Rock salt is a great product. It’s fast-acting, easy to apply, and straightforward in its ability to melt snow and ice at a wide range of temperatures. However, rock salt (sodium chloride) is one of the worst things you can put on your lawn or let drain into it.
Have you ever heard of “salting the earth”? Allegedly, conquerors would spread salt over a defeated city so nothing could grow back! Unless you want a barren lawn, keep the salt on your concrete driveway and use a plant-friendly product on anything you want to turn green come Spring.
Find Products That Are Safe for Grass, Soil, Plants, & Your Garden
If you ask a bulk salt vendor to recommend a green-friendly product to melt ice they should have a few different brand names in mind. However, all of these products fall under two primary categories.
Calcium Magnesium Acetate
Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA) is both biodegradable and friendly to your lawn, trees, and plants. Better yet, it’s a long-lasting product that, when applied to your lawn, will cling to it (without harming it) and melt ice and snow further down the line. CMA is effective down to temperatures of -17.5 F.
Any fertilizer with a large dose of nitrogen (sometimes referred to as urea) will do a commendable job at melting the snow and ice that forms on your plants. The best part? Since the product is a lawn-friendly fertilizer it will actually help your plants grow when Spring comes around. Like any fertilizer, using too much will have the opposite effect; it’ll burn your plants and damage them.
Apply Chemicals in Moderation, Be Proactive, & Allow Your Lawn to Drain
You can’t just dump a product over your lawn and hope for the best. If only it were that easy. Instead, you need to give your landscaping a little TLC throughout the winter. No, don’t take a shovel to your grass (save it for the sidewalk and driveway); just make sure you pay attention to the weather and react appropriately.
Use Your Product Before a Major Snowfall
Both CMA and common fertilizers work best if applied before snowfall. The chemicals found in both products are anti-icing compounds, so spread them on your greenery before the snow falls or the ice forms.
Ensure Your Lawn, Garden, & Trees Have Proper Drainage
While CMA and nitrogen-based fertilizers are technically lawn-friendly they can still do some damage if they sit stagnant in your lawn for too long. For one, as you apply more and more you might unwittingly increase the amount already in your grass. Secondly, it’s simply good practice to ensure your soil drains well; this will cause you problems all year and not just in the winter!
Most of us are in the Midwest, right? With that said, Winter comes as no surprise to us. It’s long, it’s brutal, and it’s more-or-less the same year after year. Get your lawn ready for the season; it’ll save you time and give you peace of mind well before the first flurry falls.
Use Burlap to Protect Trees & Your Landscape
Wrap your trees and plants in burlap to protect them from frost and prolonged snow exposure (excessive moisture). Frost can also be a killer of many fragile plants by freezing their delicate cell structures. Having a barrier between the surface of your plants and frost can be the difference between melted, long-dead landscaping and thriving, happy plants when the snow finally melts. Do the same for your trees, from the base of the trunk to the top.
Rinse Your Soil to Remove Rock Salt
Giving your plants a bath in the dead of winter might sound silly but it’s an effective way to leach salt from the top layer of your soil. Assuming you have proper drainage, simply water the soil beneath your trees for about an hour a week in early Spring. This will wash out any salt or excess fertilizer and prepare the soil for the warmer temperatures.
A Snow & Ice-Free Lawn is Possible, It Could Even Be Essential
Clearing snow and ice from your lawn isn’t just for show. With proper application, you would actually be fertilizing your plants for their impending Spring growth. Beyond that, keeping the excessive wetness of snow off your plants will curb any root rot and mold from forming. Just ensure you’re not throwing salt on your yard and be mindful of how much rock salt you apply to your driveway as well; as that snow and ice melt it’ll inevitably drain into your yard. To put it simply; use everything in moderation to maintain happy and healthy landscaping.