We have two arborvitae bushes in our yard and our dog urinates on them causing them to turn brown toward the bottom. Is there any way to bring them back?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Dawn: Being a gardener and a dog owner can sometimes be a challenge, but we have to remember that it is their living space too. Training our four-legged friends is our job so that we can all live together and keep our plants happy as well. Dog urine is alkaline and over time it can alter the pH of the soil and damage plant material. This is especially true if they use the same space every time they relieve themselves, in combination with little or no water. Encouraging them to use the bathroom elsewhere is essential in terms of saving your evergreens. If you can water the soil around your arborvitae shortly after they are urinated on it will help dilute the urine but this may run into an issue of too much moisture. As far as encouraging your dog to use the bathroom besides under your arborvitae there are nontoxic products available that are made specifically for repelling dogs. Liquid Fence makes one that is ready to spray, made of natural plant oils such as citronella and cinnamon oils. It is environmentally safe and not harmful to the dogs. The scent is a natural deterrent. These kinds of products will have to be re-applied every few months or more after a heavy rainfall. Otherwise, adding layers of pine cones around your evergreens or using a border will also help to deter them. Unfortunately, once evergreens turn brown there is nothing we can do to turn that foliage green again. It should be removed from the plant and discarded. For now it is a waiting game: only time will tell if your arborvitae are going to put on new growth or if the rest of the foliage is going to turn brown as well.