Landscape Logic: Is ice melt safe for your plants?
Vail, CO, Colorado
With the winter season comes snow and ice – and often, lots of ice melt.
Most homeowners use ice-melt products to keep walks and drives safe for pedestrians. These products are almost a necessity in Colorado’s climate, yet they can seriously harm our plant materials. Here’s why.
Almost all ice-melt products are salt-based and salts are damaging to plants. The salt from ice melt not only gets into the soil, but will also build up over time to become an ongoing problem. Season after season of using ice melt will continue to bump up the salt levels in the soil.
What happens? Just like when people eat salt and become thirsty, overly salted plants will also get thirsty and dry out. Flushing the area with water sometimes helps, but may not be completely effective.
Tips to minimize salt damage:
• Use ice-melt products sparingly. You need to play it safe on walks, of course, so pay attention to how much product it really takes to get the job done. Less may be enough.
• When ice is melting, avoid sweeping the puddles of salty water into planting areas. Instead, let the moisture evaporate, sweep up any product that remains and dispose of it.
Through moderation and careful cleanup, you can reduce the amount of damaging salt that travels to the root zone of your plants.
When you have an area that absolutely requires ice melt and it’s next to plants, you may need to alter the planting area to accommodate your needs to melt the ice. You can consider adding mulch over the area affected by ice-melt accumulation and placing container plants on top of the mulch. Dealing with ice that results from other issues, like poor drainage, will require solving the problem that causes ice to accumulate in the first place.
Do you think your plants may have suffered salt damage?
• Have the plants evaluated by a qualified horticulturist.
• Also, consider getting a soil test that can confirm whether salt has been the cause.
With this information, you can look for options that work equally well to keep people from slipping on the ice and plants from choking on the salt.
Need help evaluating plants or solving perpetual ice problems? Find a pro among the members of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, located in six chapters statewide.
Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970- 409-8945.
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