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Snowy days are upon us at Longwood Gardens. While the glistening white powder makes our trees, garden structures, and gardens seem a bit more majestic, it can also make our paths and grounds slick for our boot-wearing guests.
Although our first priority is keeping our visitors safe during the slippery winter months, Longwood Gardens is committed to sustainability and avoids using plant-harming rock salt wherever possible.
Yes, rock salt effectively helps us deice driveways, sidewalks, and parking lots – but there are better, greener ways to get the similar, if not better, anti-slip results.
“Here at Longwood we use sand as an alternative deicing product to keep our plants and visitors equally safe,” says Casey Sclar, Longwood’s Plant Health Care Division Leader. “By using sand, it poses less risk to plants and subsequently less salt residue reaches our water supplies.” Sclar says although sand won’t melt away ice like salt, it will help create traction.
Salts of any kind are not used in the major areas of the Gardens says Sclar. “The overuse of rock salt creates salt burn which prevents plant growth, not to mention that salt can chemically burn your pets if it gets lodged in their paws.” Additional environmentally harmful effects caused by the use of rock salt include: the leaching of heavy metals into water supplies and the excess buildup of salt in soil.
“Four to five years ago, when Longwood was using more rock salt throughout the property, turf tests in the springtime reported that the edges of the grounds closest to walkways had increased levels of sodium,” says Sclar. “We knew we had to invest in better, more eco-friendly ways to deice our gardens.”
In some less trafficed places throughout the Gardens a mix of sand and salt is used. “We do use a blend of sand and salt called calcium chloride in areas like the perimeter of the Gardens and the visitor parking lot. This material poses the least threat to our plants and soil than plain old salt (sodium chloride),” says Sclar.
Tips for homeowners
For homeowners, Sclar has two recommendations that can help you win the ice battle in a environmentally responsible way.
“The key lies with designing your space right,” says Sclar, “Putting heat under walkways in commercial settings, or designing slopes on walkways so that water doesn’t pool and freeze can minimize the use of any products, especially when combined with surfaces that are slip-resistant.”
Another de-icing product that is less harmful to the environment is calcium magnesium acetate (CMA). “This product unfortunately is too expensive for the daily use of our large grounds, but is a terrific and eco-friendly alternative to rock salt for homeowners with a small property,” says Sclar.
The bottom line is, clearing away snow before ice has the chance to freeze is the only method that doesn’t add anything harmful to the environment – but hopefully with these tips we can all beat the ice in a greener way.
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Meet the arborists and gardeners that care for our trees and flowers throughout Spring Blooms, and see demonstrations throughout our Conservatory and outdoor gardens.
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Get ready for an evening of oohs and ahhs, as Longwood presents spectacular Fireworks & Fountains shows guaranteed to make your summer memorable.
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Registration is now open for our 2013 Continuing Education courses!
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