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Icy spots near plant life need to be treated with care

Tracey FitzgibbonALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q. We have a few spots on our walkways that tend to stay icy, but I worry about spreading ice melt on those spaces since the lawn runs right up to them. I seem to remember that the ice melt can harm plant life. So what can we do to keep us safer? – A.S., Albuquerque

A. First, I’d try to keep those spots swept as soon as the liquid collects so there is a smaller space for an icy patch to form.

Next, if it’s a yard sprinkler creating the mess, re-aim the sprinkler head so it doesn’t spray the walk. I have seen commercial ice melts that say they are plant-friendly, so keep an eye out for them when you’re shopping for an ice melt.

Consider spreading a lawn fertilizer that is very high in nitrogen. The nitrogen will create a certain amount of heat, allowing you to sweep the spots, helping them dry out.

How do you know if your fertilizer contains a high content? On most fertilizers, you’ll find a three-number listing. Something like 16-0-0 or 28-4-4. Those three numbers tell what elements are in the fertilizer. Nitrogen content is the first number, phosphorus is the second number, and potassium is the third.

So you’re looking for a granular fertilizer that has a high first number. Any lawn food worth its weight should have a high first number for the job it’s supposed to do. It’s the nitrogen that feeds the green blades of the grass.

Now remember that there will, to a certain extent, be an overabundance of fertilizer perhaps running into the lawn, so you will want to soak those lawn areas periodically to be sure the fertilizer isn’t kept too concentrated in those areas.

Another caution would be any extra iron or sulfur the fertilizer might contain. The iron or sulfur can sometimes color or spot concrete, so as soon as you can, sweep the product off the walkways and get it watered into the lawn. Be as vigilant as you can by sweeping off those collection spots so they dry naturally, re-aim any sprinklers that might be contributing to the hazard, and treat if you need to, but most important, find a plant-friendly product.

Q. I got a cut tree, and it’s been enjoyed, but I’m ready to take it down. Now what do I do with it? I’d be in trouble if I put it in the garbage can, I’m sure! – D.C., Albuquerque

A. The city is sponsoring its annual “Tree-cycle” event starting Monday, Dec. 30, through Sunday, Jan. 12.

There are three drop-off locations in town to take your holiday tree from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday:

• Ladera Golf Course, 3401 Ladera NW.

• Eagle Rock Convenience Center, 6301 Eagle Rock.

• Montessa Park Convenience Center, 3512 Los Picaros SE.

The trees are ground up and used for mulch in several city projects. By turning in the tree that graced your home for the holidays, you know you’re doing a good thing. Be sure to remove any ornaments, stands, nails or lighting before you leave the tree, and most important, be sure to properly tie the tree down while you are transporting it.

Here’s to the New Year while you’re out Diggin In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to