Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Salt Impact on Plants (& Remedies)

Mary Stone, Garden Dilemmas, Ask Mary Stone,Gardening tips, Garden Blogs, Stone Associates Landscape Design, Garden Blog,Northern New Jersey Landscape Designer, Road Salt Damage, Road Salt Alternatives

Hello fellow readers,

This is getting silly – another 15 inches of snow followed by an icy wintery mix! John from Blairstown stopped while I was walking Ellie during the latest one-two punch and said, “You get an A for effort!”  Thanks, John, I like to think of myself as an achiever, but the truth is, Ellie encourages me to get out there.  My bright yellow coat, black umbrella, and matching Muck Boots may not be Vogue but hopefully visible to passersby. “You look like the Morton Salt Girl,” added John.

Morton Salt Girl

Speaking of salt; there’s a shortage of road salt which means we’ve plowed through our anticipated need.  Regular road salt is only effective from freezing to about 15 degrees. Below that, magnesium chloride or calcium chloride is added.   It’s the chloride ions that cause much of the environmental damage; dehydrating plants, killing small aquatic organisms and reducing water circulation in lakes.

What will all the salt do to the road-side trees asked Bridget of Stone Church? Late winter road salt is the most damaging to plants, according to Cornell University.  Beginning early March plants start breaking dormancy. Their roots begin absorbing nutrients and water from the soil for the soon-to-come leaves.  Toxic chloride ions, which usually leach from soil rapidly, are most likely absorbed at this time.

Avoid piling salt-laden snow around plants. When choosing new plants, choose those that are salt tolerant if within 30 feet of where salt will be used (Rutgers University has a list).  For existing plants, move the salt-laden snow from the root zone as soon as the thaw begins.  On young trees, the root zone is about the width of the drip-line of the branches.  On older trees, it can be twice as wide.  Obviously, be considerate where you move the snow. When temperatures rise above freezing, hose fresh water around the tree or shrubs to flush out the salt.

With the shortage of road salt, we better find alternatives for our ice-skating rink.  How about cat litter, sand, coffee grounds, cinders and prayers that Mother Nature is done messing around with Old Man Winter.  Garden dilemmas?



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