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Sand on Ice vs Salt on Ice

Winterizing 🕔February 10, 2014

by DoItYourself
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In snowy environment it is vital to find an effective way of dealing with ice. Sand and salt are the two main options for dealing with icy roads, but they both have their advantages and disadvantages. To best know what material to use to manage ice in your area and under your conditions, you need to understand both materials.

How Salt Works to Manage Ice

Salt helps to melt ice by decreasing the freezing temperature of the water. Pure water freezes at 32 degrees F, but a 20% solution of ice drops the freezing point to almost 0 degrees F. However, to work on the ice, the salt must end up in a water solution. This can happen when sunlight, traffic friction, or heat in the pavement melts some of the ice, or by the salt attracting water from the atmosphere.

How Sand Works to Manage Ice

Sand and other abrasive materials work by improving traction over ice. Friction may melt the ice, but this is an incidental addition to the functionality.

Advantages of Using Salt

Salt removes the ice from the road, melting it as long as the temperature is not too low.

Advantages of Sand

Sand can be used effectively at any temperature. As long as it is spread over the ice it will provide the necessary traction.

Disadvantages of Using Salt

There is a limited temperature window in which salt can be used to de-ice roads. Below that temperature range, the ice is too cold to melt even if the salt forms a layer of brine. Even within the effective range, more salt is needed the colder it is, and the slower it will work.

Also, dry snow will stick to a salted ice patch while it will blow off an unsalted ice patch, meaning if the salt is applied during a storm it can cause further dangers on the road.

Disadvantages of Using Sand

If the weather is too cold, the sand can clump and freeze together, becoming part of the ice and providing no traction. Adding some salt can keep this from happening.
Sand is only effective as long it is on the surface. If it is buried under more snow, it must be reapplied. Heavy traffic areas will also quickly move the sand off the road, requiring regular reapplication.

Ecological Impact of Using Salt

Salt and salt water runoff contaminate the area around the road and down the drainage path. Vegetation within 60 feet of the road is damaged, and salt can contaminate ground water and wells.

Salt will also degrade steel and concrete structures. This means using salt will damage the cars on the road as well as bridge structures and even pavement. New construction techniques are minimizing this problem, but it is not yet solved.

Ecological Impact of Using Sand

Sand and other abrasive materials collect on the sides of the road, in drainage ditches, and can be washed into streams and lakes. Clean up after storms is becoming a bigger and bigger concern. Particles can also be ground up and become an air pollution concern.

Because sand is often combined with salt to improve effectiveness, all the environmental impacts of salt also apply to most applications of sand.

Neither sand nor salt is a perfect solution for removing ice from the roads. However, they are the best options currently available.

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9 Eco-Friendly Ways to De-Ice Your Driveway

Winterizing 🕔February 10, 2014

by Diane MacEachern
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What’s wrong with salt? Plenty. Try these alternatives to remove snow and ice from the driveway without harming the environment.

Tis the season for snow and ice – only fun if you’re a penguin or like to walk with an ice pick. For the rest of us, the big challenge is dealing with frozen precipitation once it hits the ground, especially if we want to be “eco friendly.” These tips will help.

What’s wrong with rock salt? Many consumers use rock salt to clear a path through the snow around their homes. But this is not ideal for the planet.

5 Problems With Salt

1. Excess salts build up in the soil, just as they do with chemical fertilizers.

2. Salt residue prevents plants from absorbing moisture and nutrients.

3. Salts can leach heavy metals, which eventually make their way into water supplies.

4. Salt on grass or sidewalks close to roads can attract animals, which may be hit by cars if they’re licking the salt from the ground.

5. Plus, salt can burn our pets if it lodges in their paws.

Yes, salt does effectively melt snow. But is there a better way?

9 Eco-Friendly Ways to De-Ice Your Driveway

1. Shovel Snow
Minimize snow and ice by shoveling, and the sooner after snow stops falling, the better. If shoveling is too challenging for you, pay a neighborhood kid a few dollars to help.

2. Go Electric (if you must)
If you prefer to use a snow blower, get an electric model. Gas-powered blowers generate a lot more air and noise pollution

3. Try a “Snow Melt Mat”
If you’re installing a new driveway or replacing an old one, lay down electric wires to heat the driveway from below and radiate heat upwards. Yes, you pay for electricity, so it’s not as “eco” as shoveling by hand. On the other hand, it may be better than using chemicals that pollute the water and endanger plants and pets. It would cost someone living in the Washington, DC area (where I live) about $14 in electricity each time the system was used – though that doesn’t include the cost of installing the system. Electricity costs will vary by region. (NOTE: I’m not recommending you tear up a perfectly good driveway to put in a snow melt system!)

4. Get a Grip
Scatter sand or even birdseed for traction. The grains won’t melt snow or ice, but they will give you more grip on icy surfaces.

5. Scrimp on the De-icer
Remember, the job of a de-icer is to loosen ice from below to make it easier to shovel or plow. Don’t pile on the de-icer thinking you’ll remove the ice completely. You won’t. The recommended application rate for rock salt is around a handful per square yard you treat. Calcium chloride will treat about 3 square yards per handful.

6. Pick Your Salt Carefully
If you do use salt, choose wisely. Sodium chloride (NaCL) may contain cyanide. Calcium chloride (CaCl) is slightly better since less goes farther, but it is still not ideal, since its run-off still increases algae growth, which clogs waterways. Potassium chloride is another salt to avoid. • Whatever you use, keep it away from landscape plants, especially those that are particularly salt-sensitive, like tulip poplars, maples, balsam firs, white pines, hemlock, Norway spruce, dogwood, redbud, rose bushes and spirea bushes.

7. Skip the Kitty Litter or Wood Ashes
Neither melts snow and ice, and they have a tendency to get messy when it warms up.

8. Avoid Products that Contain Nitrogen-Based Urea
They’re more expensive and are not effective once the temperature drops below 20°F. Plus, the application rate for urea during a single deicing is ten times greater than that needed to fertilize the same area of your yard. Remember that the urea you apply to the ground will eventually run off into the street, down the drain, and into lakes and streams.

9. Get the Boot
Wear boots that have a solid toe and bottom treads to help increase your grip on icy surfaces.

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Winterizing Your Irrigation System

Winterizing 🕔February 10, 2014

by Hunter Industries
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Every year, before the first freeze, the ritual of irrigation “blow out” becomes the priority for all irrigation systems in regions located where the frost level extends below the depth of installed piping.

Even if you have drained the water out of your irrigation system, some water remains and can freeze, expand, and crack PVC piping (rigid, white pipe). Polyethylene pipe (flexible, black pipe) is used in many freezing climates. Although polyethylene pipe is more flexible and can expand under pressure, water left inside can freeze and rupture the pipe walls. Freezing water in the backflow assembly will damage the internal components and can crack the brass body.

To minimize the risk of freeze damage, you’ll need to winterize your irrigation system. In areas where winterization is mandatory, irrigation systems are installed using one of three types of water removal: manual drain, auto drain, or blowout. If you don’t know your system type, it is best to use the blowout method.

Manual Drain Method

Use the manual drain method when manual valves are located at the end and low points of the irrigation piping. To drain these systems, simply shut off the irrigation water supply and open all the manual drain valves.

Once the water has drained out of the mainline, open the boiler drain valve or the drain cap on the stop and waste valve (whichever is used in your area) and drain all the remaining water that is between the irrigation water shut off valve and the backflow device. Open the test cocks on the backflow device. If your sprinklers have check valves, you’ll need to pull up on the sprinklers to allow the water to drain out of the bottom of the sprinkler body. Depending on the location of the drain valves, there could be some water left in the backflow, the piping, and the sprinklers. When all the water has drained out, close all the manual drain valves.

Automatic Drain Method

Use this method when automatic drain valves are located at the end and low points of the irrigation piping. These will automatically open and drain water if the pressure in the piping is less than 10 PSI. To activate these, shut off the irrigation water supply (shut off will be located in the basement and will be either a gate/globe valve, ball valve, or stop and waste valve – see drawings below) and activate a station to relieve the system pressure.

Once the water has drained out of the mainline, open the boiler drain valve or the drain cap on the stop and waste valve (whichever is used in your area) and drain the remaining water that is between the irrigation water shut off valve and the backflow device. Open the test cocks on the backflow device. If your sprinklers have check valves you’ll need to pull up on the sprinklers to allow the water to drain out the bottom of the sprinkler body. Depending on the location of the drain valves, there could be some water left in the backflow, the piping, and the sprinklers.

In some areas you might have a combination of the manual drain system on the mainline (the pipe between the irrigation water shut off valve and the valves) and auto drain system on the lateral lines (the pipe between the valves and the sprinklers).

Blow Out Method

Blow out on a spray

Blow out on a spray

Blow out on a rotor

Blow out on a rotor

WARNING! Wear ANSI-approved safety eye protection! Extreme care must always be taken when blowing out an irrigation system with compressed air. Compressed air can cause serious injury, including serious eye injury, from flying debris. Always wear ANSI approved safety eye protection and do not stand over any irrigation components (pipes, sprinklers, and valves) during air blow out. Serious personal injury may result if you do not proceed as recommended! It is best for a qualified licensed contractor to perform this type of winterization method.

The blow out method utilizes an air compressor with a Cubic Foot per Minute (CFM) rating of 80-100 for any mainline of 2″ or less. These types of compressors can be rented at your local equipment rental yard. Caution: a small shop compressor (1-3 HP) will not have enough “free” air to properly winterize the system. Do not attempt to fully charge the holding tank then release the highly-pressurized air flow into the mainline to compensate for the compressor’s lack of CFM. The compressor is attached to the mainline via a quick coupler, hose bib or other type connection, which is located after the backflow device. Compressed air should not be blown through any backflow device. To start the blow out, shut off the irrigation water supply and, with the compressor valve in the closed position, attach the air compressor hose to the fitting. Activate the station on the controller that is the zone or sprinklers highest in elevation and the furthest from the compressor. Close the backflow isolation valves. Then slowly open the valve on the compressor; this should gradually introduce air into the irrigation system. The blow out pressure should remain below the maximum operating pressure specification of the lowest pressure rated component on that zone and should NEVER exceed 80 PSI.

Each station/zone should be activated starting from the furthest station/zone from the compressor, slowly working your way to the closest station/zone to the compressor. Each station/zone should be activated until no water can be seen exiting the heads; this should take approximately two minutes or more per station/zone. It is better to use two or three short cycles per station/zone than to have one long cycle. Once the station/zone is dry, you should not continue to blow air through the pipe. Compressed air moving through dry pipes can cause friction, which will create heat and could cause damage. Never run the compressor without at least one irrigation control valve open.

Additional Steps

Once the water has been removed from the irrigation system, disconnect the air compressor and release any air pressure that may be present. If your backflow device (the most common backflow installed is called a Pressure Vacuum Breaker) has ball valves, open and close the isolation valves on the backflow device numerous times to ensure that any trapped water has escaped from the upper areas. Leave the isolation valves open at a 45° angle (approximately 1/2 open) and open the test cocks.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 1.23.53 PM

Preparing a hydraulic control system

Shut off the water supply to the signal control tube(s) and drain the field tubing.

Outdoor mounted controllers
Leave the power on and the dial / switch in the “OFF” position. The heat from the transformer will keep the enclosure warm enough to keep condensation from forming inside the controller enclosure. The dial in the “OFF” position will keep the controller from activating the solenoids in the field.

Indoor mounted controllers
Leave the power on and the dial / switch in the “OFF” position. This will prevent the controller from activating the solenoids in the field.

Rain Sensors
There is very little winter preparation required for rain sensors. If your sensor is the type with a cup or bowl that catches water, you might want to remove the water and place a plastic bag over the sensor. This will keep any water from accumulating and freezing in the cup or bowl area.

The Do NOTS of Blow Out Winterization

WARNING! WEAR ANSI APPROVED SAFETY EYE PROTECTION! Extreme care must always be taken when blowing out the system with compressed air. Compressed air can cause serious injury, including serious eye injury, from flying debris. Always wear ANSI approved safety eye protection and do not stand over any irrigation components (pipes, sprinklers, and valves) during air blow out. SERIOUS PERSONAL INJURY MAY RESULT IF YOU DO NOT PROCEED AS RECOMMENDED!

1. Do not allow the air pressure to exceed 80 PSI for systems with PVC piping and 50 PSI for systems with polyethylene piping.
2. Do not leave flow sensors installed. Always remove them first and seal the pipe to avoid damage to the sensor. More information.
3. Do not stand over component parts while the system is pressurized with air.
4. Do not leave the air compressor unattended.
5. Do not blow the system out through a backflow or pump. First blow out the system, then drain the backflow or pump.
6. Do not leave the manual drain valves open after the blow out.

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Winterizing Your Lawn 0

Winterizing 🕔February 10, 2014

by Weed Man
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The grass plants in a home lawn are living organisms that need to be properly cared for all year round. The harsh winter months in our climate are the hardest on the grass plant, and the Autumn is when the grass plant begins to prepare itself for winter, and next summer. Fall maintenance practices are important in building up the plant’s tolerance to damaging temperature fluctuations, and disease organisms.


Autumn is the most crucial time to fertilize your lawn. It is during the cool days of fall that the grass plant slows its top growth and begins storing nutrients and sugars for the harsh months ahead. The storing process continues for as long as the plant is green. A fall fertilization is critical-this is the time when the plant is building reserves to maintain its health and thus determines the quality of next summer’s lawn. Nitrogen and Potassium are essential parts of this process. Once the summer’s rations are used up, the grass plant is ready for another feeding in the fall to increase root growth and fill them with food. These nutrients are also extremely beneficial in increasing the plant’s resistance to damaging diseases, which will often attack when the plant is in a weakened state.


The benefits of fall aeration to the grass plant cannot be stressed enough. This service reduces soil compaction, excessive thatch, and provides a top dressing for the lawn. By breaking up compaction and removing excess thatch, the infiltration of fertilizer nutrients, sunlight and air down into the soil is greatly improved. With this improved movement of needed elements, root growth is stimulated and extensive growth of stunted root systems occurs. By greatly improving root growth, the grass plant can reach and store more nutrients and water necessary to improve its health and stress tolerance, which will directly benefit the lawn’s quality next summer.


Just as mowing below the recommended height in the heat of summer will damage your lawn, so too will mowing too short in the cold weather of fall. When the cool weather of Autumn arrives, raise your mowing height to one half inch above the recommended height for the summer months. This will help stimulate stunted roots. For the final mowing of the year, lower your mowing height to one half inch below the standard summer mowing height. This will help the foliage prepare for winter and avoid damage from disease. As well, the clippings from the final mowing should be left on the lawn as mulch only if a mulching mower can be used. This will protect the delicate crowns of the grass plants, and provide valuable nutrients for the lawn.


It is important to remove all large piles of debris that cannot be mulched back into the lawn with your lawn mower. Lawn mower attachments are available that chop grass and leaves into tiny bits that provide a light top dressing which will supply nutrients to the soil as they breakdown. Large quantities of debris will not breakdown quickly, and so will damage the lawn by suffocating it, and by giving a moist home to damaging disease organisms. Please contact the office of you local Weed Man for more information.

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Winterize Landscape Equipment

Winterizing 🕔February 10, 2014

by Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator
UNL Extension in Lancaster County
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From trowels to tillers, gardening equipment will last longer and do a better job for you if you spend some time on preventive maintenance each fall. Getting tools in tiptop condition now also means they’ll be ready to use when the gardening bug bites next spring.

Power Equipment

The owner’s manual on your garden tractor, lawn mower, tiller or other power equipment is usually your best guide for winterization. Generally, however, the main steps include the following:

  • Clean equipment to remove oil, dirt and accumulate grass clippings or other debris.
  • Drain the fuel tank and engine of gasoline. Or just start the engine and let it run until it stops.
  • Change the oil.
  • Clean and sharpen the blade.
  • Adjust and lubricate moving parts as needed.
  • Clean or replace the air filter. Also remove the spark plug and place a teaspoon of clean oil in the cylinder. Then turn the engine over with the starter so the oil lubricates the cylinder walls and valves. This protects against rust.
  • Replace the old spark plug or buy a new one and install it. Clean the tops of the batteries and store them where they won’t freeze.
  • Chainsaws and other engine-driven equipment that will be used during winter should be drained and refueled in late fall with winter-grade gasoline.

Order parts that you’ll need in spring, and tape or tie them to the equipment so they won’t get lost. If you store them elsewhere, write a note to yourself and tape or tie it to the equipment to remind yourself of what needs to be done and where the parts are stored.

Hand Tools and Sprayers

Hand tools used to work the soil should be cleaned before storage. Remove the soil from metal parts and wipe them with an oily rag. Check for any loose screws or nuts and tighten them. Replace weak, damaged or broken handles. Wood handles and wood ladders can be treated with a wood preservative made from 1 part linseed oil and 2 parts paint thinner applied with a brush. Store tools where they won’t be exposed to dampness.

Drain garden hoses before storing. Store them coiled up and laying flat, or draped over hose supports or reels. Don’t allow them to hang on a nail, or lie on the ground with several kinks. Kinks or sharp bends create weak areas in the hose, that make using the hose difficult and often crack in the future.

Hedge trimmers and other pruning tools are often sticky with pitch and sap by the end of the growing season. A rag dipped in paint thinner will clean them. After cleaning, sharpen and oil tools before storing them.

Garden sprayers, dusters and fertilizer spreaders also need thorough cleaning so that chemicals don’t clog moving parts or nozzles. Dry fertilizers left in a spreader will absorb water, which will contribute to rust and general deterioration. Wash the fertilizer spreader out, allowing any residual fertilizer to soak into the lawns then set it out to dry. After emptying and cleaning equipment, lubricate moving parts and rub rust-prone metal with an oily rag before storing.

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Winter Landscaping Tips 1

Winterizing 🕔February 10, 2014

by Kelly Roberson
Better Homes and Gardens
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Gardeners in snowy regions have plenty of reasons to get cold feet about winter: Plants are at rest and their bright colors dissipate, leaving a palette of white and gray. And with nothing to plant, they might think there are few winter landscaping tips — or to dos. In fact, careful planning in spring, summer, and fall — plus a few easy accents during winter — can lead to a beautiful landscape that shines against the stark relief of the restful season. “If you want to be sure you have some winter interest in your garden, you are really looking at just a few things,” says Barbara Pierson, nursery manager at White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut.


Here are Pierson’s six winter landscaping tips to make you love your yard in every season.

1. Focus on bark. Sure, deciduous trees lose their leaves in wintertime, leaving their branches and trunks in focus. But that can be a good thing, Pierson says, “if you have any interesting ornamental trees that have really visually distinctive bark, which will end up adding winter interest.”

Many of those trees and some shrubs are smaller, meaning they’re easier to find spots for in the winter landscape. A few of Pierson’s favorites include dogwoods and birch trees, great for both texture and color.

2. Include berries. Many trees and shrubs have berries they hold onto during fall and winter, and those can provide food for birds overwintering in your area. “Crabapples hold their little fruit,” Pierson says, and they make a great addition to the winter landscape. “A holly with berries is really beautiful,” she says.

Discover top berry-producing plants.


3. Remember evergreens. Evergreens are great in the winter landscape for many reasons. First, there’s color: Evergreens are not just green; they’re available in yellow, such as Gold Thread false cypress, and blues, including dwarf blue spruce, and all colors in between. And evergreens just make good design sense, Pierson says. “They are really important for a winter landscape, but they make good focal points all year-round,” she says. “I always like to have at least one or two evergreens and work a border around those. When you are planting a new bed, you always want to have at least one evergreen.”

Check out some top evergreen varieties.

See landscaping ideas for evergreens.


4. Rely on your hardscape. Winter is a good time to critically assess your landscape, figuring out where it’s missing focal points. The solution to enhancing your winter landscaping might not be a plant at all. “Winter is the best time to consider hardscape,” Pierson says. “A trellis, a bench, an arbor, even a garden sculpture are really essential.”

Don’t miss these arbor ideas!


5. Adorn your summertime containers. Window boxes, hanging baskets, winter-hardy containers: All are indispensable for winter landscaping. Miniature dwarf Alberta spruce and broadleaf evergreens, such as Japanese Andromeda, holly and rhododendron, are perfect for wintertime, but they all have to be watered during dry periods. You don’t have to spend money on plants, Pierson says. “Fill containers with evergreen boughs of different textures and colors and interesting twigs,” she says, “anything with color in it.”


6. Stick with four-season perennials. Some perennials have evergreen foliage — ornamental grasses, hellebores, even dianthus with its beautiful low-creeping foliage — making them great for winter landscaping, Pierson says. “Make sure to read the plant label and find out if the plant has foliage in the winter, so you can see it year-round,” she says.

Winter is also a great time to stock up on the nonplant elements you’ll need for the next year’s garden, Pierson says. “It’s a good time to bargain-shop for anything for the garden,” she says. Take a tape measure, research plants, figure out seeds you’ll need, and write down what worked and what didn’t in the current year.


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