Big Differences in Ice Melters

Published by mrgrass on November 7th, 2014 - in Ice Melt

Ice melting products were designed with safety in mind as they are meant to keep surfaces clear of ice and help reduce slips and falls. Ice melting products are used before, during, and after ice or snow storms to reduce slippery and unsafe surfaces on walkways, driveways, roads and runways.

 
While the objective is clear, ice melting products come in a wide array of types and sizes, often with claims that require an advanced college degree to decipher! You have seen the bags claiming melting power down to -30? below zero while others tout being pet friendly or even safe for tree and lawn areas. What is one to believe among all the hype and advertising? Let’s break it down.

 

Ice Melt can be easily used in a convenient shaker to keep walkways safe and clear of ice.

Ice Melt can be easily used in a convenient shaker to keep walkways safe and clear of ice.

 

 

Melting Power
Ice melts have one primary purpose, to keep water from freezing and/or melting ice already present. These products are able to achieve this amazing task by lowering the freezing point of water. So the first thing to consider is the temperature range in which the product will need to work. Some inexpensive ice melts work well only to 15 or 20?compared to expensive products that can melt ice down to -70?. For my clients in Vermont and New Hampshire, I suggest using a product that is effective to at least 0 to -10?.

Corrosiveness
Due to the corrosive nature of many ice melt products, an equally important factor to consider is the degree of potential damage you are willing to accept on structural elements such as concrete and brick, as well as harm to pets and trees, shrubs and grass. And please consider the runoff into our waterways.

The corrosive nature of many ice melts brings me to the two main classes of ice melts, the chlorides (salts), and the acetates also known as (CMA).

Chlorides (Salts)
The chlorides range from the cheapest ice melt, known as rock salt or halite, all the way up to Potassium chloride. In terms of performance the chlorides melting power ranges from 20 to -50? below zero. Chlorides are generally the most widely used and affordable under normal winter temperatures in northern climates. However, chlorides are generally the most corrosive on steel, brick and concrete and pose the most risk of damage to surrounding lawns or trees and your pets. The cheapest bag is not necessarily going to be the best buy or deal.

Acetates (CMA)
The second type of ice melts are the acetates, or CMA for calcium magnesium acetate. When blended or used alone, CMA has the least corrosive characteristic of any ice melt product, but are significantly more expensive than chloride. Acetates also have an active melting characteristic down to -70? below zero which makes them ideal very cold climates and critical uses such as airport runways. When acetates are blended with chlorides the result is superior performance, lower corrosive characteristics and lower price. The more CMA blended into the ice melt, the more expensive it will be.

 

Other Considerations
If you have pets, be sure to use a pet friendly ice melt blended with some CMA or potassium chloride. The risk is not only to the paws themselves, but if the pet licks their paws and ingests the product. Even with a pet friendly ice melt, try and stick to the recommended amount of product and wash off or clean your pets paws if out for an extended period of time.

 

Certain ice melts have dye in them for ease of application (so you can see where it has been applied) while others pull water out of the air and become hard and unusable if not stored properly. Regardless of the type of ice melt you purchase, improper use can cause undesirable side effects such as damaging your lawn or pitting concrete walkways. Inevitably, your ice melt will track into the house as a consequence of extended use but the safety gained from avoiding a fall seems well worth the necessary clean up.

 
Chippers offers ice melt blended with CMA based on its overall versatility, safety, and cost. Our ice melt is available in convenient refillable 12lb shakers, a 50lb bag, by the pallet, and we deliver to local homes or businesses. For the latest pricing, just call our office or simply send me an e-mail by responding to this blog post.  We do not recommend rock salt because of the damage it causes to lawns and home landscapes when there are so many other better choices when it comes to ice melters.

 
Be Safe
Remember, no ice melt is 100% perfect, but each type has its advantage as it relates to use and temperature range. As a final note, ice melts prevent accidents and can create a safer outdoor environment during winter months, so be sure and do some research and pick the product that best suits your needs for ice reduction. Stay safe…the snow and ice are just around the corner.

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Late fall lawn tips: raking and mowing

You know the lawns, the ones that stay buried in leaves from October until Memorial Day or the perfectly clean ones where not a single leaf can be found by Thanksgiving. Although these two kinds of lawns are at opposite ends of the autumn-leaf-removal spectrum, the point is made; you should do something about those leaves before the snow flies.

 

 

A clean, healthy green lawn will better handle winter issues.

A clean, healthy green lawn will better handle winter issues.

Heavy leaf cover acts like mulch and remember, we mulch to keep weeds and seeds from germinating in our landscape. The deeper the leaf cover and the larger the piles, the more likely this lawn will thin out or end up as bare ground come late spring. The best solution to lots of leaves is a late season cleanup in November, well after foliage season has passed.

 
While obtaining a perfectly clean lawn is not necessary, a good raking or professional cleanup will go a long way toward protecting your lawn come winter. This way, next spring when things starting growing, your lawn can join the green-up and not be inhibited or damaged from heavy leaf cover left over from the prior year.

 
Another important item on the fall checklist is the final mowing. I get these questions a lot, “How short do I mow my lawn and when should the final cut be?” Generally, in northern New England, the final cut should be in November. The final mowing height should range right around 1.5”, depending upon grade, because an uneven lawn may be severely scalped if cut this low.

 

 

 

A healthy fall lawn

 

A short cut can help minimize snow mold, winter kill, ice damage, and even vole damage as outlined in my earlier post http://www.mrgrassblog.net/2014/10/20/mole-voles-landscape/. This is the only time of year I recommend a very short cut! A lawn that is left long (over 3”) is in jeopardy and greater peril for damage from the aforementioned issues. Add to that excessive leaf cover and your lawn can soon turn into a parking area versus a green space to enjoy.

 

The moral of today’s blog post is to cut your lawn short in November and keep it relatively leaf free before the snow flies for a happier and greener lawn next spring!

 

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Mole and Voles in your Landscape

Moles and voles remind me that not all lawn problems are directly related to weed, disease, or insect issues. Moles and voles can be real lawn nuisances and I have not really addressed these varmints in the past. Moles and voles are very different critters and an ounce of prevention can help keep your landscape free of both of these pests.

 

Field Vole

A common vole
Moles are carnivorous animals that primarily eat earth worms, adult insects, and a variety of grubs in the soil. Voles by contrast are rodents and look much like a mouse. Voles seek to eat grass blades, bulbs, bark, roots, and succulent vegetation on trees and shrubs in and around your home. One is a meat eater and the other is a vegetarian and both cause an eye sore with their tunneling and feeding activities in lawns and beds. Mole and vole activity peak between September and April. Moles aggressively forage for insects in your home landscape.

 

Common Mole

A common mole.
Neither moles nor voles hibernate, so they can cause damage year round. Moles have two kinds of tunnels, a surface feeding tunnel with the characteristic mound of soil pushed up, as well as a lower “interstate highway” for long distance travel to say the woods or a mulch bed. Voles’ tunnels are similar to the mole surface feeding tunnel, less the mound of dirt. You may have moles or voles but neither has any direct correlation to the other in terms of sharing tunnels or food source. Both varmints make a mess and their tunneling can drive home owners into frenzy much like the groundskeeper in the movie Caddyshack.

 

Classic "volcano mounds" caused by mole activity in a lawn visible in late October

Classic “volcano mounds” caused by mole activity in October

Now that we have outlined key differences between a mole and vole, what can be done? Regular mowing is very helpful toward discouraging a resident mole or vole but is not the only preventative action available.
To discourage voles, keeping clean gardens, landscape beds, and mulch depth to less than 2”removes potential nesting sites. Overgrown plants, excessive leaf litter, and deep mulch in your gardens or landscape are ideal habitats for voles. Be sure to clean out all the fall leaf litter around your foundation to remove vole nesting sites before winter. Cutting your lawn short to 1.5” in November will help reduce a surface food source under the snow. Since voles are rodents, you can also use mouse traps placed around ornamental shrubs like you would in your home.
Moles meaty food source of worms, grubs, and insects ironically often means you have healthy soil under your lawn. While grub reduction can be helpful, it is not the moles’ main food or only food source. Since moles don’t like a lot of traffic or sound, I have seen sonic devices do a nice job on making a hostile habitat; creating a rock concert atmosphere if you will. I have mole baits which used as a last resort will take out your resident mole(s).
When it comes to controlling moles and voles, a tidy landscape is a healthy landscape. Weekly walks around your lawn and garden beds can help spot a mole or vole infestation before it becomes a big problem. Placing mouse traps for voles is a simple, yet effective means to protecting your valuable landscape.

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