The Green, The Bare and the Puppies
March 20, 2006 4:06 PM   Subscribe

With what should I cover our (dogs') backyard?

We live in Florida, USA and have two 80lb hound dogs, who love to run and wrestle in our fenced-in backyard. They will dig small spots of dirt up for a cool place to sit, but mostly its the incessant running and wrestling that has beaten most of our yard bare to the dry dirt. A couple of garden/nursery folks have told us that grass will just be torn and re-torn up, if it can establish itself at all (we've tried planting seed once already and it couldn't even establish itself). So we've temporarily covered the yard (60' x 90') in pinestraw and hay. This won't last. We've considered mulch, gravelly pebble stuff, etc. but in the quantities we need, they are expensive and not very comfortable on the pups paws. We'd be satisfied growing weeds; anything but bare dirt! Anyone have any suggestions as to what will keep the dirt from being tracked into our house, but stand up to our dogs?
posted by iurodivii to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
You can usually get filler seed for cheap, it is just a variety of grass/weeds to make a lawn green with no thought to the plants that are doing it. Might be worth a try.
posted by Loto at 4:17 PM on March 20, 2006

I've gotten wood chips free from tree companies; they have to pay to get rid of it.
posted by theora55 at 5:36 PM on March 20, 2006

This is what you do. Start looking for plastic pallets. (Pallets, NOT milk crates.) Each one you get, lay it out, flat side up, and pound it in. Keep going til you've covered the yard. When a pallet sinks in, take a pry bar and shim it up with a brick or whatever. If you keep up, your hounds will be just fine and you'll be spared the worst of the mud in the house.

And bless your heart for choosing your dogs over your lawn.
posted by vetiver at 5:48 PM on March 20, 2006

My neighbor mulched his entire backyard with wood chips. When they started to rot, it got really stinky. So I don't know about that solution.

Maybe Grasscrete could be an options. It's meant to handle vehicular traffic, so it should stand up to your dogs.
posted by Ostara at 6:37 PM on March 20, 2006

Based on the weeds that are thriving in our back yard in spite of the pup, I'd say clover is an excellent bet.
posted by SashaPT at 6:39 PM on March 20, 2006

Let the hounds rip up your pinestraw and hay and mix it into the soil for a few months, to build up the topsoil's organic-matter content. Then fence off a 60' x 20' area and get a mixture of kikuyu grass and clover going in it. Kikuyu is damn near indestructible once established. It's also as invasive as hell, so you probably want to contain it with mowing strips rather than letting it grow all the way to your fenceline. The clover will keep the kikuyu self-fertilized.

Once the kikuyu is well established and you've mown it a few times, open that area up to the hounds and fence off another area for revegetation.

You could also dig out a goodly area of topsoil, spread it over one of your revegetation areas, and replace it with a couple trailer loads of clean white sand. That should satisfy the hounds' need for bare earth to play in, and if you put it at the far end of your yard so they have to go over grass to get from there to the house, should minimize tracked-in sand.
posted by flabdablet at 6:49 PM on March 20, 2006

Went through the same situation. I replaced the grass with smooth river rock, making sure to get it in a size that wouldn't become wedged in the dogs' pads. They tear around as usual and don't seem to have any objections to it. Price-wise, it wasn't bad at all (but maybe the numbers are different in your area?).

You think you've got it bad with the dirt? I'm in MN, so just imagine the mud situation after the snow would melt in the spring! The mess was astounding.
posted by peewee at 7:33 PM on March 20, 2006

I second SashaPT's suggestion of clover. I used to live around the corner from a dog park which was entirely covered in clover.

In my own backyard, I had flagstones covering the ground (it was a fairly small space, however) with a small patch of dirt where doggy liked to do her business. I also built up garden beds with grey stones (from an old apartment building -- I hauled them from an alley down the street) and trained doggy to stay out of the beds, and did some container planting as well. I ended up with a dog and people-friendly backyard (and the flagstones were nice and cool for her to lie on in the summer).
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:09 PM on March 20, 2006

This might be too expensive, but something like GeoBlock might work. They used it for a grassy parking lot near me and it looks both grassy and hard-to-destroy.
posted by Rubber Soul at 9:26 PM on March 20, 2006

Sand. Tons of soft sand. You need a giant sandbox behind your house.
posted by pracowity at 12:52 AM on March 21, 2006

Response by poster: Fabulous answers! Thanks for the suggestions I'll start my researching now...
posted by iurodivii at 7:15 AM on March 21, 2006

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