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    Tuesday, April 19, 2016

    Backyard Remodel - The Dog Garden

    At SilverMoon the backyard isn't huge, but it is large enough for a patio, raised planting beds, a fire pit, fruit trees, a storage shed, and maybe even a small greenhouse one day. I can see it...in my mind, but to get there involves a lot of work.

    The backyard started out as a mechanic's garage. Even after the structure was removed, the underlying cement slab was still there. We removed most of the slab - leaving a trapezoid shape for use as a patio and using the chunks of concrete as reinforcement along the fence. But it is still an old 1950's mechanic's lot. You can't dig the ground without unearthing windshield wipers, chains, hunks of twisted metal, and lots of glass.

    I'd hate to see the soil toxicology report. The ground is good for grass and flowers but we won't be eating anything from this soil for the next 100 years. Raised beds will be required for anything edible.

    To that end, we have (mostly) leveled the soil, removed as much of the surface debris as possible, and begun several projects around the yard. We have a half-circle raised bed for flowers at the fence and the fruit trees have been installed.

    The most recent project has been the addition of a Dog Garden. We came to the realization that our dog needed a steady place to go and that with the constant changes going on in the back yard he didn't have a consistent "toilet" area.

    Solution - build one!

    It started with 4 layers of black landscape cloth to prevent weeds but also allow drainage. For the fence we reused a shipping pallet that had delivered the house siding a few months earlier.

    Note on reusing shipping pallets: seriously consider time/effort over money here. To reuse the pallet we had to rip the old nails out of all of the wood, cut each plank to remove the previously nailed part / damaged edges, then measure what we had left and trim down again to the lengths we needed, then sand each piece, and then stain each piece. This was not a cake-walk. Reusing is cool, but in the end it may cost more than going to the lumber yard and the quality of pallet wood can be questionable.

    I trimmed the area with flexible landscape edging and broke up the rectangle with an arc. The larger section was filled with pea gravel and the arc was covered in rubber mulch. I went with rubber mulch over traditional wood shavings because it is paw and finger friendly (no splinters!), recycled, can be rinsed off to keep it clean, and it doesn't hold water unlike wood mulch so it is less friendly to bacteria.

    The fence is made of the recycled shipping pallet and black mesh netting. Since it is an area less likely to sprout seeds - I put my birdfeeder in the arc and we decorated the pea gravel area with a "marking" stone. The space also holds my hanging hummingbird feeder and it has a cement disk that will be the base of a tall planter I'm currently working on.

    So far, and it has only been a week, the dog seems to love it. He has a space all his own to do his business and then, once he is done, he can come out and run around and play in the rest of the yard. It is nice for the humans too because 1- it is easy to clean, and 2- we can stop worrying about stepping on poo and start working on other backyard projects.

    Next up - finishing the pea gravel border around the house and the fruit trees and running drip irrigation!


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