23 Mar 2007Steve Schwarz

Grass as agility equipment you might ask? Sure. I want Milo and Meeker to have a comfortable and safe surface on which we can play and practice agility. Since I can’t afford artificial turf and don’t want to replace my existing grass with mulch, I have been looking into how I can improve this agility equipment safely, economically and responsibly.

At the end of last fall after I had a brick patio installed I had sod installed around the edges of the patio and in some dirt sections of the yard where the previous owner had a vegetable garden. I didn’t resod the entire yard because I just couldn’t afford it. So my plan this year is to improve the soil and the existing grass so it can stand up to agility practice and heavy dog play.

So I did some web searching and found an excellent guide: Building and Maintaining Soccer Fields in Indiana published by the Purdue University Turfgrass Specialists. I think the wear an agility/dog play area gets should be similar to a soccer practice feed. While Chicago is further North than West Lafayette, Indiana I think the same principles apply. The document has a lot of good information in a concise format.

At the end of last year I had the lawn aerified twice since the soil is heavily compacted. I’ll probably have it done again next month once the grass is actually growing. Since I didn’t get a chance to last year, I just overseeded my lawn with Kentucky bluegrass seed. It will probably stay dormant until it gets warmer. With the almost daily rain we’ve been getting it should help the seeds germinate without any need for watering. I should be able to follow their “high” maintenance level recommendations since I only have a 100 by 80 foot area to maintain.

I don’t use pesticides or herbicides since that might effect our dog’s health and could aggravate Meeker’s allergies. I’m also not too crazy about dumping all those chemicals into the ground either. So I’ve been digging up weeds by hand or spot treating troublesome areas.

I also don’t want to use chemical fertilizers either. So I did some more searching and found some good information on organic fertilizers and organic lawn care. Organic fertilizers have the desirable slow release properties that will benefit the soil bacteria. I also don’t bag the clippings since they are good for the soil. It also sounds like top dressing the grass with compost will help improve the soil and bacteria (and even out the low spots). Here are some good links on organic approaches to lawn care: Immuneweb, eartheasy, Planet natural, and

So while I don’t really care about having a good looking lawn and really dread lawn work; this will just become another one of those things I’ll do so I can play with the dogs… on nice soft grass.

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