Q: What kind of deicer should I use that won’t hurt my plants? I used some deicer that I happened to have on hand and it turned my brick white. Is that bad?

A: The white color is a film left behind from the salts in the deicer. It’s not permanent and will wash away. If you’re looking for deicers that will have less impact on plants, we recommend staying away from rock salt and using windshield washer fluid or a product that’s labeled as plant-friendly. Windshield washer fluid has alcohol that will lower the freezing temperature of water, though it’s better at melting ice than preventing it. In an emergency you could also use fertilizer (yes, fertilizer!). If you use a fertilizer, try to use one that’s low-strength and high in potassium. It’s the potassium that does the deicing. Don’t make it a regular habit though, the excess fertilizer will eventually make its way to the bay.

Whatever you use, be sure not to use too much. One mistake people sometimes make with deicer is to use too much. Don’t expect deicer to completely melt ice. Instead, use the amount indicated in the directions and shovel away the ice once it has become slushy or broken up.

One concern with deicers is damage to concrete. Most commonly used deicers don’t directly attack concrete, it’s the repeated freezing and thawing that causes spalling. This problem will be most evident on poor quality concrete with little or no entrained air. If you think your concrete might be susceptible, calcium chloride might be your best choice, it works at lower temperatures, reducing the number of freeze-thaw cycles.

Here’s some additional information from the University of Missouri Extension:

There are five chemicals commonly used as deicers. They may be used alone or combined with other materials to enhance their performance.

  • Calcium chloride often works better than other deicing salts, especially at lower temperatures, because it gives off heat as it melts. It also will not leave behind a residue unless mixed with other chemicals.
  • Sodium chloride, or rock salt, is relatively inexpensive, but it can burn plants and corrode metal and concrete. It was first used as a road deicer in the 1940s. 
  • Potassium chloride is a naturally-occurring material that is also used as a fertilizer and food salt substitute. Its high salt index has the potential to burn foliage and inhibit rooting. 
  • Urea is made from ammonia and carbon dioxide and is used primarily as a nitrogen-based fertilizer. It is less likely to burn foliage than does potassium chloride. 
  • Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) is a new, salt-free melting agent. It is made from dolomitic limestone and acetic acid (the main compound of vinegar). This material has little impact on plants and animals, is a good alternative for environmentally-sensitive areas.

For locations where chemical deicers aren’t appropriate, sand or cat litter can provide some traction but will not melt snow and ice.

-Phillip Merritt

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Bed Transformation!

Once again I am very pleased with the excellent work H&G did on my property.  They turned a section of my ugly front yard with invasive Bermuda grass into a beautiful and simple flower bed with mulch and many small bushes.  This striking transformation adds greatly to the house’s curb appeal.  I look forward to them coming back out this fall and replacing the rest of the front yard with sod and removing all the undesirable Bermuda grass.  Brian was easy and pleasant to work and plan with.  He always responded to my questions immediately.  Jon and his crew were likewise very nice, efficient, and perfectionists in planting my new yard.  Many thanks and accolades to H&G once again!

Sandy Hall

So thankful to be a customer!

when i returned to williamsburg in 2022, it was a real challenge to find a company willing to take on “yet one more customer” – i was ignored and turned down by others… but hertzler and george came to my rescue and i could not be happier – wonderful staff, professional and so friendly, i completely trust them to service my yard!  merry christmas and happy new year to everyone and H&G!


Drainage Help

I would like to let you know how happy we are with the service we received recently.
We had a drainage issue in our yard and did some research, learned your company was highly recommended and decided to see what your company could do.
From the first contact, we had a great experience as the lady that answered the phone was very nice. She put us in contact with Brian Kemp who we also liked from the start, and we made an appt for him to come and take a look. He was right on time, very thorough, and just a very nice fella who we both liked right away and had confidence in. We really liked how he gave us options and listened to what we wanted. We scheduled the work, it was done right on time, and it looks great! Brian was even nice enough to do a video walk through for us afterwards as we weren’t in town. Just great service from start to finish! Thank you Brian

We will definitely be back with more projects in the future.

T.M. - Ford's Colony

Thank You

Just a short note to thank you for all the help you gave us with our garden this year. Jonathon again did a wonderful job doing the bed detailing this summer, as did the mulching crew in the spring. I don’t know the name of the woman who supervised the mulching crew, but I want to let you know how professional she was. In fact, the entire crew was pleasant to work with, especially to experience the care that they took with their work.

Thanks also for being so flexible with the changes we requested for our mowing schedule.

E.L. - Ford's Colony

Always Helpful

Brian came out last week to try to assess a problem we are having in our yard.  He arrived on time, was extremely courteous and took a considerable amount of time analyzing our situation.  While he was unable to reach a solution, he did take the time to research and recommend another business that might be able to help us.  That kind of customer service will make us more likely to call on Hertzler & George if other issues arise.  Thanks, Brian!