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Pet Wastes and Your Lawn

Go to any homeowner’s board meeting in the country, and you’ll hear residents complain about neighbors that don’t pick up after the pets, how dog poop is ruining otherwise impeccable lawns and how homeowners want to know what can be done to stop the offenders. The issue of pet wastes and lawns is a hot topic everywhere.

The best first advice is always to talk to the offending neighbor; it’s amazing sometimes what politely asking can do (and the truth is, a lot of us get into our own worlds and just don’t stop and think that what we’re doing might be annoying to the neighbors). Then if that doesn’t work, seek help from animal control, since pet wastes can present health (and even vandalism) issues.

But if you’re like most of us, you don’t want to shoot Fido or permanently relegate all four legged, furry friends to the indoors. You just want a nice lawn!

To that end, you should understand a few things about pet wastes and lawns. The old wives tales tell us that poop makes the grass greener. And in small amounts, pet “fertilizer” can make your grass greener. In large amounts, though, it can kill grass.

The wives tales that dog urine is more hazardous to lawns than dog poop are true. This is because urine is usually eliminated all at once, thus saturating a spot of grass (and it’s usually a favored spot, so the dog returns to this spot over and over again). The excess nitrogen that the dog’s kidney’s filtrate out then ends up soaking the lawn.

Dog poop can be immediately gathered to prevent lawn damage, but even if it isn’t, the nitrogen in poop breaks down and dispenses gradually over time. This longer breakdown process makes the damaging effects to your lawn slower and less intensive. Pet wastes and lawns aren’t a great mix regardless.

If you already fertilize your yard, you’re lawn will be on overkill when Fido joins the party; too much of a good thing isn’t good. So, you’ve got to balance the effects of your various fertilizers.

Lawn care experts advise watering the ground immediately after a dog pees on it, as watering dilutes the nitrogen effects. Bob Carr, owner of TLC Incorporated, an irrigation system provider, concurs. “A great irrigation system can also deter dogs from coming into your yard, since no dog will to want to do its business while being soaked by sprinklers,” Carr says. “I tell homeowners all the time that irrigation systems are their best defense against dog poop.”

Who knew?

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