As winter sets in, many homeowners treat walkways and driveways to manage ice and snow. But chemical deicers are potentially damaging to grasses, perennial plants, and shrubs. How can you keep your pathways safe for traffic while protecting your investment in landscaping?
Common rock salt—sodium chloride—can burn grass and plants on contact, and can induce chemical drought by reducing the water available to the plant or grass. Other chemical deicing options include calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium chloride. These chemicals present a more moderate risk to lawns and shrubs, but more are more expensive and corrosive—capable of rusting metal and flaking concrete.
Aside from short term damage, these products can change the soil pH along treated surfaces and drainage areas and may require soil remediation before new grass seed will germinate. If salt damage occurs, water the area deeply in Spring to flush out the extra sodium in the soil. In low lying areas where salt might collect or in severely damaged areas, further steps to stabilize the pH may be necessary.
Non-chemical options include applying sand for traction, or sprinkling dark colored material, like ashes, to help melt snow and ice. However, these materials are generally less effective and are easily tracked into interior spaces and vehicles.
Definitively, no option is perfect. Manually remove as much snow and ice as possible before relying on a deicer, and use as little product as possible to safely treat your surfaces. Also, keep in mind that deicing chemicals have an ideal temperature range for obtaining the best result:
- Above 15°F: Rock salt
- Above 20°F: Potassium chloride
- Above 5°F: Magnesium chloride
- Above -20°F: Calcium chloride
And, if you live in an area where the streets are routinely sprayed with liquid deicer, cover vulnerable plants with a breathable material, like burlap, or ask All-N-1 about salt-tolerant options for landscape plants. If you hire a contractor to treat surfaces, be aware of what chemicals will be used in the process. If you have any questions or need a referral for a qualified snow removal contractor, please do not hesitate to contact us.