Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Are Deicers Harmful to Your Garden?

Gibby's Garden
Can the deicer that keeps your walks and stairs safe to tread on be harmful to your garden? To put it simply, yes. Man-made deicers are made with chemicals responsible for melting ice, but when these chemicals seep into the ground, our garden plants can be damaged from root to tip. So, what makes these deicers harmful to our gardens, and how can we prevent our prized plants from becoming stunted and sickly looking?

3 Potentially Harmful Chemicals in Deicers

Without getting all scientific, there are three chemicals in deicers that can be potentially harmful to your plants. These include sodium chloride, better known as salt, urea and potassium chloride. While all three work wonders for melting ice, when used in excess plant damage can occur.


  • Sodium Chloride: When sodium chloride leaches into garden beds, soil can become contaminated and entire plants from the roots up can be damaged.
  • Urea: Being a fertilizer, urea can be harmful to more than just plants. When too much is used, ground water, soil and plants can all be effected.  
  • Potassium Chloride: Keep an eye on your plants, especially larger ones that peak through the snow as this chemical can be harmful to both foliage and plant roots. 

How to Prevent Plant Damage

The good news is, you can still deice your walks and stairs without worrying too much about the harmful effects on your plants.


  • Moderation: Don't overdo it with the deicer, only use it when you need to.
  • Spring Clean Up: Sweep and hose down walks and stairs come spring. Your plants and the soil surrounding where you've deiced all winter will benefit from a cleansing soak as well. 
  • Mulch: Surround your plants and garden soil with a protective layer of mulch in the fall to help keep chemicals from leaching into the soil and damaging plant roots.
  • Cover Plants: Some bushes and shrubs can be covered during the winter. This will help protect foliage from being damaged.
  • Natural Deicers: You can always switch to a natural deicer. Keep in mind that these are harder to find and more expensive. 

Next time you head out to deice, be mindful of how much deicer you are using. With a little moderation and preparation, you can keep your walks and stairs safe to use without your plants taking the brunt of a chemical assault.

Have you tried a natural deicer? Are they worth paying a little extra for?

Source: Patton, D. Ice melts help but can be harmful.Retrieved from http://www.johnson.ksu.edu/p.aspx?tabid=597

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