Thursday, January 17, 2008

Beware of De-icers

In WNC for the past few years, we have had minimal snowfall and ice. However, knowing how to properly get rid of snow and ice when we are faced with it, will help gardeners prevent permanent damage to plants.

Sodium chloride or rock salt has been used since the 1940’s as a common deicer that can burn plants and corrode metal and concrete. If you must use salt, use it judiciously, and erect barriers with plastic fencing, burlap or snow fencing to protect sensitive plants and minimize contact with salt. We can also reduce salt damage by mixing salt with sand and/or removing snow before salting.

When possible, use de-icing agents with calcium chloride, or calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), a salt-free melting agent made from limestone and acetic acid. You may also have some success with using cat litter or sawdust to create traction on sidewalks.

Do not pile snow containing salt around plants and trees or put it where runoff will flow over root zones. Plants placed near roadways and sidewalks should be salt tolerant. Many plants can recover from occasional salt spray. If it is a yearly occurrence however, death of the plant may result. See your local Extension office for salt tolerant plants recommended for your area.

Symptoms of salt injury can include desiccation, stunting, and branch dieback or plants. If salt buildup occurs, water liberally before spring growth by applying 2" of water over a 2-3 hour period and repeating this a few days later to "flush" the sodium from the soil.

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