During the winter, lawn care is the last thing on most peoples’ minds, especially when there is inclement weather in the forecast. Ice melt & salt products are important to apply to sidewalks and driveways to prevent slips & falls; however, it is important to keep these products out of the lawn and landscaping to prevent chemical drought.
First and foremost, always be sure to follow precautionary procedures in case of inclement weather by applying ice melt or salt to any surfaces that require it. Chemical drought is a nuisance but should not be used as a deciding factor of whether or not to apply these items. Personal safety is much more important than a few spots that may or may not appear within a lawn. Also, be sure to handle and store these salt products properly and away from children and pets.
What is Chemical Drought?
When heavy amounts of rock salt or ice melt products sit in one area, they begin to break down and work into the soil and root systems of the plants. These heavy amounts of salt drain the plant of water causing them to dry out, resulting in drought-like results. Results of a chemical drought are very similar to the summer droughts our area has experienced in the past. Yellowing, wilting and curling of grass blades or leaves are the first noticeable signs; unfortunately, once these symptoms are noticed it is too late and the plant will die.
What causes Chemical Drought?
When snow and ice are in the forecast, homeowners and city workers usually apply a pre-treatment of rock salt or ice melt product. Then, once the snow begins to fall, everything gets cleared with all the snow being pushed to the sides along the curbs, sidewalks and driveways. Unfortunately, the cleared snow is usually thrown into lawns or plowed up against landscaping so it will be out of the way. These piles of snow that are created from the clearing just sit and sit until they melt; however, these piles contain more than just snow, they also contain rock salt and other ice melt products.
Preventing Chemical Drought
The easiest way to prevent chemical drought is to avoid chemicals within the lawn or landscape. Spread these products sparingly and avoid spreading heavy amounts along edges. For heavy amounts of snow that has been thrown into the yard from snow plows there is not a lot that can be done; but if you are concerned about chemical drought from these piles try to disperse the piles or push them as close to the curb edge as possible.
Another great way to prevent chemical drought is to clean up any salt or ice melt product once it is safe and no longer needed. This can be done by just sweeping off the sidewalk and driveway and discarding the product collected. This will not only prevent the product from running off into the sewer system, but also prevents the product from being filtered into the lawn or tracked into your home.
After Chemical Drought has been discovered
The signs and symptoms of chemical drought will usually appear in the spring when the grass comes out of the winter dormancy and begins the growing season. Very small patches of chemical drought can try to be watered heavily to neutralize the salt and save the existing grass; however, most chemical drought spots will require seeding to introduce new life.
When seeding, it is best to wait until fall if possible to allow pre-emergent and proper spring weed control to be applied. Edges of sidewalks, curbs and driveways are target areas for weeds and seeding these areas in the spring may be a losing battle that requires re-seeding again in the fall. Waiting until fall will also allow time to see if any of the grass plant will rebound naturally.
To Sum it Up
To sum it up, always apply ice melt or rock salt whenever necessary. To avoid chemical drought, use ice melt products sparingly and avoid heavy accumulation on grassy or landscaped surfaces. Once the snow has dissipated and it is safe, remove any product that remains to prevent it from filtering into unwanted areas. If chemical drought does occur, wait to see if the plant will bounce back in the spring or if a fall seeding is required.
It is always a good idea to consult with a lawn care professional and ask any questions you may have. Look around, ask friends or family, and research companies on the Better Business Bureau to find a company that you can trust.