Hold the Salt Please! #GardenSense

salt truck

Winter brings unique challenges to our lawns and gardens. One of the biggest problems can stem from a winter ally; salt.
Salt and de-icing solutions can be a necessary evil in today’s mobility centered lifestyle. Icy roads, driveways and pavements can cause accidents and injuries.
Municipalities, businesses and homeowners often depend on salt and saline solutions to combat ice and snow to keep travelers safe.
We spray it on streets. We broadcast it over driveways and sidewalks. Have you ever stopped to think what all that salt does to your lawn, trees and plants nearby?
Plants can’t remove excess salt like animals can. Salt accumulates in the plant and kills leaves, roots and stems. Plants stress and weaken leading to disease and insect damage come spring.
Fortunately there are a few things we can do to avoid and/or remedy a salt problem with our plants.
• Here are a few tips based on advice from Rutgers University:
• Sodium chloride (rock salt) can be very damaging to plants. De-icing compounds without chloride, such as urea, are safer for vegetation.
• Counteract salt build-up by applying fresh water to the area. This will help in addition to rainfall and snow melt.
• Plant at least 15 feet and more if downwind from highway road spray areas. Remember the most evident damage will be on the side facing the highway.
• Maintain adequate drainage away from plants and roots systems.
• Salt applied in late winter and early spring is more likely to damage vegetation since there is less time for winter snow and precipitation to leach salt from the root zone before growth resumes in the spring.
• Clear snow first and allow sun to help melt the rest and only use minimal product.
• Erect barriers like snow fences and screens to help keep spray off plants.
• Anti-desiccants may also help prevent injury when applied to evergreen foliage where de-icing salt will be used.
• Choose plants from the most tolerable species. Grasses and herbaceous plants fare better than most evergreens.

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