the contribution of dogs and baking soda in waterwise gardens

August improvements

It is possible to have a dog-friendly, attractive, bird and bee-sustaining, water efficient (‘water wise’) garden in Southern California. Where homes displaced a lot of the native vegetation in San Diego County, the ongoing drought has encouraged many to replace lawns, rose gardens, and thirsty flowers and fruit trees with succulents, artificial turf, gravel and plants suited for a Mediterranean climate. There is also an effort to encourage people to plant California-native plants which are available to provide for the birds, butterflies and bees in our region. Creating an attractive and useful outdoor spaces, we reworked all the landscaping last Fall with a purposeful layout inspired by a local conservation garden. Today, Australian, South African, and California native plants are generally thriving- even in the harsh sun of August.

potted Texas sage

As anyone with dogs understands, there are certain limitations and areas to be ‘cordoned off’, to protect Nature from a dog’s nature. A gate from a long-gone cedar fence is used as a barrier so the canines will not pee or dig up (again) newly installed bushes in the upper yard. Taller pots on patios and in the splash zone protect flowers and bushes from being dog-watered. We have to take such measures, due to succulents or salvias, which can survive 100F August temperatures, succumbing to dog pee. (Strangely, “weeds”, spurge and nettle plants, are not the least bothered by it.)

But as one of my guests last evening questioned the white splotches all over the beige decomposed granite in our backyard, I informed him it was little piles of baking soda. Cleaning up after the dogs and then applying baking soda – and for good measure, a little Simple Green prevents the “deegee” and the region’s clay underneath from retaining unpleasant aromas. I liberally hose down the baking soda to break up the urine in the heat of the day. On the occasions we have company over, I usually rake the decomposed granite, and wet everything down gain so that it looks more visually appealing.


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