Your dog is an important and loved part of your family. Sometimes this family member can make having a beautiful lawn a challenge.
Would you like to put a stop to dog urine damage to your lawn? Yes, It’s possible and it’s quite easy.
Dog urine spots are the result of a high concentration of urea nitrogen applied in a small, concentrated area of the lawn. You will see the same type of dead spot if you were to spill a handful of nitrogen fertilizer.
Why does the excess nitrogen in dog urine kill the grass?
Although nitrogen is essential to having a healthy lawn, dog urine is a case of too much of a good thing.
Urea & Ammonium Nitrogen, when applied in a concentrated amount are absorbed and stored by the plant and can interfere with your lawn’s ability to absorb moisture. This results in a brown, dead spot - basically the lawn is dehydrated in those areas with a high concentration of dog urine.
Nitrogen is an essential nutrient found in all lawn fertilizers so why is dog urine such a problem?
While Nitrogen is a highly essential nutrient for plant growth, it needs to be processed by the soil to be easier for the grass to consume. Nitrogen exists in a few different variations or forms and is changed by the bacteria in the soil in a process called the Nitrogen Cycle. The Nitrogen Cycle is your soil's ability to metabolize and convert nitrogen from one form to another.
The different forms of nitrogen that affect your lawn’s ability to flourish are:
- Urea Nitrogen
- Ammonium Nitrogen
- Nitrite Nitrogen
- Nitrate Nitrogen
The actual differences between these types of nitrogen can get complicated and a little bit confusing--even for experienced landscapers and gardeners.
The main thing that you need to remember is this: an excess of urea and ammonium nitrogen will cause cell damage and stress to the lawn, but Nitrate nitrogen is more easily digested by the lawn--and will not cause the damage to your lawn like high concentrations of urea and ammonia.
A healthy lawn is the result of a balance between the soil’s ability to metabolize nitrogen against the amount of nitrogen being added from dog urine. Much like balancing a person's intake of food against their amount of physical activity.
There are a few management practices that may help minimize the severity of the urine spots in your lawn.
- Watering the area immediately after your dog urinates will help to dilute the urine so it’s not as concentrated.
- Keep your dog well hydrated will also help to dilute the urea.
- Build an area of mulch or gravel for your dog to urinate off the lawn.
- Try different dog foods and treats. Different dog foods can have different types and qualities of protein which can alter the urea level in your dog’s urine.
- Bag and remove your dog’s stools. This will keep it from biodegrading and adding additional nitrogen to the soil as well as keeping it off the bottom of your shoes.
- Lessen the amount of nitrogen fertilizer that you apply to areas available to your dog.
Managing the concentration and quantity of urea is only half the equation.
The other half is enhancing your soil’s ability to metabolize the increased amounts of urea nitrogen contained in dog urine. This process is called the Nitrogen Cycle.
Simply put: the Nitrogen Cycle is the natural process by which nitrogen is converted between its various chemical forms within your soil.
The Nitrogen Cycle is a living ecosystem and that will grow or decline, based on the types and amount of nitrogen available as well as the conditions in the soil.
Fish Aquarium Filters a good example of the Nitrogen Cycle and how you can Prevent Urine from Damaging Your Lawn.
If you Google "Nitrogen Cycle" you will find a lot of articles about cycling or starting a new fish aquarium. I find these articles to be very informative and a great primer to gaining a basic understanding of the nitrogen cycle.
The filters for aquariums use ceramic and plastic rings or spheres that grow bacteria. The water is filtered past this media and the bacteria growing there will change the ammonium nitrogen into a healthier, more fish-friendly, nitrate nitrogen, that is then removed through water changes or plants that live in the aquarium.
The nitrogen cycle that occurs in your soil is very similar to the process created by those aquarium filters--but in your soil’s case, the bacteria grow on the soil particles.
Without a healthy population of beneficial nitrifying bacteria, the urea and ammonium can reach toxic levels for the lawn--fast. In the case of dog urine, this results in the dead spots in your lawn.
Healthy nitrifying bacteria are present in nearly all soil-especially healthy soil. Given the right soil conditions, this bacteria population will grow or decline based on the amount and types of nitrogen present in the soil.
Several soil conditions can interfere with these healthy biological processes. Some of these conditions could be an excess of soil salts, herbicides or pesticides, insufficient organic, or simply over-fertilizing.
This is where LawnMutt from SoundSoil can help.
LawnMutt is a liquid soil amendment that repairs the negative conditions in the soil while enhancing the Nitrogen Cycle. By repairing the unhealthy conditions and adding beneficial nitrifying bacteria, LawnMutt rebuilds the effectiveness of your soil’s nitrogen cycle enhancing its ability to process the increased levels of urea from dog urine.
How long does it take for LawnMutt to reset the healthy soil conditions?
How long does it take? and Will it work for my lawn? Are the two questions that almost every new customer asks.
A general answer is 2-3 months with a few disclaimers.
New urine damage to the lawn will stop when the soil’s ability to metabolize the urea from the dog urine is in balance with the amount of urea applied.
The time required will vary for just about every lawn and type of soil. Clay soils can be a little slower than other types of soil because they tend to hold nutrients. Other factors involved are the amount of urea nitrogen stored in the soil from past dog urine as well as the amount of nitrogen fertilizer applied over the last few months.
Think of it this way. If someone is 200 lbs overweight it will take them longer to reach an ideal weight than someone that is only 10-20 lbs overweight. First, they’ll have to start by metabolizing the excess, and then they can begin to find the balance between their ability to metabolize foods and their ongoing calorie intake.
As your soil becomes healthier those new urine spots will decrease in size and severity. Most customers see the improvement process start 6-8 weeks after first applying and improving over time with repeated applications of LawnMutt.
Eventually, their lawn builds up a strong ability to metabolize the urea, preventing new dog urine spots from forming.
Additional factors that can affect the severity of the urine damage caused to your lawn:
- The biggest factor is the type and amount of fertilizer applied in the last 12 months. Dog urine spots will get worse after fertilizing.
- Size of the lawn. Small lawns are exposed to a higher concentration of urea than a bigger lawn.
- Age of the lawn. New sod is a rug laying over the soil for the first few months and needs time to establish a deep healthy root system that is protected from dog urine.
- The heat of summer. Dog urine spots can get worse in Summer and seem to improve in the cooler months of Spring and Fall. Excess urea blocks the lawn's ability to absorb moisture and the heat of Summer can accelerate dehydration.
- Simple and easy to apply.
- Repairs and enhances the Nitrogen Cycle in your soil.
- Improve the overall health, color, and growth of your lawn within weeks of the first application.
- Safe for family, pets, plants, and the environment.
- Effective on all types of grass.
- With regular applications of LawnMutt every 6-8 weeks, most customers see an improvement in the overall health of their lawn and a lessening of new pet urine spots within a few weeks when used as directed. Lawns with severe urine damage or an excess of fertilizer accumulated in the soil can take longer. Existing dead spots should be reseeded 3 weeks after applying LawnMutt.
Preventing dog urine damage is just one benefit that you will receive by applying LawnMutt to your lawn’s soil. Biologically healthy soil is essential to having a healthy lawn and garden. LawnMutt is an ideal soil amendment for everyone, even lawn owners without a dog.
LawnMutt is as easy to apply as watering.
LawnMutt is available in pre-packaged applications based on the size of your lawn. It can be purchased with an applicator or you can use your own.
Additional information is available on our LawnMutt collection page. Click on the link below to learn more.