Wintery precipitation can be a beautiful thing, as long as you are looking at it from inside. However, with the beautiful snows come the dangers of slippery walks and driveways. Luckily, we have several deicers available that help us keep our walks and drives safer and thanks to new options, products that won’t hurt the important landscape plants around our house.
I am going to start the discussion by removing one option altogether – SALT. Salt belongs in your cupboard and not by your plants. When you put any deicing products on outdoor surface, you are essentially placing them directly on the roots of the plants and lawn that border either side, because runoff will carry the chemicals directly to them. Salt is one of the most efficient killers of your plants – and is not all that effective as a deicer. Its only benefit is its relative cheapness. However, when you factor in the increased amount needed to effectively melt ice compared to better products, the pennies saved do not justify the risk to your landscape. Better options are Potassium , Magnesium or Calcium Chloride. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
The biggest difference is the temperature in which they will work effectively. Potassium Chloride will work as long as the temperature is above 15 degrees or so. Magnesium and Calcium Chloride will work down to about 5 degrees. Below 5 degrees and no deicing products are helpful, besides, as far I’m concerned, at 5 degrees nobody shouldn’t be walking outside anyway! The first step in getting good results with deicing products is to make sure you are buying what you think you are buying.
For some reason, the packaging on deicing products can be especially confusing – almost to the point of deceptive. Nearly every product sold will be a mixture of different chemicals. You want one with the absolute least amount of rock salt (sodium chloride) you can get. Many of the products that claim to be the newest and best are nothing more than colorfully packaged rock salt. A quality product will have LESS than 10% rock salt. Rock salt is used as a cheap filler. Do not let price be your determiner. Some of the most expensive products have the cheapest products inside them. READ THE LABEL! You should be able to get a good 30 – 50 pound supply for less than $20 and this will last you for the entire season.
Once you have selected a product, you need to make sure you use it effectively. This starts by using less than you might think you should and apply it before you might think you should. Never apply ice melt on top of snow. It is most effective if applied before the precipitation starts. All you need is a little bit to get the melting started and to keep the ice from forming. These products are not designed tomelt away layers of ice that have already formed.
A quick tip from the professionals: these products are more effective in their liquid form. In time, I believe these products will be available as liquids to consumers. However, right now they usually are not. So what I suggest is that you dissolve just enough to be used into either a high quality non-corrosive sprayer or into a plastic watering can. Make the mixture 70% HOT water and 30% deicer. Then carefully apply just enough to wet the surface before precipitation starts falling. This will give you the best protection from the ice, be the easiest to apply evenly, be the least damaging to plants and be the most economical.
Hopefully, this winter you’ll feel confident when you head up to the hardware store that you have the information to buy the best deicer for you and can apply it quickly and easily. Allowing you to sit inside, enjoying the winter weather as you sip hot chocolate.
|Published on December 6th, 2007||Posted by Jeff Hamons|