Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Sharing the garden with dogs

It was never our intention to own four dogs, but you know how it goes: This one came from the shelter, those two were rescued from the puppy mill, that one given to us after he was found wandering around, matted and nothing but skin and bones.

When we just had three dogs, a schnauzer and two schnoodles, the garden fared pretty well alongside them, but the fourth, a handsome scottie, somehow tipped the balance. Maybe it was because he came to live with us the same summer of the Big Drought, when the heat and lack of moisture certainly didn't help the situation, but with the addition of his feet, the lawn simply disappeared. It didn't help, either, that we were having a lot of construction work done on our house this spring, and there was demolition of more than just old siding in the process:

Well, climate change has arrived to stay and we aren't getting rid of our dogs, so I decided that instead of fighting those two states of being, it would be more efficient to redesign the garden to accommodate both.

My plan is simple: Add hardscaping in areas that get heavy dog traffic and shade (which makes it hard for turf grass to grow, even under the best of conditions). They have well-worn paths they like to take, carving them into the turf in the shortest possible distance from the back door to the places they like most to go. One of those spots is directly under the pecan trees, where they like to chase around like banshees, barking at the squirrels overhead:

So I've added a terrace of crushed limestone gravel under the trees for their "squirrel chasing pad," and large flagstones directly in the paths they've made:


I used the crushed limestone instead of pea gravel because it packs down better, and forms a surface that won't shift under your feet as you walk. It is slightly more expensive than pea gravel, but much less expensive than decomposed granite. The dogs like it, and in fact, seem to prefer it to grass and my flower beds for doing, well, their "business." I like that, because it makes the dog waste easier to spot for cleanup and also keeps it out of my flower beds. The result: No more "Oops!" moments.

And of course, gravel does just fine under drought conditions. I know some people are resistant to the idea of xeriscaping because they think it is all "gravel and cactus," but truthfully, I think that limestone or decomposed granite, used as a design element and not just as a big "cover," adds to the beauty of a garden.

Hopefully, the addition of the flagstones will allow the grass enough relief to grow in. Even if it doesn't happen that way, however, it already looks better than the bare dirt that was there.

I'm not done with the hardscaping work for the garden makeover, but this was the most critical, so it was done first. I'm pleased with the results.

15 comments:

  1. Going with the flow, there's a lot of release in that. Things start to fall into place more naturally (in and out of the garden). I find grass boring since it's so uniform, except for the ornamental grasses. Pea gravel doesn't stay put as well as the larger stone and it can get inside the house via shoe soles, where it then customizes wooden floors. Rocks can be just as beautiful as plants. Your area certainly is beautiful.

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  2. We were a three dog family until recently, they do take a toll on the garden areas. In Virginia the two males had a road rally path that was well worn.

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    1. Janet, the dogs are worth it, aren't they? :)

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  3. I'm currently dealing with a three-dog yard. Thanks for giving me some ideas on what to do with the paths and pits.

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  4. I'm dealing with a three-dog yard. Thanks for giving me some ideas on what to do with the paths and pits.

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    1. Good luck! So far the plan is working, but time will tell!

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  5. Well the only dog I had was a terrier mix I hard to give up when I came to a nursing home. Truth is he only used me to catch the food I dropped at the kitchen table. But I'll pass this on to a friend with two cattle dogs. Thx much.
    Patrick

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  6. Good solution, Susan. Our new dog prefers the gravel paths for doing his business as well. It does make it fairly easy to spot -- until you don't and just step in it!

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    1. I wasn't expecting that effect, Pam, but it has been a happy bonus.

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  7. Susan, I like your solution of adding paving and stones. I think the sweeping curve adds a nice (and nicely scaled) design element that draws the eye away from the lawn. -Evelyn Hadden

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  8. i've been wondering what to do with the mess my four dogs are making in my back yard. i like you ideas. thanks

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  9. Last year I pulled out all the grass in my backyard (I live in Dallas) and replaced it with sustainable plants, drought-tolerant grasses, drift roses, decomposed granite, boulders, flagstone paths, and a stream made of Big Bend boulders. I love it and have gotten so many people come over and say, with surprise, "Wow, I really like this!" LOL It has become my sanctuary. Considering the water issues we are facing and will face in the future, rying to keep grass alive in July and August inn August, imo, is the definition of insanity. People need to start thinking in new ways about backyard spaces.

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