Doggy Deposits, Far From Fertilizer
Updated: Mar 26
Dog owners take note: Contrary to popular belief, doggie deposits do not make for good fertilizer – quite the opposite in fact. Leaving pet waste on the ground or concentrating it in one specific area of the yard can seriously harm soil quality and also presents a number of potential human health hazards to families and their pet This winter has been harsher than most across the country. If Ice melt products are something you use on a regular basis—you’ll want to watch for potential damage to the lawn.
As the snow melts this spring you may notice a strip of brown grass along the edge of the sidewalk or driveway if deicing salts were heavily used this winter. All deicing salts contain salt. These materials are also often referred to as Ice Melt, Road Salt, Rock Salt, Ice Melter – depending on the brand. The specific kind of salt varies by product. These deicing salts have the potential to damage your lawn, especially as the snow gets pushed off onto the lawn from the driveway or walkways that are cleared.
Be patient and wait for the grass to green up to determine the extent of the damaged or dead turfgrass. As the grass greens up later this spring it will be obvious how much, if any, grass has died.
In most cases, the grass damaged by deicing salts will recover on its own. Melting snow and rain in the spring will often flush the accumulated salts from the deicing products from the soil. The flushing of salts will help the grass recover. Recovery may take 6 or 8 weeks or more as the grass fills in the damaged areas. Temperature increases should help your grass recover. If there is no spring rainfall, hand watering the damaged areas three or four times in the spring should help flush the salts from the soil.
If the damage is more severe and the lawn has greened-up except for areas near the sidewalks or driveway—it is likely time to reseed these trouble spots. In situations like this where there are several areas of dead grass, it makes sense to purchase a product that contains seed, mulch, and fertilizer.
Use a heavy rake to remove all the dead grass from the damaged areas. Discard the dead grass. Use a rake or a shovel to loosen the top ¼–½ inch of soil to create a good seedbed. Spread the seed, mulch, and fertilizer combination product following label directions and water regularly until the seed has become well established.
It will take two to four weeks for the seed to germinate depending on temperature. The cooler temperatures, the longer it will take the seed to germinate. And it will take six to eight weeks after the seed germinates for the new seed to become well established.
A couple of words of caution if you plan to reseed the damaged areas; first, do not apply a preemergent herbicide over the damaged areas where you plan to reseed. The preemergent herbicide that controls crabgrass seed will also prevent turfgrass seed from germinating. If you ever put down grass seed yourself and use a lawn care service, make sure to tell them so they can use the correct fertilizer on your grass.
The idea that Fido or Fluffy waste is a natural fertilizer is a commonly held misconception stemming from the use of cow or horse poop as a soil enhancer. But not all waste is made equal and whether a specific animal’s waste is beneficial to the ground it lays on depends primarily upon the animal’s diet. As a rule of thumb, in order for waste to be used as an effective fertilizer, it must consist mainly of digested plant matter.
Cows and horses are herbivores, which makes their waste ideal for use as fertilizer. Dogs, on the other hand, are carnivores, making their byproducts unsuitable for soil enrichment.
It is possible to compost dog waste, but in order to do so, the heap must exceed 165 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately five days to safely sterilize the manure. Unfortunately, most backyard compost systems rarely reach this temperature, and even if they did, it would still be inadvisable to use the waste as fertilizer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, dog waste – composted or otherwise – should never be used on crops grown for human consumption.
Uncomposted and unattended doggie deposits aren’t only harmful to soil quality, they also pose significant potential human health hazards.
Dog waste is an environmental pollutant. In 1991, it was labeled a nonpoint source pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency, placing it in the same category as herbicides and insecticides; oil, grease and toxic chemicals; and acid drainage from abandoned mines.
Unlike other common sources of pollution, such as rinse water from driveways and motor oil, dog waste carries disease-causing bacteria and parasites that can be transmitted directly to humans and make them sick. Ringworm, roundworm, salmonella, and giardia are common examples, all of which are found in dog feces and are easily transferable upon contact.
Roundworm, for example, is one of the most common parasites found in dog droppings and it can remain infectious in contaminated soil and water for years. How prevalent is roundworm? A recent CDC study found 14 percent of Americans tested positive for them.
While dog waste may seem like an abundant and cheap fertilizer substitute, please take note that it is not. Instead, the best action people can take for their family and community is to make sure their pets are always picked up after. Those who are too busy to deal with the mess should consider hiring a local pet waste management service.
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