After weeks of seeding, feeding, weeding and fertilizing, you finally have the lush, green lawn you’ve been hoping for. It’s time to kick back and enjoy the fruits of your labors. You’re just getting ready to set up a comfy lawn chair and watch as the neighbors peer enviously over your fence, when you spot it: A dreaded yellow patch. Then another. And another. Is it a fungus? An insect infestation? It could be – or it could be urine spots left behind by your dog.
Dog Urine Damage
Urine damages your lawn because it’s full of concentrated nitrogen-rich compounds and salts. In diluted amounts, urine can actually act like a fertilizer (In fact, some urban gardening programs in impoverished areas have advocated its use as a powerful, low-cost fertilizer.). But when it’s super-concentrated, it can burn plant leaves and roots, causing them to die off.
But as with any cause of grass discoloration, before you try to treat the problem, it’s important to do a little detective work to determine if urine is the cause. How can you tell? It’s actually not that difficult.
Identifying The Cause
- Try to pull up some of the grass; if it comes up easily, it’s most likely a fungus (or possibly insect damage from root-destroying insects). If grass is firmly rooted, it’s most likely dog urine.
- Are the edges of the spot bright green? That’s also an indicator of dog urine – the bright green occurs at the edges where the nitrogen levels are less concentrated – enough to “green-up” the grass, but not enough to damage it.
- Have the soil tested. To be sure it’s not a fungus or inset damage, have your soil tested. Ask your local cooperative extension office for a local testing lab.
The Solution to Dog Urine: Irrigation
Once you’ve determined the cause is urine, the next step is preventing the damage – without blaming the dog. There are plenty of myths about the best ways to prevent urine-related lawn damage, including sprinkling gypsum (lime), dish detergent or baking soda over the spot to “neutralize” it. Some even advocate changing the dog’s diet (which could result in stomach upset for the dog, but won’t have an effect on your lawn’s spotting). But the only real solution is proper irrigation.
Watering the grass deeply does two things: First, it helps promote a strong, healthy, extensive root system that can help grass stay healthy no matter what insults it receives, and that can help it withstand more urine that grass with a weak or shallow root system. Plus, watering regularly helps dilute nitrogen and urea – primary components of urine – so they’re much less likely to be damaging. You might also try training your dog to urinate in one area, but that’s a lot more time-consuming, and not always predictable.
Installing an irrigation system is the best way to make sure your lawn is properly watered without the daily labor of dragging a hose around. If you want to learn more about installing a home sprinkler system or if you have a system that’s just not doing it’s job, give us a call at 1-800-WET LAWN or Contact Us to learn more.