Lawn a mud pit -- solution for dogs?

Chapps(z10 L.A.)December 18, 2005

The type of grass that we use in our backyard lawn was never meant for dog traffic (it came with the house). What used to be an emerald green wonder is now a complete mud pit -- complicated by the heavy clay soil underneath. The dogs (our own and his play buddies) really need their play date each day, but it's taking forever to get the mud off afterwards. Even a quick pee turns into a lot of manual cleanup.

Is there something temporary I can do until I can put in new sod during the spring? I was thinking of everything from decomposed granite (like the walkways and dog park we have locally) to sand.

Thoughts? I really need help on this.

Chapps

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calistoga_al

Since you are planning to sod in the spring I would use sand now, lots of sand, which will not interfere with the sod laid in the spring. Al

    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 9:34AM
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Swedeinla(SoCal z10)

Since it looks like you are in L.A., why not put in new sod now before the rains start so the new grass can benefit from the moisture?

    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 7:41PM
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jxbrown(z10/24 SD, CA)

I agree with Swedeinla. If you must have grass, then now is the time to put it in.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 12:13PM
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sputnikfarm

You could put down plastic sheeting, cover it with bark mulch, to kill whats left of the lawn. In spring you could re-use the bark mulch in your beds.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 3:07PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

It was said:
"You could put down plastic sheeting, cover it with bark mulch, to kill whats left of the lawn. "

And in the meantime, the dogs will slip-and-slide. And the rains, when and if they do come, will wash the bark away. And depending upon how the ground is graded, potentially flood patio, house, and whatever.

If this solution is tried, replace the plastic sheeting with landscape fabric -- it allows moisture to go through it rather than only OFF it.

Jean,
who previously gardened for 30-some years in Long Beach, CA.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 8:05PM
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berndoodle

And the source of water is....? No point to planting anything until you fix the drainage problem. A little bit of grade goes a long way toward making water flow where you want it. And once you get it there, it needs to go some place.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 10:18PM
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Chapps(z10 L.A.)

*sigh* Well, putting in all new sod right now isn't in the cards -- we have a Christmas budget, and that isn't on it. Given the 80 degree weather we're supposed to have through the weekend, it would be a good time to do it, but I'll have to wait until the the spring.

The water comes from sprinklers, which we could entirely turn off ... and then kill what remains of the lawn in the areas which are still green. The entire center of the lawn is mud, and this clay soil holds water forever. You could literally not introduce any water into this soil and then dig down half an inch and find it completely muddy a week or two later. Ugh. We probably will regrade the entire lawn area when we re-sod and put an extension onto our drainage system so that it drains off the property.

In the meantime ... muddy, muddy dogs.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 12:30PM
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jxbrown(z10/24 SD, CA)

You'll probably regret putting in sod in the spring. It's a bear to keep newly planted things growing through the summer and you are likely to find your investment has turned crunchy and brown. It's really much easier to plant now. Maybe you could temporarily fence of the dogs' area and seed the remainder now? (That is, if you must have a @#&$%&! grass....)

Grass is a struggle in a desert climate and planting it out of season is that much harder.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 1:37PM
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Chapps(z10 L.A.)

I tried reseeding a couple of months back, but unlike the year before, it didn't grow. Doesn't new seed need higher temperatures to germinate (like 80 degrees +)?

And, yes, it's the only place that I allow grass -- the dogs *love* their playground and I couldn't really see putting in nice little herb gardens and decomosed granite paths instead. The property in the front of my house (terraces and a front slope) is all California natives and Mediterranean-style plantings -- which our dog has little interest in (save to track down skunks, squirrels and the occasional cat).

So ... you know how folks with small children always wind up sacrificing their orderly home to the tyrrany of toys? We're the same way with our dog. And if he doesn't get his playtime every day, he groans, whines and moans to get an alternative form of exercise ... usually several late-night loooong walks. This guy gets a 5 mile walk every morning, but he's only a year and a half old and is built like a doggie athlete, all muscles, long legs and clean lines. We use our friends' dogs to wear him out!

Chapps

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 3:26PM
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socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24

I had a similar lawn problem with two playful, long-haired, white dogs. I tried reseeding, and I tried sod, but couldn't keep the dogs off of it long enough for the new grass to become established (it takes a while!) Last winter I put shadecloth over the muddiest areas - looked awful but kept the dogs pretty clean and they don't slip on it when they're running/playing. Then a gardener friend recommended St. Augustine (I live near the coast in San Diego). He pointed out that it doesn't have a fine texture that makes it nice to lie on, but if the lawn is the doggy bathroom one probably won't be sunbathing on it anyway. I put in plugs last spring, and it filled in the rest over the summer. Now I finally have a green lawn and white dogs.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 11:28AM
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Chapps(z10 L.A.)

Thanks, socalgal. I think that I'm going to fence off the worst portion and lay down St. Augustine sod (I actually like the feel of St. Augustine better than finer grass -- reminds me of my childhood, with dogs, of course). I might put shade cloth down on the rest of the "lawn" in the meantime. Good idea!

    Bookmark   December 27, 2005 at 1:22PM
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jxbrown(z10/24 SD, CA)

Chapps, if you tried to reseed a few months ago, it was too hot. You need to do it now, like the sod. This is planting season in southern California. Nursing baby grass through santa anas is an exercise in futility.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2005 at 9:11PM
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Chapps(z10 L.A.)

Aargh. Well, our gardener gave us the estimate for the sod, and it's ridiculously high, given all of the manual labor that has to be done. So, it's back to the seed idea. JX, I've been trying to find St. Augustine seed, but no one carries it locally. All I can find is the fine grass mix that seems to be so popular. Doesn't anyone have a mix for houses with pets? (or kids, for that matter) Frustrating.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 2:57PM
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Chapps(z10 L.A.)

Just did a bit more investigation online and I now know that St. Augustine is *not* available in seed form, just in sod or plugs. So I need another seed mix that does pretty much the same thing -- tough for pets, able to withstand sun and shade. Any ideas?

Chapps

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 3:13PM
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sputnikfarm

Armstrong used to carry a seed mix called "schoolyard grass" and it holds up to dog urine and heavy traffic. I don't remember what the mix was. I had to overseed it with rye in winter in a few patches, but it was tough stuff.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 4:27PM
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