Elisa Shackelton: Preventing damage to your landscape

Extension Connection

— Having to deal with snow and ice is a fact of life when you live in Northwest Colorado.

Trying to remove it from streets, sidewalks and driveways can be a challenge, but be careful with your use of salt and "ice-melt" products, since they can permanently damage your lawn or landscape plants if overused.

Wintertime chemical damage to lawns and landscape plants typically comes from two sources - commercial salt or de-icer used on public streets that is splashed or spread into your yard, or from your own use of ice-melting products on your sidewalks or driveways.

The best way to prevent landscape damage is to not plant anything too close to areas that will annually be exposed to salt or other chemicals.

If you already have plants such as small shrubs or perennials in harm's way, plan to move them to a better location next spring.

Another solution for preventing lawn and yard damage is to not use salt or salt-like products at all and, instead, use physical or mechanical methods of snow and ice removal, such as shoveling, blowing or heating driveways and sidewalks.

Damage from salt occurs when foliage is burned by the salt product being splashed onto it, or when the salt is absorbed through the root system.

The greatest damage is on the side that faces, or is adjacent to, the street, sidewalk, or driveway. Annual applications of ice removers increase the soil salt concentration levels, which leads to more severe problems, which eventually can cause plants to weaken or die as the levels accumulate.

The name "ice-melt" is a misnomer.

Most of the products do not "melt" the ice as much as break the bond between the ice and the surface below it. Once the ice is loose, it can be removed much easier. Commercial products that contain potassium chloride have a lower burn potential than ones that contain sodium chloride.

Sand, kitty litter and cinders will work as an aid to prevent someone from slipping on ice, but do not work as well as an "ice-melt" compound. It usually is not a good idea to use regular rock salt, as it will damage the surrounding grass and plants and can damage concrete and blacktop, too.

For more information, contact Elisa at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office, 539 Barclay, 824-9180.

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