Gardening with Dogs and Other Plant Related Matters

How this all began

In March 2010, we got our first dog – a puppy whom we named Joey because he loved to jump (not unlike a baby kangaroo.)

joey as a puppy

What a cutie!  We had no idea how much energy he would have. 

It became clear that he needed a friend.  This time we were determined to adopt and in October of 2011 we found Justin.

how could we leave him there coming home

Look at that face.  How could we leave him?

That brought our household total of dogs to 2.  Growing up I had 4 labs, so I didn’t think 2 would be a big deal.  I forgot one small detail  – when I was a kid we lived on 3 acres of land, and had a very generous neighbor who allowed us to roam his 150+ acres like it was our own.  Four labs on 150 acres is no big deal.  Two labs on 0.17 acres is a disaster waiting to happen.

Compound that with the fact that our first dog, Joey, had taken to barking and jumping at the fence whenever anyone walked by.  The problem got so bad that we privacy fenced the backyard, effectively halving the amount of space the dogs have.

Very quickly the whole back yard turned from lawn to mud.  We tried fencing off areas and re-seeding.  Grass would get established, we’d remove the fencing, and the grass would die.  We tried putting down straw.  That worked for a little while but it really holds the pee smell and is difficult to scoop.  Also, it breaks down quickly.

Some people resort to giving their dogs a very small area of the yard, or a concrete pen, but I think that’s cruel.  I was determined to find a solution.  Meanwhile, the house was covered in mud, we had to wipe the dogs feet every time they came in, and give them a bath every time it rained.

120328 Remaining Grass

See that green stuff in the corner?  That’s the result of an attempt to re-seed the yard. 

120328 the boys in their mud pit

The boys seen here enjoying their mud pit. 

We had a landscaper out – he estimated it would cost about $15,000 to hardscape the yard.  We don’t have it like that, and if we did, we wouldn’t be living here.  So, in the spring of 2013 we decided to try mulch.

120330 the mulch arrives

This is 12 scoops of mulch – the most that would fit in the the dump truck that delivered it. 

Being a gardener, I also spent several hundred dollars on plants.  I chose ones that I thought would stand up to the boys.  I also picked native plants, because that’s the kind of hippie I am.  (If you’re interested in finding out what make native plants so special, feel free to e-mail me:

I spread mulch over everything except the planting beds, while my husband did the hard work of breaking through our clay soil to plant the plants.

120330 my handsome hubby

The dark mulch is just fresh from the pile – as soon as you spread it it starts to dry and the color fades.

The beds looked pretty good once they were done.  In these pictures there are stone borders differentiating “path” from “bed.”  Within days I realized these were totally pointless as the dogs constantly kicked mulch over them.  Once the borders were removed I actually liked the yard better.  I felt like I stepped out my back door into one giant garden, instead of being in a yard with gardens at the edges.

120330 garage side bed 120330 house side bed 120330 just mulch

I also found a neat pond filter at lowes – it mechanically filters the water, and then uses UV light to disinfect it.  I already had a small precast pond from a previous failed project, so I made the boys a drinking fountain.  I decided not to dig a hole and bury it because I had been changing my mind a lot and figured, “hey – if I decide I like it in this spot I’ll bury it later.  In the meantime I’ll just put stones around it and make it look like a wishing well.”

120330 water fountain

The wishing well.

A month in, everything was working wonderfully.  The dogs has initially tried to eat the mulch, but once it dried they weren’t interested.  I chose un-dyed hardwood mulch.  Ceder and pine have resins that came make dogs sick, and I don’t trust the chemicals they use to dye mulch.

120416 fresh landscaping

About a month after putting everything in.

My only concern was for longevity – how was this plan going to hold up over time?  That’s what this blog is about.  I know other people have similar problems, and I would love to start a dialog about it.  My plan is to post once a season.  I want to talk about how often I have to re-mulch, how the plants are holding up, and any related issues.  Feel free to comment or e-mail me!




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