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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - July 23, 2010

From: Huntsville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Groundcovers
Title: Ground cover for heavy dog traffic in Huntsville TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have recently moved to Huntsville, TX where our backyard is very shady and has only a small patch of St. Augustine grass and the rest is a dry, sand-like soil. We also have 2 Great Danes and 2 Pugs that play hard in this confined area. Do you have any suggestions for ground cover that will endure the weight and playfulness of our dogs while still giving the appearance of a grassy backyard. It will also help with the mud being tracked into the house on rainy days! Thanks!

ANSWER:

We are not sure that, even if we could find a grass or groundcover that would withstand that much shade, we could find one that would withstand 4 large dogs. We are familiar with Huntsville, with the big pines and sandy soil of East Texas. Just about every single native grass requires full sun, and warns about minimal foot traffic, at least until it is well-established. If you have to choose between ground cover and your dogs, we know how you would choose and don't blame you. A suggestion we would make is to use a good shredded bark mulch. It is attractive, will help with the mud and can take the paw traffic. The downsides are that shreds of it will still stick to paws and be carried in, but it can be swept up instead of mopped up, and the dog activity is going to muss the mulch outside, as well. Replenishing and raking the mulch from time to time will maintain the appearance, and the dogs will probably love it. You would not have to mow or water it, and likely would cost no more than putting in grass, which we believe is not practical. In fact, where you are it would be more economical to use either pine bark mulch or pine needles for the ground cover, both of which are readily available. Another advantage is, as the mulch or needles decompose, they will compost in place on the sandy soil, so that if the dogs go somewhere else, there will be a good base for a shade- and acid-loving ground cover.

 

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