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How Do I Deal With a Muddy Mess Under a Tree Caused by Dogs?

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Question: How Do I Deal With a Muddy Mess Under a Tree Caused by Dogs?
Reader, Deborah writes, "Have a huge maple tree, all mud around huge area, what landscaping can I do to make it look nice? Grass does not survive. Have 2 dogs, one always rolls in the bare muddy area creating an absolute nightmare on rainy days! My darn dogs are constantly going in my gardens. I need hardy plants for shade, not much sun.... Training works great, but only when I'm with them: the neighbors must think I'm a crazy tyrant yelling at my dogs (and not kids - mine are older! HA HA!). No more muddy dogs and a nice backyard -- is this possible? I love gardening and my dogs make it impossible to enjoy!"
Answer:

I have an article on dogscaping, but your case is made especially difficult by the presence of the huge tree. If I were you, I would forget about growing anything in the ground in this area. Instead, I would do two things:

  1. Lay down a 3-inch layer of bark mulch under the maple tree.
  2. Decorate the area with container gardens.

As the dogs displace the bark mulch, you will have to replace it. Nonetheless, in the long run, I think you will find this less work than trying to grow plants in the ground in this area. When you select plants to grow in pots for this project, make sure that they are not plants poisonous to dogs. Also, to limit dog damage to the plants, select large containers: Pots high enough that the dogs won't be tempted to urinate on the plants, etc.

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