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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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Wednesday - March 20, 2013

From: Great Bend , KS
Region: Midwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Groundcovers, Septic Systems
Title: Dog wallowing in damp area in garden from Great Bend KS
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I Have a wet area in my back yard that is close to my house. and off my patio there is a water hydrant,gas meter, electrical for my hot tub, my sprinkler valves and pump all there. My dog digs through the mulch in the summer to cool down; it drives me nuts. I need an idea for a ground cover that will stop his digging plus something that won't take over everything or a root that will grow though my gas line, electrical lines, water pump or valves.

ANSWER:

You apparently have two distinct problems to address.

1. Dog wallowing in damp spot and ruining plants.

2. Multiple utility systems that need protection from roots.

Much as we hate to admit it, plants are not the solution to every problem, not even native plants, which is all Mr. Smarty Plants will recommend. We are sure you don't want to get rid of the dog, or you would have already done so. There are no plants that can resist being dug up and wallowed in on a daily basis. If you could transplant something like a cactus or other succulent (of which there are 18 native to Kansas), they would not like that damp soil as they are all desert plants. And it would have to be large enough at the time of transplant to really discourage the dog, and therefore really tough to transplant. You could try putting in some large shrubs, again, large plants are not easy to transplant, and that would immediately complicate your utility line problem.

Now assuming the dog can find somewhere else in not quite as delicate a situation for the dog's cool down, we would suggest covering the area around the pipes with river rock. Not gravel, because the dog could dig that out and spread it around in a heart beat. The rock would be attractive, allow ventilation of the soil beneath it, and at least minimize weeds. Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on using river rock where growing anything is a problem.

 

 

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