Salt and Landscaping 101
Winter is a harsh season that makes animals hole up and makes trees and plants go dormant. It’s also equally devastating to your landscaping. Heavy snow, strong and chilly winds and freezing temperatures can wreak havoc on your beautiful landscape. However, sometimes you are unintentionally responsible for some of the damage. It’s due to the use of winter salt. When the snow melts, you have to go on repair mode and search for “topsoil near me” to fix your garden and some landscaping features. Let’s check out how salt affects your landscaping:
- Winter salt varieties – Homeowners usually get three different types of winter salt for melting snow and de-icing their pavements or walkways. The three types of salt include sodium chloride or common rock salt, calcium chloride, and magnesium chloride.
Among those options, sodium chloride is the most widely used and common winter salt since it is inexpensive and can easily melt ice on driveways, roads, and sidewalks. It is also a favorite among contractors and municipalities. However, rock salt tends to do extensive damage to your plants and lawns. It also causes temperature fluctuations that can easily damage pavers and walkways. It’s best to use rock salt when the temperature ranges between 15 to 20 degrees.
Calcium chloride is a popular alternative to rock salt since it is safer for lawns and plants and also easily available in nearby hardware stores. However, it’s a bane for pavers, walkways, and concrete patios. You’re better off using this salt when the temperature falls below 0 degrees.
Magnesium chloride is another potent sub-zero ice-melting salt that doesn’t inflict any damage to your lawn and induces less damage on your hardscaping. However, it’s way more expensive than the other options.
- Salt damages lawns, trees, and plants – When you use salt for de-icing your property, it can wash away with the water from the snow and penetrate into the soil. This increases sodium levels in the soil and is absorbed by the roots. When salt concentration increases in your plant, it can dehydrate your plant and that’s very deadly during the winter season.
The chloride in the soil is also absorbed and accumulates in the stems and leaves. It hinders chlorophyll production and interferes with photosynthesis. This can be detrimental to the plant’s growth since it won’t have enough resources to create new flowers and leaves.
Evergreens are the worst hit by salt damage. It’s also very noticeable from the browning of the needles. While the damage isn’t evident on deciduous trees, you’ll see the signs when spring arrives. They won’t be able to bud flowers or grow new leaves properly.
Even if you don’t use salt on your property, passing cars may spray salt used on the road and throw it on your lawn and shrubs. The salt doesn’t just damage their growth but also reduces their cold hardiness making them more vulnerable.
- Salt damages concrete and pavers – To the naked eye, pavers, concrete, and other hardscaping materials appear like solid blocks. However, they are very porous and tend to absorb water. Salt lowers the freezing point of water from 32 to 25 degrees. It also attracts water.
When salty water seeps into the pores and cracks of rocks, stone, and concrete, the water damage becomes apparent when temperatures fall below 25 degrees. The water refreezes, expands, and widens those crevices and cracks. The cracks keep spreading since the temperature fluctuates throughout the day causing the ice to thaw and refreeze several times.
- Prevent salt damage – While using de-icing salts, you need to be very careful to prevent or minimize damage. Be conservative with the salt and only use the amount that you need. It also helps if you are careful while pouring the salt. Steer clear of flower beds and your lawn.
After the ice melts, make sure that you clean any leftover salt and other de-icing products from the surface. If you have elevated edging on your walkway or driveway, you can spray and wash away the salt with water into the drain. Otherwise, it’s best to carefully sweep the remaining salt and dispose of it in the trash.
You should also get your property graded to ensure that the water flows in the right direction. Check the gradient of your walkway or driveway and if it directs water towards your plants instead of the other way around, you need to rework your hardscaping features in the next season.
If you live near a busy street, trucks, and cars would often spray your property with salted snow or water. Snowplows can throw snow even further away and damage your landscape. You can fix this issue by building a snow fence along the property line or adding a burlap screen to catch the snow and salt spray. If your plants and shrubs have been sprayed with salt, rinsing them with water helps to dilute and reduce the damage.
The best solution is to completely move away from winter salt and try alternative products to melt the ice. Organic solutions like sand or kitty litter can get the job done. They can melt the ice, restore traction, and don’t damage the concrete.
- Treat salt-damaged plants – Even when you try your best, there would be some damage to your lawn and plants. To correct that damage, you can use gypsum and water. Gypsum has sulfate and calcium that amends and conditions soil while also acting as a crop fertilizer. Apply gypsum over the damaged plants or a patch of your lawn and water that spot. Gypsum will replace excess salt in the soil and replace it with sulfate and calcium that heals the greenery in your space.
Winter salt can affect your landscape adversely if you’re not careful with it. The damage to shrubs, grass, and plants can be very severe. If you fail to implement the above-mentioned preventive methods to reduce salt damage, you need to buy topsoil by searching for “topsoil near me” so that you can fix the damage to your greenery.