Archive for dog friendly lawns

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.

 

 

Gardener Shares Tips for Growing Fruit in Portland

Portland Fruit For Your Garden Design 

Edibles garden front yard in Milwaukie, OregonMy client Sherry has been in her new home and garden for about 5 years now. She has kept me informed about her garden adventures so I’m sharing them with you. It’s great to see people having fun with edibles and her garden and experience show how much you can learn over time and the rewards of yumminess that result. Here are excerpts lightly edited for clarity. 

Fig Report

“Hi Carol, 

My garden is thriving. Be careful what you wish for. You know that fig we transplanted from the old house that I didn’t think would make it has thrived. I had to learn how to prune it for fruit production. At first I pruned it in the winter then I learned that I had to wait until after the late spring early summer harvest to prune it. This way the tree can put on new growth for next years crop. I didn’t know that figs only grow on last year’s new growth. I’m not sure what variety I have, it has green skin and pink flesh. The July harvest is plentiful but determinate—all fruit ripening over in a 2 week period. I had to give a lot away to neighbors and the food bank to keep from wasting them. The fall crop was small so I have taken to doing the pruning in late summer which impacts the fall crop drastically….which is fine. 

This year (2017) I had a large enough fall crop to take fig sample into my weight watchers group. I opened a few eyes on their yumminess   Few had enjoyed fresh figs, fully ripened, right off the tree. These figs are my new summer pleasure. I pruned right after the first big harvest this year instead of waiting ’til later in the summer. There was enough new growth to produce a modest harvest in fall too.”

Berry Report

Blueberry Portland garden

Blueberry and dragonfly in Portland landscape design

“Hi Carol 

Here is my berry harvest schedule:  We start in April with the Honeyberries-great in yogurt or muddled in a sparkling vodka drink. 

May brings the early hood strawberries followed by the blueberries and then raspberries. Salal – a native evergreen shrub I love to eat the bitter but flavorful berries that set in late summer. 

Now in August I am still enjoying a few blueberries as I planted some late varieties to extend the harvest and the day neutral (or ever bearing) strawberries provide an evening appetizer after I park the car. Once the raspberries were done, the OSU Thornless blackberries kicked in and will continue into late September.”

“Hi Carol 

The blueberries are great. I have 4 different varieties and recently I moved them so they are closer together. My husband’s favorite is called ‘Peach Sorbet’. It’s an evergreen with purplish leaves in the winter and green leaves in the summer.  Produces a large harvest, great flavor, medium to large berries. It was planted 3 years ago, and I collected fruit for 8 weeks this year.  I surrounded the plant with a structure covered with bird netting because the birds (should be eating the seeds we provide them and) need to leave the blueberries for me and my husband. Another variety, ‘Top Hat’ is a prolific dwarf bush with small blueberries that pack a  lot of flavor in such a small package.”  

Espaliered pear tree in Portland garden design.

Espaliered pear tree in Portland landscape design

Espaliered Asian Pears      

“I set it up with 2 grafted varieties in 2 rows, but this year I added the third top row because I had the room on the fence. One year I had a very low production rate due to the wet spring causing poor pollination even though the pear trees are near my extensive mason bee hosting program. To combat this I have learned how to hand pollinate and this was so successful that in 2017 I had to provide extra support to the limbs because the weight of the fruit was threatening to damage my tree’s structure. I harvested 99 Asian Pear – 100% success rate!!

coddling moth prevention on Portland asian pear

Organic coddling moth prevention on Asian pear in Portland landscape design

 

I don’t use pesticides so I wrap nylon socks with kaolin clay around each fruit after it gets about an inch in diameter. This is an organic method to stave off coddling moth. I also take off all but one flower from each fruit spur so I get fewer pears but they are bigger. We started getting good harvests in 2016 about 4 years after we planted our trees. Check out my photo…….was I proud or what?”

Dog friendly landscaping in Portland, OregonSherry is a Clackamas County master gardener and enjoys her garden on an 8,000 sq foot lot in Milwaukie.  She has a tiny lawn for their dogs so the rest of the garden is dedicated to entertaining space, plants, edible plants, mason bees and love. 

 

Outdoor Pee Pad for Dogs – A Landscape Designer’s Solution

Portland dog friendly landscape design pee proof lawnMaking Your Small Landscaping Space Dog Friendly

I live on a floating home and when my dog has to go pee or poop, the parking lot is a long ways away.  My perfect solution to living on the river with a dog, is synthetic lawn on my small garden balcony.  I have the advantage over most people with a deck or balcony because we designed the house to have a small roof garden with real soil.  It was easy to add the synthetic lawn over the existing soil.  Not only was it easy, when my dog pees on her synthetic lawn, the rain rinses it into the soil so it doesn’t smell.  In the summer when there is no rain I rinse the grass using a garden hose.  As you can see Daizzie likes to lay on her grass so it is used for more than an outdoor pee pad.  I enjoy sitting out there with her or drinking coffee from my outdoor sofa.

When she poops on her synthetic lawn it is easy to pick up unless she has diarrhea and then I do need to rinse with my garden hose.  The dog poop always goes in the garbage because I don’t want to add nitrogen to the river, I mean come on, just because it’s dog poop doesn’t mean it isn’t raw sewage.

Portland Landscape Design dog pee lawnAnother solution is a raised bed for grass.  My client Sherry has small dogs and no lawn except for this tiny patch.  She just replaces the grass in her raised bed occasionally.

Portland is a city that is very dog friendly.  As a Portland landscape designer I have lots of wonderful opportunities to create dog friendly landscape designs.  I consider it one of my best job benefits.

If you are interested in dog friendly landscaping, contact us for more information.

4 Drought-Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Increasing Your Property’s Eye Appeal

 

Drought tolerant low maintenance front yard

Drought tolerant Portland landscape design example. This front yard shown in winter is gravel, stone and plants.

4 Drought-Resistant Landscaping Ideas for Increasing Your Property’s Eye Appeal

In recent years, droughts have made it harder to maintain your property’s landscaping, especially with water restrictions that make it almost impossible to maintain lush, green natural grass. While it may be tempting to throw up your hands and just let it go brown, you do have many other options for increasing your property’s eye appeal. Knowing about these four drought resistant landscaping ideas gives you the perfect starting point for transforming the look and usability of your lawn.

Gravel and Stone

This landscaping option requires no watering, and it can last for years. However, too much gravel and stone can look stark. There is also the risk of gravel and stone being displaced during times of heavy foot traffic or inclement weather. For this reason, it is best to limit the use of this ground covering to smaller accent areas. Filling in the area around a fire pit or lining a walkway with stones and pavers reduces the amount of grass you need to create a lovely outdoor space. Yet, you will still need to consider other options if you prefer some green in your landscaping plan.

Garden path with stone stairs in Portland Oregon

The new stairs are complemented by easy care artificial grass.

Artificial Grass

Gravel and stone may do the trick, but they still lack the soothing quality of staring out at a lush, green space. Artificial grass is a great option when you prefer the look of natural blades since it has a similar appearance and texture, and it offers additional benefits for drought conditions such as requiring no water to maintain its look. You will also find that installing artificial grass eliminates the need for other forms of energy wasting such as mowing and weeding, and it lasts for years with little more than an occasional wash down with the hose.

Succulents

These hardy plants require very little watering to achieve gorgeous growth. While succulents are low-maintenance, it does take some know how for selecting the types that will work best in your climate. Therefore, you will want to do some research before planting to find the right mix of colors, textures and hardiness for your outdoor area.  Hen and Chicks – Sempervivum and Sedum Spath ‘Voodoo’  are two popular options for adding succulents to drought-prone areas.

Edited Salvia-Raspberry-Delight-Bouteloua-Blonde-Ambition-web

Salvia ‘Raspberry Delight’ with Good Grass Bouteloua Gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ Photo credit High Country Gardens

Perennial Flowers

Life in a drought state is hard for flower loving home owners. However, there are some options for brightening up your outdoor space even when the rain has yet to fall. Consider adding low-water blooms such as Russian sage and lavender to your garden. Ideally, you should choose flowers that can be planted in pots so that you can keep them out of the heavy sun and put them out anytime that you need a splash of color for your décor. This option is a great way to add a touch of life by combining it with other ground coverings such as artificial grass.

Keeping your landscaping in top condition may seem harder when you are dealing with drought conditions. However, water restrictions may be the impetus you need to explore other options that offer far greater benefits than natural grass. For best results, consider mixing it up a bit by adding a few succulents as accents to your artificial grass, or define a small space with gravel. By being willing to experiment, you will find the perfect design for transforming your lawn into a gorgeous oasis that frees you from the dreaded parts of regular lawn maintenance.

 

Protecting plants from winter cold starts in summer

One More Reason to not over water this August.   It will help keep your plants alive this winter.

Plants that don’t get the message to slow down in late summer and fall, don’t go dormant in time for winter cold. Your plant needs dormancy to survive. Start now to protect them before old man winter arrives.

Iron gate design with snow

1. Do you over water in August? This is a biggie for a plant tombstone. Overwatering in summer and fall can cause plants to ignore the signals, such as shortened days that tell them to slow down. Try to learn how to water properly.

TIP: A garden coach session could solve this problem for you!

2. Fertilizing plants that don’t need it causes lush growth and can interfere with dormancy.  80% of your plants don’t need any commercial fertilizer at all. The best practice is to place an inch or two of mulch (or compost) around your plants in spring and in early winter …. prior to Thanksgiving is a good time these days with our early freezing temps in the recent past.

3. Severe pruning late in the summer or fall can signal plants to push growth. Signs of tender, new growth in fall or early winter is not a good thing. There are exceptions to this rule of course, nature isn’t fair and makes learning which plants are fine with “whacking” and which are not, takes time, concentration or a good teacher.

4. Plants that are considered drought tolerant are especially sensitive to over watering, fertilizing and severe pruning.  Italian Cypress, Crape Myrtle and rosemary are good examples of plants that can be cold hardy here with knowledge based care.

5. Placement of Zone 7 and 8 plants into areas where the winter east wind will reach them is risky. Plant these evergreens such as large leaf hebes and New Zealand flax plants where the house or other plants will shield them. (Tiny leafed hebes are a better choice anyway). If you are in our East county and can’t shield plants from the winter wind from the Columbia Gorge, consider a different plant palette, plants that do well in Boise (zone 5) come to mind. Small leafed evergreens like dwarf conifers are a great choice. Plants that are deciduous (leaves fall off in winter) are completely dormant and therefore safe from the cold East wind.