Low maintenace back yard with dog - groundcover options

lindainpdxFebruary 2, 2012

Hi all,

I am in the process of moving into a new house (NE Portland) and am excited to finally have a yard! I have a pretty decent sized back yard that I would like to renovate. The current yard consists of lumpy, weedy grass.

I want to divide the yard into two areas - one for vegetable and fruit gardening and the other for my dog to run around on. My initial plan is to till everything, then add a layer of cardboard/newspaper to help kill the grass. In the section for the dog, I am toying with groundcover options.

Seems like cedar chips might be a good choice, or possibly hemlock. Then I was also considering a groundcover like something from "stepables." Key would be something low maintenance that would be safe for my pup.

Any thoughts, ideas, feedback?

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Skip the tilling.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 6:02PM
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I was thinking tilling just to help even out the ground since it's pretty lumpy. Do you think the ground will be even without tilling?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2012 at 6:42PM
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Most of the lumps could be the uneven grass thatch buildup over the years--the underlying soil could be less lumpy. Probe around to see if that is the case.

"Stepable" plants is an overly optimistic name. "Step Gingerly" would be better. Not compatible with dogs unless they are show dogs trained to step gingerly.

When you say one area for fruit and vegetable gardening, vegetables and cane (berries) or bush fruits (blueberries, currants, etc.) would be compatible together, but not vegetables and tree fruits. Tree fruits would actually be more compatible with dogs as long as the trees are barrier-protected when young.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 12:00AM
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Cedar wood chip paths have worked well for us with our little Pomeranian. He stays out of the raised beds during the growing season, but takes shortcuts now that the perennials are dormant.

Depending on the size of your dog, you may need to do short fencing as edging or even better a wire fence 4' high to separate the 2 areas. Our edible gardens are out front & I don't let him go there unless on a leash and he still doesn't quite get it when the plants are small. Our other dog would love to chew up lily foliage as it emerged from a large pot. I think it put bonemeal in there when planting, so that could be why. They love that stuff, so beware if you use it your dog will dig.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 11:30AM
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George Three LLC

chips work, but a small grass area could be nice too.

maybe take a 100 square foot section, hand pull the weeds, top with 1/4 10 gravel, then top that with good soil and seed it with better grass.

its amazing the difference well chosen grass makes.

Here is a link that might be useful: try pdx mix from these guys

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 11:44AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

When you have dogs under fruit trees the presence of their waste can conflict with maintenance and harvesting. Even if you keep up with their piles there will be poop smears and urine present.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 1:31PM
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Thanks for the feedback, everyone. Too bad to hear about the "stepables" Guess I will need to go with cedar chips or something like that.

For fruit I was thinking blueberry bushes and some container trees like columnar apples and maybe a dwarf fig. The ground space will be mainly veggies.

Yes, an edging sounds necessary too. Thanks for all the new things to think about!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 5:46PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Birds may appear on blueberry bushes at harvest time, making installation of bird netting or protective cages necessary for getting all or perhaps even a good portion of your crop for yourself.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 5:54PM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

Skip the chips. Stick with grass. Grass is actually very low maintenance so long as your standards are low. I ran a dog boarding kennel for a few years and wood chips are a very bad idea. Our exercise yards were gravel and grass and bare dirt. Wood chips can harbor fleas, and some dogs will eat the chips, and others will refuse to walk on them. Would you, with bare feet? I wouldn't so why would they. Splinters and sharp pieces. Using cedar chips will not repel the fleas as the small pieces will volatilize all the repellant compounds rather quickly.

My ideal, with my two medium sized active dogs, when I get my own place, will be to have a graveled dog run they can be confined in while I'm at work. No more tearing up the yard digging after moles and creating muddy race tracks where they tear around corners. Dogs like gravel pretty well, it doesn't harbor fleas, and it's easy to pick up off of. Concrete is low maintenance but most dogs don't like it all that much for lying around on. Then they can enjoy the 'lawn' when I'm home.

Like yours, mine is lumpy and weedy. The lumpiness comes from having a lot of fescue and bluegrass in the grass, which form tufts, and the racing dog traffic wears away fine soil particles in between the tufts, leaving low spots in between tufts of grass. More irrigation in summer, and annual top dressing with organic material would help, but it's a rental. Bentgrass works pretty well with dogs as it's a running grass and knits itself together. Where there's a lot of bentgrass the lawn stays together except where they've dug after moles. If your dog is very small then choice of grass doesn't matter so much, but for medium sized and larger dogs, go with bentgrass if you can get it.

I have to use a 5ft wire mesh fence with heavy T posts to keep my dogs out of the veggies and rhodie border. Not pretty but the 60 lber will haul herself over anything shorter. A stiffer fence could be shorter I guess, wood or chain link, or even better supported wire mesh, which means wood posts set in concrete. Don't use the cheap fencing stuff, unless your dog is tiny.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 11:45AM
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