It’s that time of year again. The dead of winter brings shorter days, the lowest temperatures of the year, along with snow, ice, and sleet. It can bring about driving conditions that are less than optimal, so salt is used to overcome the slippery hazards these wet and cold weather patterns bring. But this solution can wreak havoc on our lawns. Not to worry, your neighborhood lawn care pros at Spring-Green have all the tips you need to protect your lawns from the salt that helps keep the icy, snowy winter roads safer.
How to Save Your Lawn from Salt Damage
1. What Does Salt Damage Look Like: While the salt is saving the roads, sidewalks, and your driveway from slippery conditions, you may notice strips of brown grass along their edges when the snow begins to melt. The salt that breaks through the ice and snow is powerful enough to also dry out your lawn’s roots and result in dead patches. Although salt-damaged grass often rebounds when the snow melts and the spring rain starts to fall, this is not always the case. If not detected and treated, it can kill the grass forcing the home or business owner to repair the damaged area.
2. Protecting Your Lawn from Salt Damage: Prevention is the best medicine, as the saying goes. Taking a few simple steps this winter can help save your lawn from salt damage.
- Burlap sacks – Grab some burlap sacks and cover the edges of your lawn before the time for salt application arrives. You can also find landscape fabric at your local nursery that can prevent the salt from ever coming in contact with your grass or soil.
- Monitor your salt use – Often, we have a tendency to use more salt than we actually need. If at all possible, cutting back on the salt usage can help you avoid salt damage to your lawn.
- Find a salt alternative – Salt is great for deicing but not so great for the health of our lawn. There are salt-alternatives available that might be worth considering. Creative homeowners have explored items such as sand, cat litter, vinegar, sugar beet juice, alfalfa meal, coffee grinds, and calcium chloride to accomplish their deicing needs.
- Decorative borders – In addition to curb appeal, hardscaping efforts can protect your lawn from salt damage this winter. Who knew those eye-catching decorative borders could have a dual purpose?
3. Choosing the Right Salt: Deicers and salt aren’t all created equal. The bargain options for salt deicing can contain harsh chemicals that are prone to build up in the soil as well as cause damage to hard surfaces such as concrete and decks. The more expensive types of salt are often gentler and less corrosive. Here’s a quick breakdown of the common salt deicer options:
- Sodium Chloride – Commonly referred to as rock salt, this is the cheapest option yet the harshest.
- Magnesium Chloride – The price tag might be higher on this type of salt for winter deicing, but it is gentler. It might, however, not be gentle enough for your most delicate plants and flowers.
- Calcium Chloride – While safer than rock salt for preventing damage to your lawn, this component is harsher to concrete.
- Potassium Chloride – This is a recommended type of deicing solution but does come with two caveats – It’s much more expensive and damaging salt buildup can occur over time.
4. How to Fix Salt Damage: If you see the signs of salt damage in your landscaping, your first step should be to rinse your plants and soil with water as soon as the temps go above freezing, and the snow dissipates. Soak the affected grass for a two to three-day period to clear any residual salt. Be careful using water from a spigot so as not to cause any damage to your home’s plumbing. Monitor the temperatures and turn off the water from inside your home as temperatures fall below freezing.
If the damage has been done, you may be able to use a pelletized gypsum soil conditioner to reverse the damage caused by the effects of salt. This solution can promote new growth and moisture retention. As soon as you’re able, be sure to rake out as much of the dead grass as possible.
Anyone living in the northern areas of the country are familiar with the use of salt along any busy roadway when the snow, ice, and sleet of winter start to fall. The salt used by municipalities and homeowners to battle icy conditions can have a negative and damaging impact to lawns. The powerful salt solutions draw moisture from the grass and cause it to turn brown, and if left untreated, can cause it to die. The good news is you have a lawn care expert standing by to assist you no matter what salt-related damage your lawn may be facing! The Spring-Green experts can help you save your lawn when possible, improve your beautiful grass if needed, as well as provide expert consultation on how to prevent issues before they happen.