Protecting Your Landscape: Deicing Salt

Winter brings glittering landscapes that look magical but can also bring the bitter cold and ice. Most can agree that there’s nothing scarier than slipping on a sheet of ice. A common solution for these slippery surfaces is ice melt or salt. Although these deicing salts may be necessary during the winter months to stay safe, they can be terrible for your trees and landscape.

Problems occur when the snow and ice begin to melt. This salt-contaminated water soaks into the ground and is absorbed by nearby root-systems. Trees, shrubs, perennials and turfgrasses are all susceptible to salt damage and can affect plant growth in numerous ways.

High levels of salt in the soil make it difficult for plants to absorb water and to take in essential nutrients. It can cause stunted growth and is toxic to many plants. Accumulation of salt in the soil over several years may result in progressive decline and eventual death of plants and trees.

Homeowners can minimize salt damage by using deicing salts prudently. A helpful practice would be to wait until the snow or rain has stopped before applying. Use deicing salts to loosen ice and snow from driveways and sidewalks, then remove the loosened ice with a shovel.  Piling salted snow and ice around trees and shrubs should be avoided.

Road spray from passing cars can also negatively impact trees. Salt deposited directly on leaves causes dehydration of plant tissue and will cause browning and damage. While the amount of salt applied to roadways cannot be controlled, you can minimize damage. As soon as the ground thaws in early spring, heavily water areas where salt accumulates over winter. A thorough soaking should help flush the salt from the roots of your plants and lower the concentration of salt in the soil.

Winter in our area requires a balance between keeping your family safe from slippery surfaces and protecting your landscape and yard from salt damage. If you are concerned about potential damage, give us a call so our ISA Certified arborists can assess your trees and help you put a together an action plan.

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