Conservation Connection: Tree Health And Ice Melters

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(KPLR) - Snow and ice are certainly on our minds right now, and so is getting them off our driveways and sidewalks. Did you know what you use to remove ice and snow might affect the health of your trees? Dan Zarlenga talked about something that might harm your trees and plants along with suggestions on how to avoid possible problems.

Q.  So what is that might be harming our trees?

  • Popular ice melters that use calcium chloride and ammonium nitrate can contaminate soils and damage plants and trees
  • They can stunt their growth
  • Cause deformities
  • Make them more susceptible to disease
  • And in large enough amounts even kill them

Q. What might be some symptoms of exposure to these ice melters?

  • Evergreens tend to show immediate effects
  • Deciduous trees may not show any signs until the following growing season
  • Look for yellowing are dwarfing foliage
  • Branch and leaf dieback

Q.  What are some things homeowners can do to help prevent problems?

  • Avoid chemicals and remove ice by mechanical means if possible
  • Dig some sort of drainage channel or barrier around trees and plants where ice melters are used
  • Use just enough chemical to get the job done--don`t overdo it!
  • Use dark-colored abrasives instead of chemicals
  • Use ice melters with calcium chloride instead of sodium chloride because it`s less damaging
  • Wash away any visible salt residue from trees

Q.  What are some things we can do if a tree is having problems due to exposure to ice melters?

  • Properly prune away any dead or deformed limbs
  • Apply gypsum to the exposed soil
  • Helps neutralize the effects of salt
  • A naturally-occurring mineral used as fertilizer supplement that does not harm the environment
  • Amount of application varies with the severity of salt exposure
  • Usually available in 50lb bags at nurseries and lawn and garden centers
  • Also can be used as a preventative measure where there is a risk of exposure to salt.

Q.  How can viewers learn more?

  • More detailed guidelines can be found on the Conservation Department`s website, MDC.mo.gov by following the featured link or searching keywords 'ice melters'