The Hazards of Ice Melt

Colorado’s recent dive into the deep freeze meant a lot of us were strewing ice melt over steps and walkways. It’s a fact of life during the Colorado winter.
While we need to protect people from slipping and falling, we also need to be aware that almost all ice melt products are salt-based and salts are damaging to plants. The salt from ice melt not only gets into the soil, but will build up over time to become an ongoing problem.
Winter Tools
If the front entry sidewalk gets repeated applications of ice melt during the winter, chances are the salt will keep accumulating in the soil in the grass or bed areas next to the walk. Many seasons of using ice melt will bump up salt levels in the soil and your plants won’t like it.
What happens? Just like when people eat salt and become thirsty, overly-salted plants will also get thirsty and dry out. Flushing the area with water sometimes helps, but may not be completely effective.
Here are two tips for minimizing salt damage:

  • Use icemelt products sparingly. While you must play it safe on walks, pay attention to how much product it really takes to get the job done. Less may be enough.
  • When ice is melting, avoid sweeping the puddles of salty water into planting areas. Instead, let the moisture evaporate, sweep up any product that remains and dispose of it.
    Through moderation and careful clean-up, you can reduce the amount of damaging salt that travels to the root zone of your plants.
    If perennial ice problems make it impossible for walks and plant-growing areas to exist side-by-side, modifying the area might be in order. The solution could be as simple as placing mulch over the highly salted area and placing container plants on top of the mulch. Dealing with ice that results from other issues, such as poor drainage, will require solving the problem that causes ice to accumulate in the first place.
    When you suspect plants are declining due to salt damage, an evaluation of the plant material and a soil test can confirm that salt is in fact the cause. With this information, you can move on to consider landscape options that will help you keep your property safe and still allow you to enjoy your plants.
    Designscapes Colorado is the leader in landscape design and maintenance. We strive to provide only the highest quality landscaping across all of Colorado. We understand your need for a beautiful looking landscape. Beauty and perfection is ingrained in our roots and is a part of our core of what we believe in. For your next landscaping project, give us a call or send us an email at: We can make your imagination become a reality!

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