Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Winter Weather and Deicers

Ice-laden trees provide an icy wonderland effect

Waking up this morning to a beautiful but icy wonderland, it was a reminder to find the bag of “salt” in preparation for the next winter event. It’s not really salt in the bag but calcium chloride.

Icy surfaces can be hazardous to your wintertime health so removing snow and ice is a priority. You don’t want to be quoting the Muppets all day – “Watch out for the icy patch!”
Although safety first, gardeners also want to consider run-off damage to lawns and gardens. A special challenge is for plants near roadways, sidewalks and other hardscape areas so gardeners might consider a salt tolerant garden. The Penn State Extension Service in Montgomery County has a demonstration salt tolerant garden with more information on their Website.

Salt Tolerant Garden near Roadway
Chemical deicers come in various forms - pellets, flakes and liquids - but research shows that pellets from 1/16" to 3/16" work faster.  Regardless of the type, overuse causes problems. Only use as much as necessary.
Don't overuse deicers
Sodium chloride, also known as rock salt, melts ice down to 25 degrees and is inexpensive but it can burn plants as well as corrode metal and concrete. It is the most harmful, seriously injuring or killing plants near sidewalks or paved areas. Additionally, when it washed into storm drains, it is a nonpoint source of pollution to waterways impacting fish and marine life.

Rock Salt Damage to Grass

Other chemical choices include calcium chloride which melts ice down to -25 degrees. Overuse can harm plants. Potassium chloride is effective to 12 degrees and is a fertilizer; however, overuse can be deadly to plants. Urea, ammonia and carbon dioxide, works down to 15 degrees. Although used as a fertilizer, high concentrations can harm plants. Calcium magnesium acetate, a salt-free deicer using dolomitic limestone and acetic acid, is effective down to 5 degrees and is particularly useful in environmentally sensitive areas.

For areas where deicers can't be used, sand or kitty litter can provide traction but also can be a source of nonpoint pollution.
Learn more about deicers and plant damage:

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