Friday, March 15, 2013

Planting Grass For Your Pets When You Live In An Apartment!

Having a big dog and a new puppy is certainly challenging when you're in an upstairs apartment. It's quite inconvenient to take them both downstairs at the same time, in fact, it's a total pain in the ass (...particularly in the middle of the night when you're in your underwear and it's balls cold outside...). 

We have a bell tied to a string on our front door that they ring when they need to do their business. Toby is great with the bell, but Eleanor hasn't taken to it yet. I'm pretty sure she knows that she should ring the bell, but she doesn't because she is so small that the constantly wet grass is really uncomfortable for her. She prefers our dry carpet to the cold, wet grass.

Although the grass in our complex can pose a challenge for us and our doggies, both of the dogs really enjoy being outside on the balcony. Toby is the surveyor that likes to stand outside and guard his castle as people and cars pass below. Eleanor is our little freckle-bellied sunbather. Luckily, we have a pretty large balcony. 

So instead of giving up and just accepting that Eleanor was never going to be house trained, I got a little creative.

I decided that we should install a dog door and I wanted to have grass on our balcony. The dog door was easy, but I had no idea how to plant grass on a balcony, let alone if it were possible. After doing some research, I came up with nothing. It seems like planting grass on a balcony is just not something people do.

It's a good thing I'm not "people."  

Here's how I made my upstairs apartment puppy-friendly and how you can do it, too!!

What you'll need:

  • a pet door made for a sliding glass door (About $120 at just about any hardware store. They're really easy to install and they even allow you to lock your door still!)
  • a bag of potting soil (Any kind will do. I got mine at Big Lots for $7.)
  • A flat plastic bin or a small plastic swimming pool (If it doesn't have wheels, you'll need to raise it with something that will allow it to drain-- bricks will work for this)
  • 1-4 pieces of sod (This depends on the size of your bin/pool. I only used one piece for this bin, but you may need up to four for a small swimming pool. You can buy sod for about $3 per flat at  Home Depot or just about any other store that sells plants.)
  • An old t-shirt or an old towel (enough to cover the bottom of your container)
  • A VERY SHARP razor blade
  • A Hammer and a couple nails (OPTIONAL, more on this later)
  • A puppy full of pee!


  1. Flip your plastic bin or pool upside down and use your razor blade to cut some drainage holes. You can use a hammer and a nail to begin the hole and then make it bigger with the blade, but I found it easier to just use the blade. Use the tip of the blade and twist it back and forth to create a hole in the plastic. You will make about 10-20 holes, each about 1 cm in diameter. Cut away any excess plastic from each hole and discard it. 

2. Cover the bottom of your container with the old t-shirt or towel. This will allow excess water to drain  without allowing any of your soil to drain out with it.

3. Fill your container with soil, about 3 inches deep, completely covering your t-shirt or towel.

4. Thoroughly soak the soil with water.

5. Measure the container and cut the sod to fit the container. Carefully lay the sod on top of the soil and  press it down firmly.

6. Generously water the sod and allow it to soak in for about ten minutes before you let your doggies enjoy it.

7. Install the pet door according to the manufacturers instructions.

(To maintain your grass patch, water it every night to ensure that it gets rinsed of urine. (Urine will kill the grass and you'll have to start all over! Also, watering at night ensures that the grass will receive the water before the sun can evaporate it all out!) Trim it with scissors, as needed. You can also sprinkle it with used coffee grounds for added moisture and nutrients.)

UPDATE 7/5/13:
I should note that this method is a SHORT TERM potty training technique. It is great for teaching puppies how to use a dog door and how to use grass to do their business! We used our grass for about three months, and we had to replace it once every two weeks (which cost us under $10 a month). Eventually, we didn't need it anymore and we tossed it completely. If you plan on keeping your grass long-term, you'll need to be sure to keep up with watering, or the grass will die. It may also begin to smell, particularly in the heat of summer. Hope this helps!


  1. Great idea!!! This is the best I've seen so far!
    Question: What is the drainage like in terms of the amount of water that seeps through on your balcony? I just want to make sure there won't be a lot of dripping coming from our porch.

    1. It really doesn't drain too much. It really depends on how much rinsing you're doing and how big your drainage holes are.

  2. will i have to change the soil every 2 weeks to?