Garden Clippings for March 2, 2019

Winter of 2019 in Lambton County won’t go down as the snowiest in history.  Not by a long shot.  Visit any one of the lumber box stores and you will see lots of inventory of snow shovels.

What you won’t find in the big box stores are skids of de-icer.  CBC Radio tells me that in the metro Toronto area, there is not a bag of salt to be found anywhere and the salt mines in Goderich are working around the clock to keep up with demand.

Folks shopping for de-icer have an array of products to choose from ranging from straight rock salt to blends of ingredients that claim to be safe for animals, concrete and the environment.  Unfortunately, most products contain at least some salt.

Road salt does not evaporate or miraculously disappear.  It enters groundwater where it harms both animal and plant life.  Many plants and trees are not salt tolerant.  In some cases, salt tolerant invasive species takes over ditches and adjacent woodlots.

Excessive salt in ponds, lakes and streams plays havoc with aquatic life affecting a large range of fish and water plants.  Many mammals and birds that drink salt water can develop digestive issues due to salt toxicity.

Homeowners should understand that the only 100% safe and effective ice control is warm sunshine.  The other is a shovel.  Most commercially packaged de-icing products contain a blend of ingredients and the more effective the product, the more salt it likely contains.  Regardless of how sparingly a de-icing product is applied, it will cause some damage to concrete, pets, vegetation and soil.

If Rover needs a walk down the street, it may be wise to rinse off the dog’s feet before coming back into the house.  Some pet owners will put socks on the pet to prevent it from licking the salt from their dirty paws.

If you need to apply de-icer put it down sparingly.  The adage “if a little is good, then a lot must be better” does not apply to ice melt products.

Once you have applied de-icer and ice has melted, shovel off the slush before it refreezes.  If the de-icer has done its job and the ice has disappeared, sweep off the excess material to minimize contamination.

New concrete driveways less than one year old should never come into contact with any de-icer product.  Even ice melting from the car on the garage floor poses a threat to new concrete.  To protect your floor or driveway, apply concrete sealer when the weather is warm.

For those who want to avoid using de-icer, spread a little kitty litter or sharp sand over the ice.  This won’t melt the ice but will provide traction.

Architects and building planners should consider installing heat cables in high traffic areas where pedestrian safety is critical.  Installation costs will be high at the outset, but the operating costs will be surprisingly low, given that the unit may only be running a few times each winter.

In next week’s Garden Clippings we will examine the active ingredients in de-icing products.