The Q&A Archives: Beauifying A Worn Out Lawn

Question: When my wife and I purchased our home, we knew it needed a lot of updating. The person that owned it before never bothered to rake her lawn. We had a landscape company tear out the back yard and we layed 600 yards of new sod. My first question is we have two dogs and they have urinated on the lawn throughout the winter and I have patches all over the yard now. What lawn applications can I put on the lawn that won't poison the dogs? Another question is we want to select the right flowers, groundcovers, and shrubs for the Wisconsin climate.

Answer: Sounds like an exciting opportunity to me! Fortunately, there's a lot more literature available these days on natural lawn care, so you don't have to worry about harming the health of your dogs, the environment, or yourselves. The patches left by dog urine are probably dead, and the soil may still have a concentration of salts from the urine. Water the spots well, allow them to drain for a couple of days, and rake out the dead grass. Rake in some compost and apply grass seed. For a complete guide to caring for your lawn, check out the free bulletin from Gardener's Supply Company (; ph# 800/863-1700) "Lawn Care the Natural Way", which outlines fertilizer, aeration, watering, etc. Your agricultural extension service (ph# 608/266-4271) should have a list of landscape plants that suit the growing region, and here are a couple of good books that you may want to check out at your library or bookstore: "Gardening in the Upper Midwest" by Leon C. Snyder (Univ. of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis; ISBN# 0-8166-0833-4) and "The Wild Lawn Handbook" by Stevie Daniels (which includes lists of native and low-maintenance plants for growing zone/light/soil conditions - Macmillan Press, Hope this helps!

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