If you live in areas with frigid temperatures and harsh winter storms, you understand just how much road salt is a lifesaver. When trucks spread this salt among roads, it prevents ice from forming and increases traction on the pavement thus reducing car accidents.
However, when the snow melts it carries the dissolved salts downhill and to roadsides. As a result, this salt makes its way to your own lawn. When the grassroots take up the salted water, it severely dehydrates and damages the entire plant body. Here is how to identify, treat, and prevent road salt damage in your lawn.
How do you identify road salt damage to your lawn?
There are infinite causes for your grass to appear dry and sickly, but there are specific symptoms to look out for that point to salt damage.
Dry grass along the edges of roads and sidewalks.
The borders of your lawn are most likely to be targeted by road salt. As the snow and ice melt, it carries the salt to the edges of the roads and sidewalks, where the most concentrated locations will have the most damage. Dryness and discoloration around this border are positive signs of salt damage.
Reduced and delayed growth.
Without proper water absorption, your turf’s growth will be stunted! Just like humans, water is essential for a plant’s health but salt can dehydrate grass. Road salt may cause the grass to grow thinner and much slower than normal.
Needle tips scorched and brown.
Does your grass look burned at the tips? Oftentimes, the top of the grass can look scorched and brown due to the salt spray from the pavement coming into contact with it. However, this is also a symptom of a fertilizer burn, so make sure that other symptoms of salt damage align.
Tufted and stunted appearance.
This unhealthy appearance, also known as “witch’s broom”, is an easy way to identify sick grass. “Witch’s brooms” are dry and prickly tufts of grass. This is a symptom of severe dehydration and stunted growth.
The appearance of other nutrient deficiencies.
Are you seeing other symptoms, such as a yellow discoloration or bleached spots? Salted water can cause iron and other nutrient deficiencies in your turf, so make sure to watch out for additional symptoms that correspond with a lack of nutrients.
How can you treat damage to your plants?
As terrible as the damage may look, you can get your grass looking revitalized in no time. These two steps remove the excess salt from your soil and promote moisture penetration so your turf will be well-hydrated.
Firstly, all of that road salt must be eliminated from the lawn. As it sits, the damage will only become worse so it is essential to flush the grass blades and soil with a heavy water rinse. Keep the sprinkler on for a few hours or douse with a hose to ensure that the salts are forced out of your turf.
After rinsing your damaged grass patches, it is time to reintroduce nutrients back into the purified soil. This is where pelletized gypsum soil conditioner will save your lawn! Aside from the conditioner’s complicated name, you can buy PGSC at any Walmart or Home Depot near you.
PGSC will supply growth-enhancing nutrients like sulfur and calcium to your cleansed soil. It also allows moisture to be absorbed by the soil and the inhabiting grass. This conditioner is easy to apply and will restore your lawn back to new.
How can you prevent road salt damage in the future?
After your dehydrated turf is restored to its full health, is it possible to prevent damage from the enormous salt trucks and snowplows next winter? Absolutely.
Shovel early and often.
Immediately after a winter storm, shovel along your own yard in order to prevent plows from upheaving piles of salt-carrying snow directly onto your property. The more that you shovel, the less salt and plowing will be needed to prevent ice from forming.
Place burlap over the edges of your yard.
A physical barrier will also prevent your turf from salt spray burns. Burlap is a cheap additional step to preventing your yard from road salt damage. It also protects your grass from frost, so it’s a win-win!
Consider a new yard edging such as stone, gravel, or mulch.
Have you been struggling year after year to prevent and treat salt damage but have had no luck? Thankfully, there are several beautiful landscaping alternatives that will prevent any future hassle. Opt for edging your yard with an inorganic material such as cut stones or white gravel. Mulch can also act as a physical barrier between your lively turf and winter salt sprays.
Guest blogger: Victoria McNally
Bayer, Mandy, and Geoffrey Njue. “The Impact of Salts on Plants and How to Reduce Plant Injury from Winter Salt Applications.” Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment, 7 Feb. 2017, ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/impact-of-salts-on-plants-how-to-reduce-plant-injury-from-winter-salt.