Archive for cedar chips for dogs

Pros & Cons of 5 Dog Friendly Landscaping Surfaces

Dog friendly Back Yards in North Portland

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping Fescue grass in St. Johns neighborhood of Portland

Westy got his lawn in St. Johns neighborhood of Portland. This is tall type fescue grass.

Here at Landscape Design in a Day we create a lot of dog friendly landscapes for our Portland clients.  Today I’ll share my experience (pro and con) with 5 typical surfaces for dog friendly backyards.  And I’ll have an excuse for cramming in lots of cute dog photos into the blog.

One of Alana’s designs featured 3 areas for the family dog.  One was for dry feet in the winter and so designed to be mud free.  One area is for summer and a dog cannot reach it during wet weather. The third area is for the dog only when its people are present.  Most of our clients don’t have enough yard for this solution but the following materials for the surfaces were at the heart of this design.

Materials for dog friendly landscapes

pros & cons of bark mulch dog friendly landscaping

My dog Daisy exploring her Aunt Kathy’s woodland garden on a bark mulch path.

 I’ll start with our least favorite surface – Bark Dust

I don’t like to use bark dust for the primary area for my dog or a clients’ dog.  Fleas, splinters, some of it tracks in and yet when I was a kid we had lawn and lots of bark dust and our dog never seemed to have a problem with it.  Maybe that is because she had so much lawn.  So I don’t use bark dust for the primary dog area.

Bark Dust

Bark dust harbors fleas and may need to be treated with chemicals to get rid of them.  Cedar chips don’t.  Cedar chips are not much more expensive than bark dust and it lasts longer.  We never used to allow cedar chips to mulch plantings, people believed it would remove nitrogen from the soils.  New research indicates this old idea is not true and I’m so delighted because having both cedar chips and bark dust in the same yard ends up looking very messy, bark dust migrating into the chips and vice versa.

Dog Friendly Landscape puppy on cedar chips Portland, Oregon

Luna the newest member of my client’s family snoozes on cedar chip path in NE Portland back yard.

Cedar Chips

This is my favorite for a dog area and I am also using it as a plant mulch when I don’t want my clients to have to install edging.  There is a specific kind of cedar chip that I like to use.  The easiest one to buy is at Mt Scott Fuel in SE Portland.  It is called NW Play Fiber and it doesn’t seem to splinter, it lays nicely together and makes a thick cover and it lasts for years.  Fir chips and other non cedar wood chips don’t last.

pros & cons of nw play fiber cedar chips dog friendly landscaping

NW Play Fiber Cedar Chips in doggie relief area near Mt Tabor.

I like to lay the chips 6″ deep.  The only negative I have noticed is with active large dogs in small spaces. Running and wrestling with their buddy dogs can displace some chips up against a fence.  The chips hold some moisture and now you have moisture up against the wood fence panels.

One client had an Irish setter who liked to run down the middle of her yard and then bounce up against the fence.  My clients have to rake the chips off the fence. They don’t mind because overall the chips have been such a blessing and are so much better than the muddy half grass they had.  Fir chips are not cheaper and will have to be topped up every year where cedar chips will last several years.  Arborist chips are too large and are awkward for dogs to run on and for people to walk on.  They have  an important place as a way to improve your soil and bring in good mycorrhizae (beneficial bacteria) but are not a product I recommend for a dog area.  They are just too lumpy.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

Westy in his kennel waiting for lawn installation and new fencing in North Portland

Synthetic Lawn Pro and Con – Dog Friendly Back Yard

Pro  Yes! Synthetic lawn can be a great solution for dog owners with shady back yards or small yards.  Anyone who wants to get away from wasting water, mowing and fertilizing may be attracted to synthetic lawn.  My clients with dogs and shady back yards love their synthetic lawn.   With synthetic lawn there is no muddy winter lawn and it’s easy to clean up those dog treasures year round.

Northeast Portland back yard with synthetic lawn dog friendly landscaping

Synthetic lawn can be the perfect solution for a shady back yard with dogs.

Con  Synthetic Lawn will it smell like dog pee?  yes it could especially if you have multiple dogs.

Some people hose the spots their pets tend to visit, others actually run their irrigation system to rinse the urine odor out.  Apparently people use a chemical on their synthetic lawn to keep them from smelling.  Using a chemical doesn’t seem to be going in the right direction.

Is Synthetic Lawn harmful to trees?

Portland dog friendly landscape design pee proof lawn

Daizzie on synthetic lawn roof garden of floating home

Con – I have had an arborist warn me to place synthetic lawn away from existing trees.  I was given this formula.  For every inch of tree (diameter at breast height) place the synthetic lawn out another foot.  This is not practical for small city properties with large trees.  I would suggest consulting an ISA certified arborist to advise about whether there is a way to mitigate problems for trees where the synthetic lawn would be close to the trunk.  Synthetic lawn as a surface over our soil that alters the living microorganisms in the soil.  Is it worse for trees than a concrete patio?  Concrete is a non natural surface.  Another arborist pointed out that many installation companies use a heavy application of herbicide as part of their preparation for the synthetic lawn installation.  I would want to be sure that if a herbicide is used, it is applied by a professional who knows when and how to apply it to avoid harm to bees.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

St Johns Portland client waiting for her dog friendly landscape design

Is there ever a good reason to use an herbicide? Well…..maybe.

Pro  Getting rid of the lawn will save all the water that would have been used to irrigate.  This will prevent using any of the fertilizers or chemicals typically used to maintain a lawn and many of these are harmful to bees.  Does this offset a one time use of professionally applied herbicide?  Each of us has to decide the answer to these questions.  I know of a large company who wanted to have a real Willamette Valley meadow installed on several acres specially for pollinators.  They decided to use herbicide to kill off the old lawn by first cutting the lawn down to an inch tall so there would be no flowers for bees to be attracted to.  Then they used the herbicide.  The meadow is now in its first spring and will be safely feeding thousands upon thousands of pollinators as it matures.

The New Tall Type Fescue versus old fashion short fescue blends

For yards with more sun, a newer type of grass, tall type fescue (one brand name is RTF) handles dog traffic, urine and poo better than traditional grass.  A contractor friend (with Autumn Leaf Landscape) has noticed the RTF lawn in his own backyard has fared much better than his old fescue blend lawn with his two large dogs.  Another benefit with RTF is that when you get a bare spot in the lawn, it can fill in faster because of its spreading (rhizomatic) root system.  Traditional lawn roots clump and do not spread quickly and so the old fescue blends needed more re-seeding because they clumped slowly.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping Fescue grass in St. Johns neighborhood of Portland

Some dogs just can’t help themselves and will try and dig their way to China.

Dogs who are Talented at Destruction will make a mess of your lawn no matter what kind you have.

RTF fills in quicker than traditional grass, which means less areas for dirt to become mud in the winter. But most anyone would have the new lawn area fenced off until it was well established before turning the dog(s) loose upon it.  If you have large dogs, and a small patch of grass even RTF isn’t going to cut it.  And some dogs who are (TAD) talented at destruction, regardless of their size will need the lawn very very well established before having access.  A professional lawn installer who used to install for dog parks told me he fenced off a new lawn area for 2 full years before it was open to dogs.

Of course, this solution depends on your type of dog, and how “fantastic” they are at tearing up your back yard. For some dogs, especially multi dog families, no real lawn is going to hold up to their needs so using grass means there will be worn paths into the grass.  You need a lot of grass to manage multiple dogs and lots of sun.  Shade, lawn and dogs means winter mud.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping for big and small dogs

Portland park offers relief for my client’s big dogs with a small backyard

Size of dogs obviously matters here.  Smaller dogs can wear a path into a lawn but they don’t pee in a large volume.  A large dog, after being in the house all day, could drop a quart 5 seconds after he or she is released into the yard.

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

My neighbor Rudy happily lives on a Portland house boat and takes a lot of walks, sometimes with me. Proof some dogs don’t need a traditional lawn and yard.

City Dogs with Small Yards Need the Local Park to Save the Lawn

Small dogs and older dogs are often quite happy with lounging around on concrete or flagstone with their humans.  Many city people take their dogs for walks and to parks daily and this relieves the stress on your outdoor living areas of multiple daily doses of dog urine.  Most of these clients don’t want a special area for a dog potty because they simply do not have the room.

I never use these materials for dog friendly landscape surfaces

I do not recommend round rock,  also called pea gravel.  It can end up trapped inside a dogs foot pad.  It’s hard on their ankles and same  is true for humans.  People can slip because the round rock is not stable, it rolls and so can you.  Pea gravel is very appealing to the eye.  Don’t do it and if you have some, get rid of it.  It’s not a good surface for anyone.

I’m not fond of loose crushed rock but perhaps if you check your dogs pads frequently it might be fine for you.  It’s not what I would want for sharing a space with my dog but a non compacted crushed rock is becoming more popular because of how well it works with rainwater.  An un-compacted crushed rock surface  is fully water permeable and compacted crushed rock  is not.  I have plenty of clients with gravel patios whose dogs have not had issues with gravel or any gravel up in the dogs foot pads.  I had it happen once with my cocker spaniel but we caught it in time and it did not get infected.  Oddly he did not limp even though the gravel was up high inside his paw.  Don’t make the only surface for your dog crushed rock.

Concrete is terrible for dogs backs and knees and smells bad with repeated doses of urine.

City dog in Cathedral Park neighborhood in new front yard patio

Ruby hanging out on concrete patio waiting for a trip to the park.

Balance –  hard and soft surfaces for your dog

Ideally we are looking for hardscape for patios and areas for furniture and frequent human use with soft surfaces for dogs to play and walk on.  It’s a matter of balance.  Many clients want a concrete or stone patio but also have paths topped with soft materials like mulch or cedar chips.   Crushed rock is more affordable and non compacted crushed rock allows rain water to penetrate into the soil.  You have some concrete areas or some crushed rock areas but you also have other surfaces for them to romp and run on it may be fine for you.

Contact Us

pros & cons of dog friendly landscaping

My dog Daisy loves a soft snow surface to play on.

We love to work with the whole family when we design a Portland back yard.   Contact us for creative solutions that allow the whole family to enjoy the back yard including your 4 legged family members.

 

 

Dog Friendly Landscape Designer-Design in a Day

Landscaping for The Family Includes Dogs

Looking backward and forward on a 20 year career as a landscape designer, there are many benefits to my work that I love. It is satisfying to help my clients have something they want and then have it be 200 times more wonderful than they could have imagined. That makes me very happy but there is another benefit and it is usually waiting at the client’s front door to greet me.

Landscaping for Dogs & client Border Collie Freesia

Carol plays with Freesia, a side benefit to her landscape design work is playing with clients dogs.

The family dog is right there from the minute I step into a home and meet my human clients. In the same way as my human clients have needs and specifications, the family dog, depending on the breed and temperament, has needs as well. It is important to design for the whole family.

Is your dog like Charlie and Maggie…..neighbor dog buddies who pass toys through the fence (which is so adorable)!! A lab and border collie entertain each other all day long while their owners are at work. When the fence is replaced, accommodations will be made to keep the harmony happening. Regarding fences: Do you have a dog who needs to have a peep hole in the fence so he won’t bark so much or just the opposite? Is she a perimeter dog? Perimeter dogs need to patrol the fence line. It’s not the place for plants that can’t handle a little romping Rufus. Rottweilers need to survey the adjoining properties and will guard the neighbor’s home too. One Rotty I know likes to be up high so he can see who is coming or going. We designed a couple of boulders (and plantings to creep between the boulders so it looks good) that he uses to get up on his very large dog house roof. It’s not good for dogs joints to repeatedly jump down from a high place so he clambers up and down the boulders instead of jumping onto the concrete area near his dog house. When you come into the driveway you are eye to eye with him. (Mojo McAdam).   When you realize that Rottys used to guard and protect against lions,  you can understand why they need to see into the distance. You need some advance warning if a lion is coming to visit you.

We all talk about low maintenance but the changes we made to the landscape for Jackie and Kurt in Tigard, have saved hours and hours of grooming and large dog bathing. All 3 of their Newfoundlands are clean and free of mud. This was a side benefit of their Landscape Design in a Day. Their old house comes with huge magnificent old Douglas Fir trees and lots of shade. Where there was shade, there was mud. Prior to their landscape design, their dogs could not come into the house, not even the family room because they were always muddy. I was hired to design a new entry and garden and to garden coach with Jackie in her existing mature garden.  I discovered that Newfoundlands with their incredibly thick bear like fur could bring in so much mud so fast, it was stunning. It’s my job to solve landscape problems for the entire family so I slipped in some very practical design work for the back yard too. Kurt and Jackie used my special cedar chips to create a mud free woodland “floor” in their Douglas Fir forest. It’s beautiful now, the dogs are clean and poop is easy to scoop even in the winter and if you squint……well it just kind of looks like fir cones under the trees.

Jack Hofmann is pictured here with his personal water fountain. Jack is more of a one person dog so I can’t say he ever fawned over me, much as I would have liked that. He remembers me politely when I come to check on his owners garden but when the water feature was installed, he posed for me and gave me a few minutes of his attention. He knows where his new toy came from.

Landscape Design in a Day creates an echo chamber water feature or is it a dog landscaping water bowl?

Jack Hofmann and his new water bowl

Here is the story of the client who had two yellow lab puppies………I say puppies because they were a year old and since they are Labs (and don’t mature in their sweet heads ’til they are 3 years old) I call them puppies. My clients purchased their plants for the backyard design, and planted over the weekend. Monday evening, when they came home, every plant was neatly popped up out of the ground and laying in the hot summer sun. They re-purchased all their plants and re-planted the next weekend with their dogs temporarily banished to the garage………many breeds of dogs seem to think they are helping in this way……..giving their humans something to do when they get home from work. We love dogs, even dogs who trashed $1,000.00 worth of plants. This love of dogs is why the British expeditions to the North Pole in the 1800’s didn’t fare so well as the Russians. The English explorers could not view their sled dogs as a potential meal. I too would have curled up in my tent with my sled dog and shared the last morsel of food. In two weeks see my blog for stories about my clients, their dogs and the new synthetic turf.

landscaping for dogs - Barley Lindsay July 2011

Barley Lindsay cools off his belly in the early evening  on the patio

A rottweiler's habits taken into account in landscaping for dogs.

Mojo McAdam, a rottweiler may descend from dogs who guarded against lions but this is easy street.

Carol's Mercer Island clients puppy Remington Johnson habits were part of landscaping for dogs.

Cocker Spaniels are dogs who appreciate toys-photo of Remington Johnson by Missy Johnson