During the winter, people rush to the car wash in order to rid their vehicle of accumulating salts. Just as salts cause vehicles to corrode, it too can create problems for landscape plants.
Winter storms result in tons of salt added to the roads and sidewalks each year. When snow is cleared, it often ends up being sprayed, shoveled, and piled on trees, lawns, and perennial beds. The symptoms of salt injury include stunted yellow foliage, premature autumn leaf coloration, death of leaf margins, and twig dieback. On evergreens, needles may turn yellow or brown in early spring. Salt damage is often confined to branches facing a street. Many plants can recover from occasional salt spray. If it is a yearly occurrence however, death of the plant may result.
To prevent salt damage, do not plant closer than 50 feet from the road. If this is not feasible, screens of fencing or burlap can be used to deter salt sprays. Snow from salted streets and sidewalks should not be piled onto plants. When weather permits, flush any salt sprayed soil with fresh water. In problem areas, the salt levels in the soil can be tested. Contact your local county Extension Office for information on soil testing. Homeowners can also use alternative salt sources. The common salt used on roads and streets is sodium chloride. Alternative salts include calcium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate. Although more expensive, they will not harm plants if applied at low levels.
Where salt sprays canít be avoided, plant salt tolerant species or cultivars that are resistant to salt damage. Contact your local nurseryman or call your local county Extension Office for recommended salt tolerant plants.
Related Information: Management of Saline and Sodic Soils, www.oznet.ksu.edu