Are you worried about damaging your lawn with harsh chemicals and salt during the winter months? Are you tired of seeing that familiar strip of brown grass that borders your sidewalk and driveway when spring rolls around? Wouldn’t it be nice to avoid the damage that occurs from the use of rock salt and ice melt altogether?
Rock salt is typically made up of sodium chloride (NaCl) which reduces the freezing point of water. Ice melt is made up of usually a combination of sodium chloride, potassium chloride and magnesium chloride. They are used to remove snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways by lowering the freezing point of water, but can also damage the surrounding landscaping when it runs off as melt and leaches into the soil. The resulting overabundance of elements causes the soil to become inferior and the plants to suffer, or fail altogether. There are some options to reduce the damage or decrease the recovery time for the surrounding areas.
Timing is Everything
No matter what you choose to put on your sidewalks and driveway, when you choose to treat your concrete affects the amount needed. Pre-treating before the snow and ice have covered the areas will require about a quarter of the amount of product you would need if waiting for after the snow and ice to form. Also, choosing to shovel early on in the snowstorm, and often, will reduce the need for treatment. Removing the snow and ice before it hardens is ideal, but not always possible or comfortable during a storm.
Other Options for Traction
Using optional choices to obtain traction on a snowy or icy surface can be beneficial to your landscaping. Sand or kitty litter will do minimal or no damage to your lawn when it is washed from the surfaces. Sawdust and ashes are also excellent choices for traction, but do tend to be messy when tracked into the house.
Protection of Surrounding Area
Some advice to protect the grass and shrubs from being damaged by the runoff is to cover it with burlap, landscaping plastic or a snow fence. Covering the area will protect the plants and soil from an overabundance of elements. Also, when shoveling snow, try not to concentrate into a singular pile, but rather spread out. This can help avoid too much concentration into one area.
Hiring or speaking with a professional landscaper about changing your landscape design to include sodium-friendly choices for plants that border the concrete areas of your home is something you may want to consider. Some plants and grasses tolerate the chemicals in rock salt better and will provide less maintenance and recovery for your soil if damage is done by the runoff. A professional landscaper can test the soil and direct you to the plant and grass choices that will work best with your landscape and design a plan for timing and location of new plants.
Recovering your lawn from the winter damage incurred by using rock salt or ice melt can take months if not years to correct. Taking steps now to avoid the damage is much simpler than the hours of work to repair it.