Winter is upon us, and it’s time to think about preventing salt damage to the turf and ornamentals next to areas where we are spreading ice melt and salt for snow and ice management.

When ice melt and road salt are used in the winter, maintaining healthy turf and ornamental beds that are close to parking lots and roads can be difficult. Using road salt and ice melt can cause the amounts of sodium and chlorine in the soil to reach levels that are harmful or even toxic. Irrigation water can also add sodium, chlorine, and bicarbonates to the soil, which are damaging to all types of plants and the soil itself.

Some of the adverse effects of elevated sodium, bicarbonates, and chlorides are:

  • Reduced soil structure
  • Soil dehydration
  • Reduction of plant-available water
  • Reduction of the availability of beneficial plant nutrients
  • Surface-crusting effect of soils (creates a barrier barring water and air to infiltrate the soil)

Overall, turf and ornamental beds close to roads and walkways that have road salt and ice melt on them produce weaker, thinner plants with less color and density. How can you combat the effects of high sodium, chloride and bicarbonate levels?

The bushes in the foreground were left untreated.

The program below can really help reduce and prevent injury. You only have to treat the areas where over-application, runoff, or pile-up occurs.

  1. Granular Gypsum: 10 lbs/1,000 sq ft now, before snow cover. Super Cal SO4 is a great choice, as it activates very quickly.
  2. Granular Gypsum: 10 lbs/1,000 sq ft right after snowmelt in the spring.
  3. Foliar-Pak BioDrive or Foliar-Pak Promote: 9 oz/1,000 sq ft or 6 oz/1,000 sq ft before spring green-up. Add 0.75 oz/1,000 sq ft of Alypso Plus wetting agent to help flush through the soil.
  4. Foliar-Pak BioDrive or Foliar-Pak Promote: 9 oz/1,000 sq ft or 6 oz/1,000 sq ft 30 days after 1st application. Add 0.75 oz/1,000 sq ft Alypso Plus.

Salt laden water or liquid applications that splash up onto evergreen plants from road spray or misapplication of liquid ice melt products can also cause a severe burn. An application of Aqualock anti-desiccant can help prevent that burn from occurring. Mix 4-8 oz of Aqualock/gallon of water and spray on plant material to the point of drip.