Think about your garden when you de-ice your sidewalk

snowy sidewalk in Amherst NY
Photo by Connie Oswald Stofko

How can you make your sidewalk safe in icy weather while still protecting your garden?

John Farfaglia, extension educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County, shares some tips.

First, instead of buying rock salt, look for products that are labelled plant or pet safe. These products use calcium chloride, which pose less risk of damaging your plants with soluble salts, Farfaglia said.

Still, you shouldn’t overdo it, he said. Don’t spread the calcium chloride product heavily and don’t use it unless you need it.

The calcium chloride deicers might not work at as low a temperature as rock salt, he noted. They may work in the range of 0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, while traditional rock salt can work in temperatures as low as -15 degrees Fahrenheit. The calcium chloride products are a few dollars more expensive.

He noted that you can also use sand, grit and cinders on your sidewalk. They won’t melt the ice, but they will provide traction, and they don’t contain anything that will harm your plants.

Some municipalities mix sand with salt in order to decrease the amount of salt they need to use on roads, he added. You can do the same thing on your sidewalks, but don’t use a large amount of rock salt.

2 Comments on “Think about your garden when you de-ice your sidewalk

  1. Thanks so much, Randy. When I wrote the article, I needed a photo to illustrate it. This is one I took last year at sunrise. (You don’t have to get up very early to catch a winter sunrise.) The snowy sidewalk worked perfectly, I think.

  2. Hi Connie,

    I just had to comment on the photo that accompanies this article. It is beautiful! And your article isn’t bad, either. :- )

    Take care,

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