Salt damage to gardens and landscape plants is a problem for many gardeners. Runoff of dissolved salts from the road ways, driveways and sidewalks not only injure the plants but also change the structure of the soil causing it to become compacted and restricting the nutrients, water, and oxygen available to the plants.
Salt is applied throughout the winter but most salt damage occurs in late winter and early spring when plants are beginning active growth. When salt accumulates in the soil, sodium from the salt destroys soil structure, raises PH in the soil, and reduces water infiltration leading to soil compaction. The soil becomes unsuitable for proper root growth and plant development. Plants may also have salt deposits on surfaces such as twigs, buds or leaves causing tissue dehydration.
There are many ways to prevent salt damage to plants. Salt applications should only be used in high-risk areas such as hills, steps, and major walkways. Try to limit salt in in low traffic areas. If possible try avoiding pure sodium chloride. Instead mix in sand, crushed rock, kitty litter for an alternate deicing product and avoid shoveling salt and snow over the roots of the plants.
Some other great ways to prevent your plants from salt are; wrap burlap around your plants, plant salt tolerant species in areas that subject to salt spray or runoff, and in the spring make sure to rinse and flush all the plants that may have been in contact to the salt from the winter. There are a lot of great plants that are tolerant to salt a few that we use are Blue Heaven Blue Stem Grass, Stella D’Oro Daylily, Bowl of Beauty Peony, Autumn Joy Stonecrop, Dwarf Korean Lilac, and Chicago Lustre Arrowwood Viburnum.
As the ice begins to build and snow is falling, if you take precaution for your plants outside, you can sit inside and enjoy a nice cup of hot coco knowing your plants will be healthy and ready to sprout in the spring.