A winter wonderland that is full of snow and colder temperatures can help get you ready for the holidays. But after the holiday spirit wears off, you are stuck with slippery road conditions, freezing temperatures and rock salt galore. Plain rock salt is often used as ice melt because it is cheap and effective, but do the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to what salt damage does to your garden and landscape?
Unfortunately, concentrated salt from winter runoff is one of the most toxic environments for plants. To keep your landscape healthy, it is imperative to take precautions against the buildup that causes winter salt damage. Salt damages plants in two ways: spray salt can turn your evergreens or any deciduous plants above ground brown. The buds could die or the plant might not leaf out next year.
The other way salt can affect your garden is by absorption into your soil. Any plant affected by higher salt levels in the soil could end up with stunted growth, pests, and disease or might not even spring forth from the ground again. Plants absorb the salt and need to expel it through the branches and leaves. The toxicity ends up killing the leaves.
How to Prevent Salt Damage
When you get hit with a snow storm, anticipate when snow plows will be driving through your neighborhood. Once the snow (and salt) is on your plants or landscape, promptly move it to a location far away from your plants’ root zones. This will help prevent the melting snow from moving salt into the soil immediately around your plants.
Putting burlap panels between your plants and the salt spray is a great way to protect your gardens. You will need to be cautious about making sure that the burlap panels never come in contact with the plants themselves.
Not everyone has the time to watch for snow falls and salt spray every day to protect their landscape. Luckily, salt is easily washed away with water that will flush out the damaging ice melt quickly. Be sure to check on your gardens and irrigate when needed.
What to Use Rather than Salt
Around here, we know keeping salt out of the lakes is a huge goal. You can simply try to use less salt or use other products like sand, a sand/salt mix, finely graded gravel, cat litter or even coffee grounds. Any of these products will help a little with traction and reduce the amount of salt going into our lakes.
When considering ice melt for your driveways and sidewalks, keep in mind the environmental impact on not just your landscape but your neighbors as well!