Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
Can you suggest a natural way to de-ice sidewalks and driveways without harming nearby soil and plants?
Salt compounds that are commonly used as de-icers can be highly corrosive to nearby plants and soil. Besides injuring vegetation upon contact, salt leaches into soil and makes vital nutrients and water less accessible to plants. Salt compounds also leach into surface water and groundwater, where they can be toxic to wildlife.
At home, instead of managing ice chemically with salts, take a mechanical approach. Shovel paths early and often, or pay a neighbor to do so if you can’t manage the heavy lifting yourself. To increase traction on slippery surfaces, use sand or gravel. Snow tires on vehicles and cleats on shoes can also help you gain traction. If you must resort to a chemical de-icer, the least harmful products contain calcium magnesium acetate or potassium chloride rather than sodium chloride or rock salt.
For roadside plantings regularly exposed to salt spray from municipal de-icing, choose salt-tolerant species. For a list of salt-tolerant plants, see Purdue University Extension publication ID-412-W.
— Vicki Mattern, Contributing Editor
Right: Shovel the sidewalk early and often to avoid using chemical de-icers.
Photo By Fotolia/Stefan Korber
Vicki Mattern is a contributing editor for MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine, book editor and freelance magazine writer. She has edited or co-authored seven books on gardening, and lives and works from her home in northwestern Montana. You can find Vicki on Google+.