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De-Icing Damage and Prevention for Our Denver Landscape


December 9, 2016

With the recent snow that has blanketed the Denver landscape, homeowners tend to take all precautions to minimize efforts of removing it - one of which is using de-icing salts on the walking paths. While this is a highly effective and necessary component of maintaining your sidewalks and walkways around your home for safety - it unfortunately can have a negative effect on your plants or other living things.
 

Types of Salt Damage

Trees and shrubs take on the brunt of damage when it comes to applications of sodium chloride (salt) and can lead to severe issues in the future.
 
Damage from Spray-Salt
For any trees or shrubs growing on the sides of major traffic areas, salt can affect them heavily due to the way it is applied. Rather than spreading by sprinkling on the sidewalk like most homeowners are used to doing, a spray application actually will dissipate further into the air and can make it onto trees and shrubs nearby. While this would typically fall on their branches, leaves, and trunk, it has more immediately obvious damage.
 
Root Absorption of Salt
When salt is spread in large quantities on roads and sidewalks, it generally gets mixed into the runoff of melting snow in addition to piling up on the sides of the road when plows make their way through the streets. This can accumulate on grasses and near tree roots, which will eventually make their way to the tree’s root system. High levels of salt are toxic for trees and shrubs and can affect the overall soil content for extended periods of time.
 
Prevention of Salt Damage
There are measures you can take to prevent de-icing salt damage to your trees and shrubs this winter as we prepare for the next snow to hit. Some of the more obvious ways to reduce the possible damage are just reducing the amount of salt you use and the coverage of the area you apply it. Basically, keeping it just on the sidewalks instead of your pathway to the side of the house might keep it away from some of the larger trees around your home.
 
You can also protect your plants by creating a physical protection around them - meaning, you can cover them with plastic, burlap, or create a small snow fence to block the snow and salt from fully reaching their roots. By creating a barrier between the plants or trees and the main pathways, you can prevent future damage by way of human error as well - sometimes plants are covered by snow, and if they are planted near a walkway, they may accidentally get trampled as well.
 
Alternatives to salt for de-icing do exist as well. Instead of salt, use a product that is mainly CMA or calcium chloride. This will not incur the same type of damage as salt. It is best to avoid any products which contain urea or rock salt - so keep that in mind when shopping. You might have heard about kitty litter as an alternative, but this is in fact not a viable option for removing ice. The rocks in litter will only create a mess in your home and collect on passerby’s shoes, so stick with another option.

Have questions about whether your plants have been affected by de-icing salt or need to know how to make sure it doesn’t happen at your home? Call the experts at American Arbor Care for more information. As a top tree care and landscaping company in Denver for over 25 years, our team can assist with your home’s landscape and help keep your trees and plants thriving throughout the year. Call us today to schedule an estimate and to get more info!