Monday, February 2, 2009


As the snow begins to fall outside my office I’m reminded that this is the time of year that I begin to get calls concerning ice-melts or deicers. Slick driveways and sidewalks can be a safety hazard and chipping and shoveling snow is more work than many of us want to undertake. Those looking for an easier method of removing ice and snow often resort to the use of de-icing compounds. While these products are effective, they should be used with caution. Many of these products contain salts which can be harmful to plants.

There are about five major products used as de-icers. These include calcium chloride, sodium chloride (salt), potassium chloride, urea (a fertilizer), and calcium magnesium acetate. Each of these materials varies in their effectiveness and temperature range. Be sure to follow label instructions on any de-icing materials.

Limited use of any of these products should cause little plant injury but problems can occur when they are used excessively and there is not adequate rainfall to wash or leach the material from the area. Since limited use is recommended, it is best to remove the ice and snow by hand when possible. When chemicals are applied, practice moderation. We are often prone to over- applying just to make sure the ice and snow melt. Keep in mind this can damage concrete surfaces as well as the plants and grass growing along the walks and driveways. These problems are normally latent and will not show up until spring or summer.

For additional information on any of the materials listed, call your local extension agent.

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