With the snow and ice we received recently, melting it safely can be a concern. There are plenty of products on the market today that melt ice and snow, but I always get asked which ones are safe for …
With the snow and ice we received recently, melting it safely can be a concern. There are plenty of products on the market today that melt ice and snow, but I always get asked which ones are safe for plants and pets?
The most common ice melter is Rock Salt also called Halite or Sodium Chloride. Rock Salt will melt ice and snow down to about 5 degrees above zero, but it is more caustic than other ice melters. Rock salt can damage your plants when used in large quantities.
But rock salt is pet friendly. Yes, it will dry out the pads of their feet if left on, but most of the time your pets will just lick it off their feet and rock salt is just that, salt. Unless you have a pet on a low sodium diet rock salt will be safe for them. That is why you see the county wildlife alongside the roads in spring, they are taking advantage of a free salt lick.
The next most common ice melter is calcium chloride. Calcium chloride will work all the way down to about 15 degrees below zero and is safer for plants than rock salt. The chloride is never liked by your plants but as calcium chloride breaks down the calcium is used by your plants.
However, calcium chloride is not safe for pets and they will get sick from ingesting it. Calcium chloride is also safer on decks and walkways as it is a little gentler on wood and concrete. Then there are ice melters like Magnesium Chloride and Potassium Chloride both of which will melt down to about 10 degrees below zero but aren’t any better for your plants than the calcium chloride. And neither of them are good for your pets either.
Lastly there are Pet Safe ice melters. Safe Paw was the first in the market with an Amide/Glycol mixture which will melt ice and won’t hurt your plants, pets, decks or driveways. The only downfall is the price, Safe Paw is the most expensive of the ice melters, but if you have a prized garden or pet, aren’t they worth it?
If you are looking to just survive on your icy sidewalk and not really into melting the ice, barn calcite is the way to go. Sold under the brand name, Surefoot, barn calcite is nothing more than groundup calcite chips, originally used so that cows would not slip on the concrete floors going to the milk parlor, now is used to walk confidently on ice.
Barn calcite is grittier than sand and won’t get covered as easily by these one inch snowfalls we have been having. So take one from an old farmer and throw down some barn calcite on that slippery walkway and drive. Your fuel delivery person will thank you.
Next week I am going to talk about a topic I mentioned a few weeks ago, the shortage this year of peat moss and Canada’s effort to preserve their cash crop for years to come through ecology programs.
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