Grass alternative for difficult lawn


I have a small back lawn, approx 250 sqft. It is part full shade and part full sun in summer. We also have a large dog. I have not had success in maintaining a lawn at least partly due to what I think is poor soil (we are downtown, with fairly sandy soil), and partly due to dog pee. I’m trying not go go down the artificial lawn route, but am at a loss as to what might grow well, withstand the dog and some foot traffic, and not require a ton of maintenance. I’ve read that white clover might be a good option, but concerned with hardiness in Toronto as well as potential for lots of bees (that daughter and dog would not like). Any advice so that I don’t have to go to plastic grass??


Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners. There are different ways to go about upgrading the current site.

You may want to overseed the current location and upgrade the soil upgrading the area, Grass Soil Information

Mixing shade tolerant grasses with white clover  to build better turf.  White clover plants have the ability to produce their own nitrogen, reducing the need to apply chemical fertilizers. It also stays greener than most grasses during droughts, reducing the need to supply irrigation. If you want to make sure the clover does not overtake your lawn, or has minimal blooms, simply lower your mower  to shorten the height of the clover.

The type of grasses to choose that are shade tolerant and mix well with white clover are Perennial Ryegrass cultivator, Kentucky Blue Grass , Blue Grama grass Blue Grama Grass

There are few, if any, plants that can serve as an exact replacement to turf grass, but there are a few that can fill a similar role. For a similar look to grass without the maintenance, consider planting a native sedge such as Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica). Pennsylvania sedge has a grassy look, suppresses weeds, is drought tolerant, and shade loving. The best thing is that sedges do not need mowing.

This is a good article on dog pee your lawn; recommendations of which grass to use and which to avoid. Please read to the end where the information you require is found. Dog Pee Myths