How to Protect Your Lawn and Landscape from Winter Salt

salt alternatives melt winter ice

If you are like most people, you go to the hardware store and pick up two or three bags of rock salt to use on your driveway and sidewalks. Some products claim not to damage grass or plants (like calcium chloride or magnesium chloride), but if you use too much, it can still cause damage. There are also products that are safer for pets, but those products can cost 7 to 10 times more than common rock salt. So what’s the best way to protect your lawn and landscape plants from winter salt?

Safe Salt Alternatives to Melt Winter Ice

A cheap alternative to avoid winter salt damage on lawn and landscape is to use coarse sand. It does not melt the ice, but it can provide better traction. One thing to remember is that a lot of sand has water in it, so keep the bags some place warm. Once those sand bags freeze up, they are not much help until they thaw out again.

Some people think that using fertilizer is a good alternative, but it does not take too much of it to damage your lawn as bad if not worse that when using sand. Kitty litter and oil dry are two other products than can also be used in the winter, but once they melt into the ice, they are not much help.

You may be able to control how much salt or salt-alternative products you use on your own driveway and sidewalk, but there is not much you can do when the city plow trucks come down your street and cover your lawn and landscape with salt. I guess we can’t be too upset that they are trying to make our lives a little easier, but sometimes they tend to spread too much of a good thing.

Protect Plants From Salt Damage

If you have plants growing near the street, try putting up a barrier of burlap cloth to keep the salt from getting in the planting beds. Some people every try covering their plants with sheets of plastic, which is not a good idea. Basically, you are creating mini green houses and plants may prematurely produce leaves during the day, which will freeze when temperatures drop below freezing.

Just about every part of the U.S. must deal with snow and ice at some time during most winters. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact your local Spring-Green. 

Salt on Grass and Plants: How to Prevent Salt Damage to Your Landscape

salt damage on landscape

To put it simply, the best way to prevent salt damage to your lawn and landscape is to not use it. Unfortunately, that is not always an option, and you can sometimes find yourself with salt on your grass and plants. There are products out there that claim not to damage grass or plants (like calcium chloride or magnesium chloride), but if you use too much, it can still cause damage. In reality, most people end up using plain old rock salt since it is generally cheaper to use. Some of the pet-friendly, environmentally-safe products work, but they cost a lot more. For example, you can find a 50-pound bag of rock salt for about $8 while the “safer” products cost as much as $75 for a 35-pound bucket.

Try Sand Instead

As an alternative to rock salt that ends up on your grass and plants, you can use sand to help prevent slipping on the ice. The one thing to keep in mind is that the sand that you purchase at the store may be moist. When you get it home and put it in the garage, you may end up with a big frozen sand block, which is not very useful, so be sure to thaw it out before you attempt to use it.

Put Up Burlap Barriers or Pavers

You can control the type and amount of salt you spread on your property, but you usually don’t have much control of what your city spreads on the streets. Try as they may, some of the salt ends up on lawns. If your landscape is close to the street, it will also be doused with a healthy coating of salt. One way to prevent salt damage to your landscape is to erect a barrier. Burlap is a good choice to make a screen to keep the salt away from the landscape beds.

There isn’t much you can do to prevent the salt from getting onto your lawn, however. The best thing you can hope for is that there will be lots of rain in the spring to wash the salt down into the soil. In most cases, this is enough to prevent too much damage. If it is a reoccurring problem year after year, especially along the edges, one alternative is to install pavers along the curb.

Dealing with snow and ice is a fact of life for those of us that live in the northern parts of the US, but even the southern folks get an occasional ice storm. Trying to remove it from your driveway and sidewalks can be a challenge. If you do some planning and use products that are less damaging and not overdo the use of these products, you can limit or eliminate the amount of salt on your grass and landscape, and the damage you have to deal with next spring. Keep us posted and good luck!

At Spring-Green, we’re passionate about lawns—all year long. Learn about some of the winter lawn care services we offer, like sprinkler system blowouts. And don’t forget to Ask the Expert your own questions!