight in.
 

glhs837

Power with Control
A few things to note so you don't waste your time and money.

Bluegrass and Ryegrass are not shade-loving and I wouldn't recommend them for your application being half-wooded and semi-shaded. You'll want a cool season, shade-tolerant grass like fescue. Personally, I'd go with a tall fescue.

That being said, it's never as easy as "throw it and let it grow".

Preferably, you'd get a soil test and make up for any nutrient deficiencies with fertilizers but that's probably more than one is willing to do for a yard their dogs run around in. In order to have the best chance to establish and maintain a nice lawn is to first, dethatch. If you've never had it done, or your lawn (or whatever is left of it) is spongy, go ahead and dethatch it and remvoe any dead grass and/or roots to allow nutrients, air, and water to get to the roots .

Next, you want to aerate. Rent (if you don't have one) a nice plug aerator. This thing sticks a hollow metal plug into the ground and pulls out thumb-sized plugs of dirt. This allows the soil to become less compacted and allows immediate entry of nutrients, air, and water to the root system.

Next, apply starter fertilizer and I like to apply Milorganite (an organic fertilizer with Iron). Be sure you apply it per the instructions on the bag. Over applying does not help and can actually hurt the lawn (especially applying too much synthetic fert like the starter) and to a larger extent, can run off and enter our waterways.

Now, lay down a layer of topsoil. You'll only need about 1/4" (and fill in the holes made by the plug aerator). When that's done, apply the seed with a rotary or drop spreader (or by hand if the area is small enough). When the seed is laid down, be sure to use a roller (one of the large ones you fill up with water) and press the seeds into the soil for good seed-to-soil contact.

Immediately water the lawn. You'll want to water at least 1" every 3 days (split it between morning and evening) or so until the seed starts to germinate (usually, that takes about 21 days, give or take. Could be longer with shade). The best way to know how much you;re watering is to use the "tuna can trick". A tuna can is 1" deep, so set it in the lawn, run your sprinklers, and figure out how long it takes to water in an inch. Mind you, this can take some time depending on your sprinkler setup and lawn size. For example, my lawn is covered with 3 sprinklers and it takes 3 hours to lay down 1" of water. When seed germinates, cut back watering to 1" per week. I like to do (2) waterings at 1/2" during the week.

New grass is delicate, so a ton of traffic on new grass could kill it, so I'd get some temporary fencing and fence off certain areas to allow the grass to grow. Let the grass get to be 3-4" before mowing the first time and only mow a max of 1/3 the height off the grass at a time. You may want to get one area established, wait until Fall and do the same process over again for the other area.

After 3 mowings, apply Milorganite every other month during the growing season (remember that fesues are cool season grasses, so don't apply in the super hot summer months as the grass is dormant). I typically do it around Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. Milorganite, as I said, is organic and contains Iron. Iron is what gives grass that deep green, almost blue hue and while you can't overfertilize with Milo (it won't burn your lawn like synthetic ferts), you will waste money, so apply per the instructions on the bag. In MD it's 36lbs for a 6,000 sq ft. lawn so it goes a long way.

Now that you're completely bored out of your mind thinking "I'm not doing this ####", you need to know when to overseed. While fall is the best time to overseed with cool season grasses (it gives the roots a chance to establish before the hot summer months), it certainly can be done in the Spring. You'll want to be sure no frost will happen and that soil temps are around 55*-60* with air temps around 70*.

Also, don't apply any pre-emergent like weed killer/preventer or crabgrass preventer until at least your 3rd mowing.

UMD Extension Office has a good wed site on overseeding:
https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/faqs-lawns-overseeding-and-renovation-spring#recently
http://extension.umd.edu/sites/extension.umd.edu/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG102 Lawn Establishment Renovation Overseeding.pdf

Milorganite info (you can find this at any home store. Home Depot, ACE Hardware, etc.)
https://www.milorganite.com/




All else fails, try sod. :lol:


And that, ladies and gents, is why I live in the forest :)
 

kom526

They call me ... Sarcasmo
Try a high traffic/athletic field grass mix. Like Chris said though, soil prep is vital.
 

Chris0nllyn

Well-Known Member
If your yard was sunny zoysa would probably hold up like a champ.
When it's established, absolutely. Zoysia is awesome grass if you have the sunlight. Unfiortunately, it's a warm season grass and stays brown (dormant) longer, and goes dormant earlier than cool season grasses.

Planting it is a bit harder though as they typically come in plugs. You can put seed down, but it takes forever to get established.
 

nutz

Well-Known Member
nothing grows better in So.Md. red clay than crabgrass. White and/or red clover might be a good choice for shady areas too.
 

PeoplesElbow

Well-Known Member
When it's established, absolutely. Zoysia is awesome grass if you have the sunlight. Unfiortunately, it's a warm season grass and stays brown (dormant) longer, and goes dormant earlier than cool season grasses.

Planting it is a bit harder though as they typically come in plugs. You can put seed down, but it takes forever to get established.
I grew up in a cooler area than Maryland, my parents yard was taken over from the Zoysa spreading from halfway down the block and across the street. Really their yard is only brown from November to March, which is not bad at all.
 
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