We all love our dogs, but not when they destroy our turf. Animal urine, especially from dogs, is one of the leading problems all lawn owners face. The concentrated nitrogen can burn lawn turf, which leads to those all-too-familiar brown patches that annoy us gardener’s so much. However, there are a number of ways to handle this problem. Some of the solutions involve training the animal in question and some of them are turf specific.
Nitrogen ‘burns’ and dog training
Let’s start with the animals. First, it’s important to understand that it’s not the pH of the animal’s urine that causes burns. This is a widely held misconception. The problem is the nitrogen present in the urine, not its acidity. Plant roots wither and die when exposed to high levels of nitrogen.
Sometimes, the urine from wild animals such as rabbits, hares and foxes may find their way onto your lawn and cause your turf problems in the same way that cats and dogs can. Unfortunately it is harder to control such animals but there are things that can be done to prevent or remedy urine from dogs and cats.
You should try to train your dog to ‘go’ in one place by planting ground covering plants or spreading mulch in that area – a pee post can work well for this. Pee posts are treated with pheromones to attract the dogs, encouraging them to use them for their ‘business’. You can also use motion-activated sprinklers in both the front and back gardens to help keep neighbourhood dogs and any other wandering animals such as cats away from your lawn turf.
Now let’s look at your turf. The first thing you could try is to improve your soil quality. Make sure you have adequate drainage so that urine will sink into the soil beneath the roots of your lawn turf, thus reducing the severity of the burns. By washing the area down with water (one way you can do this is by applying gypsum to the water to neutralise the nitrogen) the nitrogen can be diluted and prevent it from burning your lawn turf. A lot of water must be used, so this solution really only works for spot treatments.
Finally, you might want to consider changing your lawn turf to a form of grass that is less prone to burning. Some types of grass are more sensitive to nitrogen than others. Fescue turf is the most resistant to burning, but perennial ryegrass also has a fairly high level of resistance. This is a fairly drastic step, but it is one way to keep your lawn healthy despite the presence of animals in your garden.