Saturday, June 14, 2014

Bean and hydroponics: DIY home puppy lawn

Bean lives in a high rise apartment which makes house training difficult. Furthermore, we are also concerned about his vaccine status because he was given his first vaccine by the breeder. Although she probably stored the vaccine appropriately, we will only fully be comfortable with his vaccine after his second dose by the vet. Bean gets out to socialize with known vaccinated dogs but we don't want him on public grass or in dog parks until the second vaccine. 

We started with some puppy pads in a storage bin (turned litter box), and though he was pretty good about using the pads, we worried about confusing him by allowing him to pee on cloth-like surfaces in the home. We decided he needed grass. Though synthetic dog turf exists, we wanted to try real grass to reduce the smell and give him a bit of the outdoors. There are a few commercial services which provide weekly delivery of hydroponic grass ( and though that might have been the easy option, it's certainly not the cheapest. At $25 a plot, we'd be spending an extra $50-100 per month on grass. We looked at sod options at Home Depot, but the sod looked dry and messy and difficult to cut. We worried that the dirt would get everywhere. In any case, sod is not sold year round so it wouldn't be a permanent option. 

Ultimately, we decided to try growing our own hydroponic grass. It's actually incredibly easy, requiring only daily watering, just like any plant. And the results were fantastic!
So what is hydroponics? It's a system of growing plants without soil, using water and sometimes other nutrients. It has been used to grow inexpensive renewable fodder for animal farms and is used in agricultural research. 
Bean in his lawn (he was frolicking so much that all my other pictures of Bean in the lawn are blurry).

Here are the photos of the process (full materials and instructions at the bottom of the page)

Days 1-3 Seeds are starting to sprout

We used an old pitcher covered with cheesecloth. Twice a day (morning and evening), we filled the pitcher all the way, and drained it upside down. It was kept in a dark room. This is day 4.
Day 4 again. On the night of day 4, we removed the cheese cloth, and spread the seedlings out on a seedling tray. The trays were covered with a humidity dome and left in a sunny room. We started our second set of seeds on this day
Germinated seeds spread out, day 4
Close up day 4, we continued to water twice a day using a 'flood and drain' method. We fill the black tray with water enough to cover the seedlings and then pour off most of the water.

Day 5, morning
Day 6, night, you can see the humidity dome we used propped up to the left
Day 8. We stopped watering on the night of Day 7, because it was pretty wet. On the morning of day 8, we took the grass out of the black trays and let it dry on some pee pads (probably will just set it on a cookie cooling rack next time)
Day 8
After it seemed dry enough, we cut the sheet of grass to fit into Bean's indoor potty. We left a layer of pee pad underneath to absorb any extra moisture.

Bean loves the grass!

I came up with my system by slightly altering the instructions from this website describing a DIY fodder system.

- One easily drain-able container (we used a pitcher covered with cheesecloth, but any kind of container would work)
- Grass seeds (we used the cheapest stuff we could find because we did not want any fertilizer or additives that might be toxic; if you find a cheap bag, it's likely just the seeds)
- Household bleach
- One seedling tray with humidity lid

Day 1: 
AM - Add 2-3 cups of grass seeds into container, fill with water, and add 2 tbsp of bleach. This will hypothetically prevent mold issues. Soak in solution for 5-10 mins, then pour water out. Rinse 3 times by filling the container with water and draining. Fill container a final time, and let soak
PM - Drain container and leave draining (we set our pitcher upside down so it will completely drain)

Day 2 - 3: (until the seeds have started to really sprout -- at least an inch)
AM - Fill container with water, drain and leave draining.
PM -  Fill container with water, drain and leave draining.

Day 4:
AM - Fill container with water, drain and leave draining.
PM - Fill container with water and drain. Spread out seedlings in an even layer onto seedling tray. Break up the seedlings (they tend to be clumped together), cover with clear plastic lid. We started our second round of seeds at this point so we'll have a new lawn every 4-5 days)

Day 5-7 (until grass is the desired length):
AM - fill tray with water covering all the seedlings, pour tray carefully until most of the water is poured off.
PM - fill tray with water covering all the seedlings, pour tray carefully until most of the water is poured off.

Day 8: When the grass is the right length, stop watering the grass and leave the dome off the tray. Remove grass carefully and let dry either on a rack or towels.When mostly dry, put in desired container and introduce your puppy!


  1. This is really cool! How often do you have to change it out, and what do you do with the old grass?

    1. just a cheap bag of grass seeds. Make sure there is no fertilizer in it first though

  2. We just tossed the old grass. It was easy to do by just grabbing the pad underneath and folding up the grass. We changed it every 4ish days. We had one plot in seed form, one growing in the seedling tray and one in use at all times. It took about 5 min per day to water.
    Ultimately, at around 4-5 months, we transitioned to outdoor peeing and stopped growing the grass. He transitioned really easily. I think he knows he has to go on grass indoor or out!

    1. 4 days because it got stinky or died or why? Love this idea.

    2. We changed it every 4 days mostly because that was the fastest we could grow the grass with the one seedling tray that we had. It wasn't dying by the 4th day at all. Bean got so excited when there was a new plot of grass. we stopped using it as he grew up, but it was a great way to potty train! It definitely got stinkier as he got bigger.

  3. Its very beautiful thanks a lot for share with us...AstraliaSyntheticTurf

  4. Did you use seedling trays with or without holes?

    1. Without..and put some holes on one end. You can fill and drain easily by putting the holey end down in the sink with the non-holey end propped on the edge.

  5. This is so great! Thank you for sharing.

  6. I love this and can't wait to try. Companies are making $50 every couple of weeks selling and delivering this stuff. Better to do it ourselves for less.

  7. Wow this amazing ! what seeds did you use ? i know fodder systems normally use barley but was this just using normal grass seeds ?

  8. Did you use a seedling tray with or with out holes?

  9. Hi! What size Dome did you use? and where did you get it?

  10. I think it was something like this but at home depot.

  11. So I've got some white fuzzy mold on my seeds. I did the bleach step but it kinda looks like you had some fuzzy in day 5 morning. Did you notice any?

  12. The early roots sometimes look like fuzzy white mold but is just young root sprouts.

  13. This is awesome! I just started 3 trays because I have a litter of puppies I want to start training on grass from the beginning. So far it's super simple and working great. At day 4 I sat the trays outside in the shade and the grass popped up overnight.Ive been watering with a spray bottle with a tblsp. Of bleach in it. So far so good. Im going to try making the grass last longer by putting it in a perforated tray sitting in one that's not so I can lift it out and rinse the pee out and then re-use it. I might even fertilize it with worm castings, safe for the pups and might make grass keep on growing. I used shade grass seed , I figured it might do better in the house.I started my trays in a guest bedroom and momma dog went straight to it and wanted to pee in it. (Smells like grass!)😁Thanks for sharing! I love DIYers!

  14. great idea, i'm copying it, but i'm wondering where did you get the blue bin to put the grass on. you didn't have the link for that. i'd appreciate if you could let me know. thanks


    but this would only wprk for a very tiny dog. any container would do.

  16. how much seed dd you use for this size?

  17. How long does the grass live without soil/nutrients/fertilizer? I'm wondering if I could do this but in a way where the grass didn't have to be changed so often and was safe for the dog. I like how clean your system is since it's soil-free.