the Salt and Save the Plants
can cause problems for gardeners, especially if they live in a northern
climate and use salt to clear ice from driveways or sidewalks.
There are many de-icing compounds on the market, and while they all set
out to do the same job, there are some that are more friendly to lawns
and other plants growing in the garden.
When shopping for de-icing agents, read the package label for
ingredients. It may not be wise to choose the cheapest one on the shelf.
Rock salt or sodium chloride is the most commonly used ice-melting
product. It is the least expensive and will work at
temperatures as low as 5 degrees F. However, it is very
corrosive on metals such as snow shovels and reinforcing rod in
driveways. And it is extremely harmful to plant material in
the landscape. It will damage plants and it is also
detrimental to soil, making it denser and less permeable to water
especially where plant material is concerned, are materials
made with calcium, magnesium or potassium chloride.
Of the three, magnesium
chloride is considered to be one
of the safest
to use in the landscape and it works when temperatures fall to minus 20
Unfortunately, these materials are more costly
Another way to minimize salt damage to the landscape is to use less of
it. Although kitty litter and sand won't melt ice and snow,
they can help provide traction on slippery surfaces.
The amount of de-icing compound used can be minimized by
mixing it with sand. Fifty pounds of sand mixed with
one pound of de-icing compound is effective and less damaging to plants
and the soil.
There are also liquid solutions on the market, such as
potassium acetate, that can be used to help manage ice. It can
also be made by dissolving a small amount of de-icing compound
in enough hot water to melt the solids. Use a plastic hand
pump sprayer to apply the liquid to small surfaces such as porch steps.
Salt from highways is another source of potential damage to evergreens
and shrubs. The most effective way to protect vulnerable
plants is to erect a burlap or similar screen near the shrubs to keep
the salt spray off the plants. If left in place all winter,
the screen can significantly reduce salt damage.
Salt accumulation in the soil can also damage plants. This
happens when salt-laden snow is plowed from streets and is piled
up. When the snow melts, it moves the salt into the soil.
The best way to move the salt out of the root zone of the plant
material nearby is to apply large amounts of water to the soil. This
helps to leach the salt in the soil away from the root zone of the
Source: University of Illinois Extension
horticulture educator Greg Stack; 708-720-7520; firstname.lastname@example.org
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