Spring is here and I’m back in the dirt!
I took a little break from posting while I was doing next to nothing around the yard. Raking leaves and mowing don’t make for especially interesting post material and I did little else towards the end of the 2010 season.
This winter I spent planning. I have grand designs in my head for the side yard this year; the only area of our yard that consistently gets full sun year round. There will be a large raised bed for plants and flowers, space for some edibles, trellis along the wall for some vertical interest, a small pond and sitting area… whew. I’m worn out already and haven’t even put a shovel in the dirt yet.
My first project for 2011 was a small one, but addressed a big problem. Last week we adopted a new puppy. She’s a German Shepherd-Bull Mastiff mix, so will be a rather large dog in a very short time. Large or small, I discovered that 5 week old puppies need to relieve themselves a great deal. The area of the yard she was using for her potty area was already a mine field of puppy bombs; impossible to navigate safely when dragging her out to do her business at 3am, stumbling around in a bathrobe and sandals, half asleep. Worse yet, my 2-year old has a tendency to gravitate towards this area whenever she is out playing in the yard.
I’d seen an episode of Gardening By the Yard on HGTV where Paul James creates a simple doggy septic system from a 5 gallon paint bucket. (Unfortunately, the show is no longer on the air and I couldn’t find the episode on HGTV’s website, but I remembered enough to make it work.)
First you need a 5-gallon bucket or larger container, with a lid. If you have small children like I do, a snap on lid that fits tightly will probably be your best bet. Lowes had empty 5 gallon buckets for under $5.00 and the lids were under $2.00. You’ll also need a small bag of gravel or some small rocks collected from your yard and a bottle/can/jar of bacterial or enzyme septic system treatment.
Here’s how to set it up:
In a corner of the yard that’s convenient, (I chose the area where our puppy already tends to go) dig a hole deep enough to bury your container with only a couple inches sticking up above ground. You’ll want to leave it sticking up like this just a bit to keep water run off from flooding it, it also makes it easier to get the lid on and off if it’s not completely buried.
After I’d dug my hole, I turned my bucket over and cut the entire bottom out of it with a jigsaw. If you don’t have the tools to cut out the entire bottom, you could just make the bottom half look like Swiss cheese with a large knife. The point is to allow plenty of drainage so that the contents of the bucket are eventually absorbed into the surrounding soil, not just filling up the bucket over time.
I put my bottomless bucket in the hole and poured in small gravel to 3-4 inches in the bottom; enough to hold the bucket firmly in the hole and allow for plenty of drainage. Move the bucket around until it settles level or at least close to level in the hole and then back fill with dirt around it. Don’t forget to leave an inch or two sticking up from the surrounding soil. I used my remaining dirt to fill a low spot in another part of our yard.
Pick up your dog’s waste and drop it in the bucket. Sprinkle a bit of your septic enzymes over the top of this and maybe throw in just a handful of dry leaves if you have some lying around. Add a cupful of water to the mix and snap on your lid. The enzymes will break down the waste over time, just as it does in a home septic system. It’s contained, there’s no smell and you don’t have to walk through your yard as if you were navigating a minefield.
Visiting friends, small children and your local Fed-Ex delivery person will thank you as well.