About four months ago, my parents adopted an adorable brother and sister puppy pair from the local shelter. After months of painstaking potty training, Max and Ruby are finally trained to go outside on the front yard grass. Unfortunately, the grass is very unhappy about this. Also, I think my parents are tired of hanging out on the front lawn in their bathrobes at 5 in the morning when the puppies wake up, and they’d love for the dogs to take themselves out. However, with only access to concrete in the backyard, the puppies are resistant and the cleanup has become… well, let’s just say yucky! Here is where necessity has become the mother of invention. Enter a solution that makes the puppies, my parents, and the front yard grass happy: the homemade potty-pad!
Yes, there is only concrete in the backyard, but my parents would not be deterred by this. Rather than bust up the concrete, and at great expense I might add, they decided to plant right on top of it. One of the things I love most about this approach is that you could use this on an apartment balcony or a small deck. Just make sure you have a 6-inch base for the grass to take root. Plus, you don’t really even need to have puppies as an excuse to pull this off! This could be great idea for anyone looking to add a little patch of green to their concrete paradise.
For the project, you’re going to need a few items. It’s easiest if you first figure out how large you want your grass patch to be and then place an order for the materials with your local hardware store. They’ll deliver the materials right to your backyard!
Here’s what you’ll want to get: Cinder blocks (enough to create a perimeter for your grass area), cinder block tops (the same amount as your blocks), weed inhibitor (enough to cover the area, plus extra for the depth of the grass bed), nutrient-rich soil for sod and enough sod to cover your area. Get a little extra sod just in case you need to cut away some dry spots.
Step 1 – Block it out. Begin to lay out the blocks in the configuration of your choice. For this particular project, the blocks were 6 inches high (deep enough for the grass to take root) and were laid out up against a wall and next to a hose bib so the area could be easily sprayed and maintained. Quick tip – when laying out your blocks, use a string to keep your straight line going. It’s a much easier clean-up than marking up your concrete with chalk or paint. Also, make sure there is a slight slope in your grass so that any excess moisture drains in one direction rather than in a pool. You can achieve this by putting a level on the ground to see if there is an existing slope. If there isn’t, you can add small wedges on one side of your configuration to raise it up slightly. When you’re finished, you should have your completed shape with a solid wall of blocks on all sides. For even more fun and interest, try creating a unique shape that adds some beauty to your yard. Just because it’s a potty-pad doesn’t mean it can’t be somewhat interesting.
Step 2 – Apply the Lining. Use the weed inhibitor to create a barrier over your concrete, making sure to leave enough slack for the weight of the fertilizer in the next step. The inhibitor will keep the dirt in and let the excess moisture out. Use the block tops to secure the lining and cut off the excess when you’re finished.
Step 3 – Fill it Up. Start filling in the area with the soil, making sure to take it just a few inches shy of the top of the blocks. When buying the soil, look for brands that contain phosphorous, potash, and nitrogen. These additives will encourage your sod to grow in nice and strong. Once the soil is in, spray it down a bit to moisten the area up. No need to saturate it; just a little bit of moisture is necessary to create a welcoming environment for the new grass.
Step 4 – Lay it Down. Now is where you’re going to see it all come together. Roll out the sod, making sure to butt the edges of each piece together tightly but without overlapping them. If there is overlap you run the risk of those sections not taking root properly and tarnishing your lovely patch of grass. As you’re laying out each roll, stagger them like you’re laying out bricks. This helps to eliminate obvious seams to give you a more professional look. Quick tip – keep grass seed on hand. As time goes on, your puppies may cause some yellow spots in the grass. Just reseed to keep new grass growing in.
Step 5 – Roll it Out. Now that you have all of your sod in place, it’s time to go over all of it with a roller. This helps the sod make good contact with the soil below so all of your hard work can take root. Rollers can be rented from your local home improvement center, but since you’re working with such a small area, you can get creative by using a rolling pin and your body weight.
Step 6 – Make it Rain! The final step is watering your grass. You want to water it enough to moisten the soil below. The best way to test this is to press on your grass to see if you leave a handprint behind. Repeat this step for the next five days to ensure that your sod really takes root. After the fifth day, feel free to start cutting the grass and let the puppies enjoy!