Posts tagged ice

Frightful weather?

The following is from Linn County Master Gardener, Claire Smith:

           

It’s a debatable issue:  is the weather outside really frightful today?  Or, is it all in your perspective?  I was out and about this morning but arrived home in time to sit here at my computer plunking away for this week’s blog and watch the beautiful huge flakes of snow wafting to the ground. There’s just something mesmerizing about an Iowa snowfall.   Right now, right outside a kitchen window, a Cardinal is perched in a lilac bush sheltered in a blanket of white. What a sight!

            Speaking of birds, what will you do with your live tree after the Holidays?   How about, after removing the ornaments (especially the tinsel) propping the tree in your perennial garden?  It will add winter interest as well as shelter for birds that enjoy feeding on the seeds of coneflower, rudbeckia and liatris.  Or use it as mulch by pruning the branches and covering perennial and bulb gardens.  I’ll bet your neighbors would volunteer to let you take their trees, too. 

            Have you observed what wildlife visits your garden?  Their antics can be quite entertaining.  Note which plants helped bring them into the landscape. 

            Brush snow off shrubs and evergreens as the heavy wet stuff will cause breakage and damage. Prune only broken/damaged branches now.  

            Most importantly, investigate environmentally friendly methods of removing snow and ice from sidewalks and driveways.  Calcium Chloride is more expensive, but it is easier on your plants. Watch for new plant-friendly products entering the market. 

            And, if you haven’t found the perfect gift for a gardener friend, think about a journal, plant labels, hand pruners, flower scissors, a harvest basket (my second favorite choice), a gift certificate to a favorite garden center, or (my first choice!), a load of well seasoned manure, delivered. Yes! You read correctly!  It will be an inexpensive gift and certain to bring smiles to everyone’s faces. 

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Winter deja vu

    My daily gardening/weather log last winter reads something like this: ice storm; school canceled; snow; more snow; school delayed; more ice; snow; more snow, and on and on. By the end of March, I was actually rooting for a bit more snow so we could reach the top spot for the most snow on record.

   Already, this season feels like a continuation of the last, which culminated in June in the worst flooding we’ve ever seen in Eastern Iowa. While we can’t predict what the rest of the season holds, no matter what, I won’t be cheering for more snow come spring.

   This past winter, with its never-ending snow and ice storms, is one of the candidates for The Gazette’s Top 10 stories of 2008. That the weather still constitutes news is actually a good sign. I’m not looking forward to this becoming typical for Iowa. The flood, obviously, is another choice. You can still cast your votes for the Top 10 stories of the year. Ballots are running in The Gazette.

  

    

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Salt, de-icers and trees

The following is from the International Society of Arboriculture. The group’s Public and Industry Relations Manager, Sonia Garth, encouraged readers to also check out their Web site at www.treesaregood.org for more information.

 

     When winter snow and ice begin to fall, so does the salt, on driveways, sidewalks, and streets to aid in melting away potential hazards. Keeping our surroundings safe during the winter months is important, but salt can be a serious threat to our trees, when used without caution.

     “Excessive exposure to salt can cause widespread damage to your trees, leading to permanent decline and sometimes death,” said Jim Skiera, Executive Director of the ISA. “The problem with salt damage is that it might not show up on your trees until summer, when deicing salt is the last culprit you would suspect.” 

     To minimize the damage done to trees by deicing salts, Certified Arborists at ISA offer the following tips:

1. Use less salt. Mix deicing salt with abrasives such as sand, cinders, and ash, or use alternatives such as calcium magnesium acetate and calcium chloride.

2. Protect your trees from salt trucks on the street. If possible, set up barriers between the street and your trees to keep salt spray from hitting tree trunks.

3. Plant salt-resistant trees. Trees such as the sycamore maple, white spruce, willow, and birch tend to be more salt-resistant than other species. How well they fare varies from climate to climate across the country.

4. Improve soil drainage. Add organic matter to your soil to help filter salt deposits.

You can also keep your trees healthy by taking care of their basic needs. Other tips that will help combat the damage done by deicing salt include:

·        Irrigate to flush the salts from the soils in spring

·        Mulch sufficiently to reduce water loss.

·        Control pest infestations and destructive tree diseases.

     If you feel your trees may be susceptible to salt damage, contact a local ISA Certified Arborist in your area.

The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), headquartered in Champaign, Ill., is a nonprofit organization supporting tree care research and education around the world. As part of ISA’s dedication to the care and preservation of shade and ornamental trees, it offers the only internationally-recognized certification program in the industry. For more information on ISA and Certified Arborists, visit www.isa-arbor.com.

 

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Melting the ice

This is information compiled by Linn County Master Gardener Darrell Hennessey about a question frequently asked the Horticulture Hotline, regarding environmentally friendly alternatives to using salt for melting ice:
 Most deicing compounds are salts that melt the ice on our roads and sidewalks by reducing the melting point of water below 32’F.  Unfortunately they can damage metal, concrete and plants.  There are other alternatives to consider along with their relative merits and limitations:
 Sodium chloride (NaCl)—this is the more common table or rock salt.  It is one of the more readily available compounds and is least expensive.  However, we’re all familiar with the corrosive effects salt can have as well as damage to plants and soil.
 Calcium chloride (CaCl2)—this compound does not leave the white residue on floors and carpets that NaCl does, but it’s also highly corrosive to concrete and metals.  It’s only slightly less damaging to plants than common salt.  It is effective to about -20’F.
 Magnesium chloride (MgCl2)—effective down to about +5’F, and it doesn’t leave the powdery residue.
 All of these salts can damage landscape plants when used to excess.  High levels of salts can accumulate in the soil with the result that water uptake by plants is inhibited and either we count on heavy spring rains or manual flushing from the root zone to limit the effects.  High levels of salt restrict the uptake of essential nutrients by plant roots.  Salt deposited directly on plant foliage can result in dehydration of the plant tissue.
 Some alternative to consider:
             * Avoid using salt entirely (use coarse sand).
             * Reduce the effects by pre-wetting with a salt brine.  An abrasive such as 50 lbs. of sand, cinders or ash mixed with 1 lb. of salt can be an acceptable compromise.
            * Place a barrier between driveways and walkways and susceptible plants.
            * When all else fails, use plants sufficiently tolerant of exposure to salt.  The Extension office has a list of plants with varying susceptibilities.
 
Master Gardeners are available to answer horticulture questions in an unbiased, research-based manner as a free service to the community at (319) 447-0647.
 

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