Few things can wreck havoc on a lawn like our canine companions. From urine damage, to compacted soil, to digging excursions and clumps of lawn that go flying under the pitter patter of racing paws (especially on rainy days) a home’s turf can look pretty tortured.
While there’s a certain amount of lawn stress that comes with the territory of owning a dog, there are ways to repair damage and mitigate further abuse.
Lawn Damage from Pet Urine – Both urine and feces have naturally high amounts of nitrogen, and while lawns do need nitrogen, the concentrated amounts in which they’re delivered by our pets only serve to burn turf grass, turning it yellow or brown. This is especially true when temperatures reach 90 degrees or more during the summer. To mend burned patches, generously water the spots to help dilute the excess nitrogen and salts deposited. Any dead grass should be raked up before re-seeding. The best way to avoid future problems is to create a designated, mulched area for your pet to relieve him/herself and train your pup to use it. In the event your dog does still use your lawn as a personal potty, cleaning up any feces as well as squirting down any urine spots with the hose as soon as possible can help stave off some damage.
Compacted Soil – It’s great to have a back yard where your pups can run and play, but all those pounding paws can really impact your lawn and soil. Especially if you have a fenced yard, it’s very common for dogs to run around the perimeter, killing off the grass and compacting the soil to dirt floor consistency where nothing will grow. To repair, you’ll need to loosen the compacted soil and add nutrients to it (such as compost) before your try to grow grass again. And once seeded, you’ll need to put up some kind of barrier to ensure your dog(s) won’t trample tender grass seedlings. Again, the best way to prevent this from happening is to have a designated area for your dog to play and run around. If this isn’t possible, some strategically place barriers in the form of fencing or shrubs or structured pathways you create can help guide your pups to move through your yard where you want them to.
Holes and Ruts – From low spots to small divots to major trenches, holes and ruts in your lawn are not only unsightly, but can invite falls and injuries due to uneven surfaces.
If the rut still has grass, pry it up with a digging fork. If the rut is shallow, lifting the turf an inch or two above the surrounding turf may be all you need to do to see if it settles evenly with the rest of the ground. If this doesn’t work, or for deep ruts (4+ inches) use an edger and slice the grass in the center of the rut, then lift it and fold it up and back so it’s resting on surrounding lawn. Loosen soil in the rut, then add more soil so it is 1-2 inches above the surrounding area. Flip the turf you had folded back into place, water and wait for it to settle.
For larger holes or any ruts or low spots with no grass, loosen the existing soil before adding fresh soil and seeding. Insert a digging fork at a 45-degree angle into the soil beside the rut so the fork’s tines are beneath the rut. Gently push down on the handle to lever the soil up, then fill the rut with soil mix, sow grass seed, and water.
Soil Mix for Filling – Blend planting soil with equal parts sand and/or compost to allow grass to root properly through the mix into the existing soil. We can help you determine soil recommendations for your specific site.
Choose a Tough Turf – For our area, two cool season grasses that are up to the task of handling pets are Kentucky Blue grass and Perennial Rye grass. Kentucky Blue is very winter hardy, spreads beautifully and provides a lush, green lawn. It will go dormant in high heat or during extended droughts. Seed in the fall for best results. Perennial Rye grass sprouts quickly and grows, but once established, spreads more slowly than Kentucky Blue grass. It does need relatively high amounts of water and fertilizer to look and perform at its best. Both grasses prefer full sun but can tolerate light shade.