When winter weather transforms your sidewalk and driveway into a dangerous skating rink, how do you melt the ice and snow without destroying your lawn and ornamental plants?
The key is to choose an environmentally safer deicer, use it in moderation and according to instructions, and to apply it before it begins to sleet or snow.
All chemical deicers essentially work in the same manner, by lowering the freezing point of water. The most common ice melter is sodium chloride (NaCl), otherwise known as good old-fashioned rock salt. Its popularity can be attributed to its low price and wide availability. However, since salt water still freezes at 0°F (or -18°C), it is of little help when the temperature falls below this point. Rock salt can also be destructive: it can corrode your car and your concrete walkway, and it can damage or kill your lawn and ornamental plants.
A better bet is to use one of the alternative, safer salts on the market. These include Calcium Chloride (CaCl2), Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2), and Potassium Chloride (KCl). In general, these salts are more effective in reducing the freezing point of water to a lower temperature than rock salt, thus making them more effective in colder weather. Moreover, they tend to be less corrosive to metals and concrete, and are safer for lawns and ground-covers. Be sure to carefully look at the manufacturer's label for the listing of chemicals.
A newer, salt-free melting agent is calcium magnesium acetate (CMA), which is made from dolomitic limestone and acetic acid (the main compound of vinegar). This material has little impact on plants and animals, and is a good alternative for environmentally-sensitive areas. Pelleted fertilizers containing ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulfate are sometimes also used for melting snow and ice, but these tend to damage concrete more than the salts. For locations where chemical deicers are not appropriate, sand, kitty litter, or gravel can provide some traction, but they will not melt ice or snow.
Whatever product you choose, be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions carefully and do not over-apply. Too many people erroneously believe that if 8 ounces is good, then 16 ounces must be better. Improper use of any chemical deicer may cause plant injury, which appears as drying, stunting, dieback, or "burning" of the foliage.
On Tuesday, October 6, 2009, twenty-seven employees and staff of Johnson’s Landscaping Service, Inc. spent the morning clearing out parts of the Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery in Aspen Hill, MD. After changing ownership hands many times, the historic pet resting place was bequeathed to, and is now owned and operated by, the Montgomery County Humane Society. The society relies on volunteers and donations to maintain this seven acre property.
Herbert Hoover’s Pets and “Petey” from the Little Rascals – Aspin Hill Mem. Park
For many reasons, prior to the Humane Society running the operation, parts the Aspin Hill Pet Cemetery had become overgrown to the point where clearing out years of growth requires special tools and a lot of sweat and tears. Volunteers often are unable or do not have the time necessary to uncover the history under all the growth.
After watching a newscast reporting the needs of the cemetery, the ownership of Johnson’s Landscaping Service, Inc. decided it would be a good opportunity for their company to give back to the local community. In addition to the service to the humane society, Johnson’s Landscaping also needed a location to conduct its regular safety training for its employees. “It was great to knock out the proverbial two birds with one stone,” says Matt Johnson, sales manager of the company, who hastily added that these birds were “metaphorical, of course.”
Landscape crews clear the overgrowth Masonry crews restore a mausoleum
Jimmy Johnson, General Manager Maintenance crews clear the gravestones
Restoring the headstones
After the training, management, maintenance, landscape, and masonry crews all gathered at various parts of the cemetery to begin the renovation. The before, during, and after pictures tell the whole story. By morning’s end, the designated work was done, and crews and management went their separate ways throughout the county.
However, not before David Poole, a local representative of the Montgomery County Humane Society, returned to inspect the work. Says Poole, “After spending several weekends at the Aspin Hill Memorial Park working on clearing brush myself with a small group of volunteers it was amazing to see what Johnsons Landscaping Service was able to accomplish in just one days time. What they have done to honor the memory of these animals goes beyond words.”
Cris Bombaugh , president and CEO of the Montgomery County Humane Society, agrees with Poole. “We are so fortunate to have the support of Johnson’s Landscaping Service, which pitched in to transform the grounds of the Aspin Hill Memorial Park. We are grateful for their generous help, and were very impressed with their professionalism, efficiency and careful caretaking of this special resting place for beloved pets.”
Landscape Brighteners In lieu of summer's blazing color, many gardeners brace themselves for a winter of gray and brown, if not flat-out white. No matter if your winter is just a little chilly or bone-freezing cold, try these tips to brighten your landscape:
Install trees and shrubs that have beautiful exfoliating bark, vibrant berries, or bright evergreen foliage.
Install winter annuals or evergreens in containers near doors or windows, so you can enjoy them from indoors.