Slip-Sliding Away

Well, we got pretty lucky this year; we haven’t had any real snow until recently. That means we haven’t had to worry as much about removal or, my personal foe, icy driveways and sidewalks.

I got it from a very reliable source that people in the Midwest, and especially Michigan, spend more on lawn care than anywhere else in the country.  (I know how much I spend on fertilizer and watering each spring and summer and they may be right.) So it is surprising that so many people use the sodium chloride version of salt to melt the ice off drives and walkways.

Did you know….?

  • Damage occurs when salt spray is deposited on dormant stems, leaves, etc and accumulates in the root zone.
  • Salt can cause drought-like conditions around a plant’s roots by attracting and holding water the plant (in this case, grass) would normally absorb.
  • Salt increases the sodium content of the soil, damaging it and restricting the amount of nutrients, water and oxygen available to the plant.
  • Salt can also cause toxic levels of chloride in plants, which leads to a dried, burned effect on the leaf edges called “marginal burn” or “scorch.”
  • If you have pets, salt can irritate their paws.

So what’s a girl (or guy) to do? Obviously, not shoveling is not a viable option. Trying to remove the icy spots by hand…..well, I’m personally not that big on that idea. (Been there, done that….yuck!) And, as we do live in Michigan, you just can’t rely on the sun to melt and dry.

One idea is to reduce the quantity of salt used by mixing it with sand or cinders. Then limit usage to just your high-risk areas like the steps and commonly used sidewalks.

Another option would be to use an alternative de-icing salt such as calcium chloride, potassium chloride, or calcium magnesium acetate.

A third type of de-icing product is made with Urea. Urea is used in lawn fertilizers but as an ice melt it’s in higher concentrations so you will still want to use some caution to avoid burning your lawn. Be aware that Urea, like salt, can irritate your pet’s paws.

A fourth option is “blends”. Blends with less chloride are thought to be better for the environment but may cost a little more.

Are you worried more about a particular plant than the lawn? The above ideas will work for susceptible plants too. Or you could create a physical barrier between the pavement and the plant. You can make barriers out of plastic or burlap (not recommended for protecting grass).