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New Yard, Have Dogs, not much topsoil. What can I do?  RSS feed

 
                                            
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Hi - I'm in Manhattan and just moved into a rental apartment with about 600 sf of yard.  I would like to set up a nice space for hanging out in the yard during the upcoming warm weather and I wanted to get some advice about what to do with the yard.

First off, there are about 6 trees on the property, so it seems like there would be a fair amount of shade but the landlord tells me that the yard gets quite sunny (sunny enough to sunbathe).  I was going to trim the trees to provide more sunlight.  Should I do this now while the trees are dormant? 

I would like to put in plants that will be hardy enough to survive the winter chill as well as a vegetable garden (lettuces, peppers, melon, tomatoes & some herbs).  I also wanted to get some advice on what sort of ground cover to put down, be it clover, bark, etc.  I have two small dogs that I like playing fetch with in the yard, so whatever I put down needs to be able to stand up to the foot traffic.

I have checked out the ground and there are small areas of deep soil, but  most of the yard seems to have an old cement foundation underneath with only about 3 inches of soil at most.  I was thinking of putting in a load of mulch and soil to start, maybe putting it in deeper in areas where I want to put down bedding plants.  I was considering putting in a wood border and then filling out that area so I could get a deeper layer of soil without filling in the whole yard.  Does this seem like a good plan?  How deep do I need to layer the soil/mulch for roses?  Will roses go dormant or do they need to be moved inside?

I would really like to have some green in the yard, but I'm not that keen on grass because of it's being so high maintenance and because I'm a renter.  Is there something similar I can put down that will take a bit of foot traffic but won't be so pH sensitive?  Someone on another list suggested moss.  Does any one have experience with this?

Also, as for the dog doo, I was thinking of digging a hole and adding enzymes to break it down.  Will there be an odor?  Will the substance produced be suitable for mulching/adding to the base of the non-edible plants?  I hate the idea of taking something that will break down in the environment and putting it inside a piece of plastic.  I currently use dog bags made of corn that will break down faster, but I would like to cut out this middle step if possible since it's all going in the garbage any way.

I know this is a long post; would appreciate any comments about any of the above.  Thanks!

Kelly
 
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sounds to me like your best bet might be some raised garden beds and grow things in a more 'intensively' managed way. that helps deal with the shallow soil and since you can create some super dirt it also will get you more produce for a smaller area.  knowing my own dogs I also know that it is slightly easier to keep them from messing with the garden or using it as a potty with raised beds.  maybe you could create a stone path for access to the garden beds and use it also as a "fetch lane" it will be difficult to plant anything in what sounds to be a super high traffic situation due to a small yard and your gardening aspirations. if the landlord will let you I would trim those trees asap.

you might check out our thread about composting dog poo. I bury it.

roses are hardy and if you get a variety with with a good rep they ought to be fairly care free. how you cut the flowers depends on the type. the floribunda ones are easiest for me. my rose book reccomned a variety called "iceburg" with small white roses and  my dear hubby found one on his travels and brough it back to me and it is wonderful, when all the others had black spot or aphids the iceburg was doing fine. in fact due to the fact that I stopped caring for those fancy hot house ones the iceburg is all I have left.
 
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Leah's idea of the raised beds is good.  I would suggest clustering them to maximize the sunlight for the growing part of the year for vegetables, most of which need decent light.  Depending on the layout, perhaps perimeter beds would be good; otherwise, maybe a central grouping of beds.

Clover produces flowers that attract bees if it's not cut, and if you're going to cut it to keep it from flowering, you might as well plant grass, which doesn't attract bees.  Small dogs and bees usually don't get along together very well. 

Be sure to talk to your landlord about pruning the trees.  If you don't know the right way to do it, he may want to hire a professional so he doesn't get a butcher job that lasts for years.  Nothing personal, BTW --- you may not be very good at brain surgery or psychic predictions, either. 

Maybe draw out some plans and look at them every day for a while. You may suddenly see that something won't work for some reason, or that a few changes can make all the difference.

Sue 
 
Leah Sattler
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sues idea of looking at your plan over a few days is great. there have been many times I have worked out an idea only to wake up one morning with an aha moment about something that needs to be changed or that could be done better. 
 
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