Every winter we cover our streets and sidewalks with salt to protect ourselves from icy accidents. But the salt, and other chemicals, isn’t good for the trees and plants on your property. Here’s how to prevent winter salt damage.

How Does Salt Damage Trees?

Rock salt and other chemical solutions harm trees and plants two ways. The worst damage happens to trees near the roadside, where they receive constant coatings of salty spray as cars and trucks pass. The other way damage occurs is from the snow plowed up against trees, which has the salt in it. Although snow melt provides slow and steady watering for trees and plant, roots have trouble absorbing the salt-laden water. Too much salt interferes with nutrient intake as well.

Signs of Winter Salt Damage

Most winter salt damage doesn’t appear until spring. Evergreens are the exception, with the tips of the needles turning brown before the winter is out. Look for the following signs when determining if the trees in your yard suffer from salt damage.

  • Branch or twig dieback
  • Discolored leaves, premature leaf drop, or fall foliage color coming too early
  • Less leaves or smaller leaves than usual
  • Damage on side of tree that faces surfaces treated with salt
  • Edges of leaves that are brown or burnt looking

Preventing Winter Salt Damage

Unfortunately, the best way to prevent the damage is not to use salt at all. Try using sand, gravel, cinders, or even kitty litter instead to provide needed traction. There are also salt-free products on the market to help melt ice. If you must use rock salt, try avoiding salt applications late in the season. There’s less time for salt to be diluted before trees start their spring growth. A good watering reduces the concentration of salt in the soil. Be sure to also rinse off leaves and trunks coated in salt spray. Prune back dead twigs and needles on damaged trees to give them a healthy start in spring.

When planting trees close to areas that require salting in winter, use salt-tolerant species like certain kinds of oaks and spruces. Ask a professional for a list of winter-hardy foliage. Call Free Spray Lawn Care at 419-529-5296 and let us help your landscaping weather any storm.