Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dog Proof Brick Garden Pathway-Solve the Dog Run Problem, Part 1

Grass Removed
Who owns dogs?  I do!!  These two 80+ lbs lugs pretty much run our home.  And when I say "run", I mean they ruin the lawn with the notorious doggy lap in the yard that never regrows grass.  Use a dog proof  garden path as an alternative to continually replanting grass.

Maggie and Bella
So sweet yet so destructive!

BHG special, Country Gardens Inspirational Piece
This was my inspirational piece.  I found it in a Country Garden's magazine but I couldn't find the original link on to save my soul.  When I found this picture it hit me it hit me like a ton of bricks!!!   Oh, I'm so funny!  A brick path around my garden beds in the front yard would totally solve the issues of the mud that the girls haul in the house and perennial bald patches in the lawn.  

Early Stages of Destruction, Not Terribly Bad Yet

The real issues here is the composition and biology of soil.  First let's look at our soil composition in the northwest.  For the majority we have clay soil which has a structure much like a stack of paper.  That stack of paper has very limited air pockets which are necessary for plant growth.  When that stack of paper gets wet any remaining air between the sheets escape.  Which means that it lacks the ability to drain also explaining why clay takes forever to dry out.

Raised Bed Roadster Aisle
The most common mistake people do is dig up a little soil from the top, throw 6" of new topsoil and lay new sod.  Under that 6" of new topsoil lays the grim reaper just waiting for those newly forming and weak roots to cross their border so they can choke the life out of them slowly through the seasons to come.  Dry outside, NOPE our pancake stacked soil has formed super dense and extremely dry with very little water content to keep the plants alive.  Wet outside, NOPE our layers have wallpapered themselves together to where roots will never survive without air!  Think outer space without a space suit.  If you really wanted to get serious about building healthy soil you would have to add a foot and a half of healthy top soil and to be on the safe side for drainage add a little gravel at the bottom.  You can amend your clay soil but it takes YEARS people, with tons of soil amendments like sand, compost, peat moss, new seed, organic fertilizers which all adds up to a ton of resources, Cha Ching $.

Add caption
This spot under a very large shrub holds a very special place in my heart.  This is where our dear friend's dog Finn would lay to get out of the summer heat.  You may remember me mentioning Finn in this post about sending a thoughtful gift to a friend who lost their pet.  He dug up my flowers so many times that I finally designated it as a sacrifice area for Finn and the girls when they wanted to get out of the heat in the front yard.  In honor of Finn during this project the space has been permanently built in for dogs to escape the heat.  

Craigslist Bricks
Be a problem solver when you have two 80+ lb dogs or kids who are going to help you further compact clay soil.  I'm not for dumping tons of money annually into grass.  Call me a grandma, which most do, but I think most Americans are crazy with all the water, time and money they put into their lawn.  However, I will say I enjoy the HECK out of a deliciously soft lawn but KNOW THYSELF!  I am not a lawn person so I'll just sneak onto someone else's grass when I need a fix.  So the plan that was hatched was to brick the area in the yard for the areas that the girls primarily run.  This meant alongside the fence to the driveway and in between my two MONSTROUS garden beds.  I'll cover the beds another time.

Area Filled in with Brick and Sanded
When hatching a plan you need realistic visuals.  Check out Pinterest, Sunset, BHG and Country Living for great pictorial ideas.  After you find something that you love, you have to visualize in your head what the finished project will look like through the seasons.  What is this going to look like in the winter when everything dies back?  At the risk of sounding like a pessimist you also need to look at similar designs that look terrible so you can pick out what you don't like as to avoid while devising your masterful plan.  Lastly, stick to a realistic budget.  Look on craigslist for free soil, bark, brick and building material.  This little checklist will help with a lot of regret once you've put all that time and energy into your project.

The issues that I ran into with my brick plan, is do I really want a front yard that is completely paved and lacking any signs of life?  With that worry I decided that this dog proof garden path is going to definitely need some potted plants strategically placed on the brick to break up the scene.

Planter Bed Along Driveway Fence
A long narrow flower bed was also added alongside the fence facing the driveway.  My image of this planted area ferrets with this fanciful garden path!  Oh gawd, I wish!  

Country Living
I'm imagining hardier plants like grasses, evergreens, boxwood and some sort of climbing item like honeysuckle.  

Bella Landscaping

With the help of my friend John, same one from the built in grandma pantry, we were able to get going on this project last week.  The old soil was dug out to accommodate for the gravel layer for drainage, then the bricks were laid and topped with sand to grout the bricks into place.  We're about half way there but the second post is a little ways out.  We need to get all of the sand settled into the cracks, water it-ha water with all this April rain, sweep off the excess and then plant a ground cover to fill in the cracks.  I'm thinking Creeping Thyme thanks to the most excellent service from Portland Nursery on Stark.  

More to come, be patient!

Sandy Love-Jessie


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