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What's happening to my plants? The effects of ice melt on plants.

Updated: Apr 1, 2022

Snow and ice are a major and unavoidable part of living in Colorado. Many parts of Colorado face heavy snowfall every year which leads to road blockage and also blocks the flow of traffic. The modern solution to this has been ice melt or rock salt. All these products that are utilized by us to protect our roads, sidewalks, and property contribute to big damage to our local ecosystem and environment. In addition to this, they harm plants and pets also. The problem arises during the spring season when all these salts dissolve into the melting ice water and then efficiently travel to the soil, where they do a lot of damage.

Some ice melting products and their effects on plants

The most commonly used and cheapest method of melting ice is rock salt which is commonly known as table salt. Plants require only a small amount of sodium, but large amounts can cause massive damage to soil, plants, and leaves. When sodium is added to the soil in large quantities it occupies the position of other vital nutrients like potassium and calcium. When the salt concentration of soil rises, it pulls out water from the plants and hence leads to plant death. High sodium concentration in the soil also interferes with the soil texture and kills some important microbes in the soil.

Other melting products include calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and magnesium chloride. These are also not a favorable option because the chloride salts are normally toxic and have a corrosive nature; potassium chloride can lead to serious plant injury when splashed on them. In addition to this, both calcium chloride and potassium chloride can damage the roots of plants. The plant is not able to draw water from the ground and this mostly leads to browning of leaves and needles. All these products when used in excess interferes with soil biology and destroys the plants and ultimately the ecosystem. The plants found on roads, sidewalks or driveways are more exposed to the damage

Alternatives to using ice melt products

It’s best not to allow the snow to settle down or accumulate on the roads. So try to remove the ice or snow before it settles down to create heaps of snow. Once it gets piled up, then it becomes difficult to remove it with a shovel. This is how you can avoid using any ice melting product. For pulling vehicles or cars on ice patches use sand or cat litter instead of salts. If you have to use an ice melt, then go for a pet-friendly version and apply a small amount of it. In addition to this use a dilute ice melt by mixing it with hot water in a spray bottle. In this way, you will use less product and it will be more effective. By applying these alternates you can reduce the damage that occurs to plants and our ecosystem.

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