Cool Digs for Your Dog

When the dog days of summer have your pal looking for a shady spot, provide this cool (and green) new pad.
Joyce Butterworth

Have a doghouse you love almost as much as the one who calls it home. “Doghouses are always exiled out of sight,” says garden designer and creator of this project Ellen Ruoff Riley. “Why not make yours a backyard focal point instead of an eyesore?”

To do that, Ellen spruced up a cedar doghouse (from betterdoghouses .com) with low-maintenance sedums and other succulents. It’s both practical and good for the environment. The plants insulate the structure and help keep it cooler inside during the hot summer months. Plus, a planted roof soaks up rainwater, reducing runoff.

You can easily create your own green doghouse in a weekend. No power tools required. Here’s how.

Step 1: Cover the roof that came on the doghouse with roofing felt cut to size with a utility knife. Attach it using galvanized roofing nails.

Step 2: Create two frames to hold soil by attaching cedar or treated 1 x 4s  to the front, sides, and ridge of the roof using galvanized nails. Add a  1 x 4 board across the middle of each side to help reduce soil erosion when it rains.

Step 3: Fill in the frames you created in Step 2 with a mixture of potting soil and gravel for good drainage. Cut chicken wire with wire clippers to cover the frames; staple chicken wire to the wood to hold the soil in place.

Step 4: Plant succulents by shaking excess soil from the roots, snipping a hole in the chicken wire, and tucking roots in the wire. Finish by filling spaces between plants with decorative sheet moss. The plants will quickly cover the moss and hang over the roof’s edges.

Step 5: Water about twice a week, and feed once a month with a 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer to keep your doghouse looking its best.  Note: Sedums and other succulents love warm weather, but some may need a little winter protection.

Don’t have a dog? Try this type of roof on a child’s playhouse, a garden shed, or even a detached garage.