The November ice storm followed by the unseasonably large December snow storm here in the New River Valley may have had some of us thinking that this winter would be a doozy. However, the new year has started off relatively calm in the winter weather department with the recent ice and snow storm being the only major event so far.
In just a couple weeks, we’ll find out from Punxsutawney Phil whether we’ll get a longer winter or if spring is just around the corner! But before we count on spring’s arrival, we thought we’d share a few tips to keep in mind for using snow and ice melt products for the remainder of this winter. Many of us don’t think much about our lawns in the winter, but these products can be damaging to turf and other landscaped areas, not to mention the damage they can cause to our driveways, cars, and even pets.
Types of Ice Melt Products
There are a lot of options available for salt-based, ice melt products. From the most common—rock salt (sodium chloride)—to stronger products like magnesium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate that are used commercially, different products have effectiveness at different temperatures.
This chart from Consumer Reports shows price ranges, benefits, and precautions for some of the most common types of these products.
Why Do Ice Melt Products Damage My Lawn?
You probably won’t notice the damage now, but when the snow melts and spring does arrive, you may see a strip of brown grass along the edges of driveways and sidewalks and other areas where ice melt products were most heavily used and where snow containing these products got pushed into the lawn. You may also see damage to trees or plants that are located near the street in direct line of salt spray from the road.
The damage happens because the high levels of salt in these products can prevent the roots from taking up water. So essentially, they suffer drought stress and can end up dying.
So, how can you prevent this from happening? Here are our tips:
Tips to Avoid Damage from Ice Melt Products
1. Follow the instructions on the product label.
This may seem obvious, but it’s one of the best ways to protect yourself and your lawn. The labels contain safety precautions, such as wearing gloves to protect your hands or keeping your pets away from it (some can be lethal if ingested by your pets!).
And when it comes to the quantity to use, you may assume that applying more than suggested will increase the effectiveness, but that is a misconception. Using the proper quantities will save you money and help protect your turf and landscape from the negative effects of overuse!
The label will also let you know which surfaces, if any, that you should not use it on. Depending on the product, this could include concrete, asphalt, wood, or stone.
2. Apply at the right times.
These products are not going to melt through a pile of multiple inches of snow. Apply them to a thin layer of snow or ice after shoveling, preferably when it’s fresh. If at all possible, apply it to the surface before the storm arrives.
3. Consider mixing.
If you’re wanting to use fewer chemicals, consider mixing the salt product with sand or gravel. This will provide good traction while cutting down on the potentially harmful effects of the salt.
4. Be mindful when shoveling.
Try to avoid piling salt-filled snow in places where it will damage plants. According to VCE: “Do not pile snow containing salt around plants or trees or put it where runoff will flow over plant root zones.”
5. Avoid traffic on your grass.
Whether this is you or your pets, try to stay off the grass as much as possible. This helps avoid tracking the salt that is on shoes and paws onto your grass. It can also help avoid breaking frozen turf, which can result in brown spots in the spring.
Of course at the end of the day, your safety comes first. Ice melt products are certainly effective at making walking areas safer during a winter storm. And ultimately, repairing a damaged lawn is a lot easier than dealing with a serious injury! By following some of these tips, we hope you’ll be safe while also protecting your lawn and landscape as best as possible.
Green Care Can Help
You’re not likely to see the full extent of damage from snow melt products until spring. But the good news is that much of the grass that looks damaged will recover on its own. So be patient when the warm weather arrives! As the spring rainfall washes away the harmful salt residue and the temperatures increase, many of those brown spots should green up.
If you have spots that don’t recover, Green Care can help with re-seeding and ensuring that your turf and landscape are once again green and healthy!