Ready or Not

By National Gardening Association Editors


Lake Champlain International

Ready or not, here it comes (and for some, here it is)! Snow and ice is on the way, which means that it's time to get ready to clear our sidewalks and driveways. But instead of reaching for the traditional de-icing salt (sodium chloride or rock salt), consider alternatives that are much safer for streams, rivers, and lakes, as well as lawns, perennials, shrubs, and trees. De-icing salt, like anything else that we put on our sideways, driveways, and lawns, will eventually be swept down to local waterways and bodies of water by rain and snow melt, causing harm to water quality, frogs, insects, and fish.

This winter, try a chloride-based de-icer (check on the label for potassium chloride, calcium chloride or magnesium chloride) instead of regular salt de-icers. Watch out for corn-based de-icers, though; they usually contain high phosphorus levels that could contribute to algae blooms in ponds and lakes next summer. Perhaps most important, try to use as little de-icer as possible. Shovel early and often so snow doesn't build up. Mix de-icer with an abrasive such as sand and start with a small amount as soon as icing begins. Keep adding additional small amounts as needed and you'll get the most melting for the least amount of chemicals. A little change can go a long way for clean water!

From our friends at Lake Champlain International, the water quality experts. More tips at

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