A reader asked this question of Washington Post Green Scene writer Joel Lerner:
We have two large dogs that have torn up the lawn in our back yard. It is fairly shady. Can you suggest something that can withstand these conditions?
And here’s Lerner’s tough-love answer:
Turf won’t thrive in shade, especially with the extra impact caused by compaction from two large dogs running the yard. This will keep grass from growing thick and healthy. I do not consider any low-growing plants dog-proof. Separate them with an ornamental fence pets can’t jump. Pet areas can be covered with shredded bark mulch.
More definitive gardening advice from a newspaper that knows how to cover the subject. The Post, don’t forget, brought us the beloved garden writer Henry Mitchell.
When I bought my house the front yard was tightly enclosed in chain link, with muddy dog runs just inside the fencing. You know the look – more doggie toilet than garden. So I removed the gate and got to work training ivy through the links of the fence to hide its hideousness. The aesthetic problems were thus solved but with no gate, the occasional running-free-like-the-wind dog digs up my plants and craps in my borders, despite my regular complaints about these demolition missions. So far, I’ve found no solution but at least I have an outlet - ranting on the subject.
What really interests me is how our dog-owning readers reconcile these two seemingly irreconcilable passions. By dividing your property into doggieland and garden, as Lerner suggests? Maybe limiting your plant choices to large shrubs and trees only? From observing the properties of dog-owners in my town, including a few who’ve asked me for gardening advice, I’ve gotta say the dog+gardening thing looks like a bad marriage. But that’s coming from a cat-owner – indoor cats, at that.