Shoveling is the first step for caring for your hard surfaces that have foot and car traffic, so don’t feel you have to shovel your whole backyard if you are not out there using it ( we can find out why you are not using your outdoor living spaces in the winter in another post). Many people shovel to clear the walkway and driveway just so they don’t have to keep walking in it or driving, some don’t shovel and just throw salt at it…but salt should be a last resort ( see all the data on watersheds and sal contaminants). And there are lots of ways of going about shoveling itself, ways to not hurt your back, different shovels to use- but that is not what I am talking about here.
Today we have rain after a few inches of snow- it’s not really melting it but making it a bigger slushy mess- this makes the snow shoveling even more important, and when its heavy and wet we tend to move the stuff as little as possible, you know just to the edge… then it lines up along the edges and… dams up the water on these surfaces! Many people have then reached for the salt- but salt doesn’t fix the cause, and only makes different problems.  The problem is that we have cut off the drainage with these snow dams, the shoved off piles of the wet snow is stopping the flow of water off into the landscape…so let’s figure how to prevent the snow dams on the walks, patios, and driveways.
You probably don’t even notice there is a wrong way to shovel when the snow is light and fluffy, or its so cold that everything is in a deep freeze outside and just happy to get the walk clear- but these warm snowfalls it will create puddles in many areas. If you have never experienced this it may not apply- if your sidewalk is higher than the yard and beds around it because you just had the space to have a higher walkway it might still drain some, but likely you still can create a dam no matter how high the walk is.   However, this is a chronic issue for those with low areas in their walkway, patio or driveway because of overall low lying yard topography. Water puddling on walks a major concern and the number one reason clients call us for regrading. Regrading can help give water a place to go, but not all walks can be so high everywhere.  A well-designed space is only as good as it’s maintenance, so by not shoveling in a way to let the water drain off the paver/cement/asphalt/packed gravel you are creating a retainer to allow a puddle to remain and grow.
So how do I prevent this, and shovel the right way?
1. understand your area- where is the low spot that things are draining towards… if you have shoveled and left edges- start where the puddle is.
2. at the low spots and just beyond, shovel the snow back away from the edge a foot or so to leave room for drainage into the landscape or yard beyond it. ***this can be tricky with frozen ground and may need you to go back and dig snow/ice out of areas as winter persists to keep this area available to be drained to
3. find other areas along the edges where water may flow, open these edges up too, you dont have to wait for the water to get to the low point if its able to get off the surface at an earlier point let it.
Remember- shovel first, salt as a last resort. Salt will leach into the landscape- there are many articles to understand the implications of salting, and all the more reason to know how to shovel in a way that prevents the need for it.
#pavers #walkways #patios #driveways #landscapedesign #diy #howto
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