Posted by & filed under Winter

Deicing salt

 

We all know that living in the Salt Belt means cold, snow, and ice, with plenty of rusty and corroded cars! But did you know deicing salt can damage more than just cars?  Deicing salt can damage your turf, trees, and shrubs, too!

 

Before you start to worry, most people who use deicing salt on their driveways and sidewalks don’t experience any problems. The folks who do run into salt damage typically use deicing salt frequently and in large amounts (think business owners keeping sidewalks and parking lots clear for customers, or schools salting the bus loop for its buses and students). However, on occasion, everyday homeowners may run into some salt damage as well.

How does salt damage happen?

  • Shoveling or Plowing

Salt damage occurs when any kind of deicing salt, regardless of brand, is applied to snowy or icy sidewalks, driveways, and parking lots. When these areas are then shoveled or plowed, the salt gets pushed off of the pavement or concrete and into piles on the turf . As the snow and ice melt, the salt is absorbed into the soil. Once it has contaminated the soil, the salt can absorb any fresh water, like rain or unsalted snow, and leave the turf roots unable to get the water it needs, leading to dehydration.

  • Car Spray

Salt damage can also harm other plants besides turf. Salt spray from passing cars can land on stems, buds, leaves, and needles of trees, shrubs, and other plants. Once salt spray comes in contact with these plants, it can cause burns and dehydration.

  • Runoff Water

Salt damage can also happen because of runoff water. When the salt is dissolved in melted snow and ice, turf and plants absorb sodium and chloride instead of healthy nutrients they need.

How can I tell if I have salt damage?

Turf salt damage

Photo Credit: Kevin Frank, MSU

 

  • After the snow melts, is there a strip of brown grass along your sidewalk or driveway?
  • Is there damage to the side of the plant that faces the road?
  • Are needles brown or discolored?
  • Are buds damaged or dead?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you probably have salt damage.

What can I do if I see salt damage?

 

Shrub salt damage

Photo Credit: Joe Boggs, OSU Extension

Your first step is to relax. Most grass and plants recover from salt damage on their own. Often, melting unsalted snow and spring rain will flush away any salt from the soil. Within six to eight weeks, you should see a full recovery.

 

If, however, things aren’t greening up and recovering, you may need to reseed any damaged areas. Use a rake to remove the dead grass from the area and loosen up the top layer of soil. Then, following the product label, simply spread the seed and water as directed.

How can I prevent future salt damage?

  • Use less salt! Follow the directions on the bag carefully, and don’t overdo it.
  • Avoid shoveling or plowing salted snow into the same places time after time; spread out the piles.
  • If salt spray is an issue, consider setting up snow fencing to reduce the amount of spray that hits your plants.

 

Have other tips or pointers for dealing with salt damage? Leave us a comment below!

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