Horse Mats or Road Fabric instead of Weed Fabric

danell(7)February 22, 2013

My yard is landscaped with small dogs in mind to include a dog run 1.5 feet x 170 feet along perimeter of fence. It has a commercial weed barrier with þ minus gravel on top but after 3 years the weeds are proliferating again. I cannot use chemicals as it may damage surrounding landscape. I thought of redoing this but using road fabric instead OR just putting down horse or kennel matting. Some questions if you will:

Road Fabric:
Do you believe this will do a better/longer job than comercial weed fabric? Will it drain?

Horse or Kennel Mats:
1) Will it need to be installed on a slope? That is where will all the rain and other water go?
2) What about mold and mildew?
3) Is it available in a light color? I imagine black can get quite hot.
4) What about traction, is this slippery?
5) What about bugs? I know earwigs love to crawl under things so will I possibly be creating another problem?

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Gravel beds have weeds, Period. We keep telling folks that.

There are probably better solutions for your problem. A photo of the area would be helpful, and also the grass types suitable to your area.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 11:56AM
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This is an old picture; everything has changed except the dog walk which remains all along perimeter of fence (which is now brown lattice). There is now less lawn but beautiful mounded areas with conifers, deciduous trees, shrubs, perrennials, dry creek beds, bronze statues and more. The grass is dwarf tall fescue.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 2:16PM
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If your heart's desire is to have a gravel bed along the fence, you have asked the right questions. Since you mentioned dogs, I think it more likely the real problem lies with the result of common dog behavior along fence lines,

Dogs like to run laterally along fences and they use the exact same route. Most common landscape features will not withstand this concentrated dog traffic. You should not be focused on a single solution to the problem; that would be tunnel vision.

If the real problem is dog behavior, there are two directions to take; one, accommodate the behavior with landscaping that can withstand the concentrated dog traffic, or two, change the dogs' behavior.

One way to change behavior is to place moveable obstacles along the fence to disrupt the perfectly parallel line they want to run. By often moving the location of the obstacles, the wear is distributed and many grasses can handle the abuse. Obstacles I've seen used are planters or small plywood panels hung on the fence perpendicular to the fence. Disruption of the pattern can be used for things other than grass.

When it comes to a surface that can accommodate the dog traffic, I prefer sand. It can be raked on a regular basis to deter weeds. But depending on the location sand can be very hot.

And consider that one solution can be used for part of the fence and something else used for the rest.

All I'm trying to do here is better define what the problem is and widen the scope of what solutions might be available.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 3:46PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

It sounds to me like your dog(s?) are not using the run area - if they did, they'd keep the weeds under control by wearing them away as they patrol! What breed(s) are they?

We have two dogs and regularly dog-sit for friends (there are three dogs here at the moment...) The garden paths were planned to accomodate the dogs' patrols so there are paths along both side fences (the garden beds are to the inside of the paths); the path across the back runs further away from the fence to keep the dogs out of 'the wet corner' bed plus give a narrow dogs-only route behind the shed with a wider people+dogs one across the front of the shed, with the two paths merging for the passage past the bank under the pines. All the paths are shaded by the planting, which undoubtedly helps with weed control! (Many weed seeds need light to germinate so they either don't germinate at all or produce weaker growth in shade.) The paths here are 1/3 concrete sand and 2/3 fine pine bark mulch mixed together and packed down with a water-filled roller. I have never had a weed problem on the paths and the dogs really do prefer 'the path of least resistance' so stay on the paths and don't trouble the garden.

You'd go a long way to solving the problem by planting things (e.g. trees, shrubs, large perennials) that will shade the paths - and the dogs will appreciate the cooler conditions there too!

A resident and a visitor on a path:

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 4:49PM
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The problem pls8xx is weeds not dog behavior. They love patrolling the fence and so I encourage it to make them happy.

Unfortunately much of this dog walk is in hot west facing sun and until the new landscape matures there won't be a lot of shade.

Woodyoak, they do patrol the walk alot but there are only two of them at 15-18 pounds each so not much of an impact + they have other play areas too like the creek bed, hollow rocks and tunnels (where mamm hides goodies). I like your idea of concrete sand and fine pine park mulch. Can't wait until my paths have the nice shade yours does.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 5:30PM
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Well get a load of this - no one in this area (Medford, Oregon) carry's pine bark mulch. It is mainly Douglas Fir, Cedar or Hemlock. I will not use Cedar because of the dogs.

Woodyoak do you suppose fine Hemlock would work in place of the Pine as you described above? I do like the look of your paths - and weed free you say. Gotta love it!

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 5:56PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I use the pinebark because I like the color of it. Also, as you can see from the above picture, we have white pines on the property so it seems like a particularly appropriate material. Choose whatever works for you... The weed-free has more to do with shade than the particular materials I use on the paths I think. Also, my paths are well used by both the dogs and people, so there isn't a lot of opportunity for weeds to get established - ash tree seedlings are the biggest issue here but, since we are regularly walking the paths in the garden, we just yank any seedlings we see as we're walking around. It might be well worth considering altering your garden and path to make it a practical people-path too that gets used regularly. The best way to weed is to do it casually as you are walking about the garden, rather than leaving it to get to the point where it becomes a daunting chore!

You can see the layout of the paths and beds in our backyard here:

(The lot is 75' wide and there is about 55' from the back of the house to the back fence.)

Looking across the north half of the backyard in early June from the back porch:

The path the dogs were on in the earlier picture is the one you can see here leading from the edge of the lawn and going under the pines at the back.

The paths here are one of the defining features of the garden as well as being practical for the dogs and people. I think it's well worth thinking more broadly about the function of your paths - you would probably find them easier to maintain if they weren't just limited to the dogs. :-)

(Our property is suburban but I'm doing my best to make it look like a woodland. When we bought it, in late 1999, it was a blank slate aside from two middle-aged white pines, the mature white ash and a young red oak. A few years can make a lot of difference....)

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 8:50PM
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