Salt Injury to Plants

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Keep this in mind that melting salt and plants outdoors should never mix. I'm sure you have seen how salt corrodes automobile bodies, but did you also know that salt can have a devastating effect on plants?

Salt sprayed on plants from passing vehicles can easily enter its plant cells. When this happens, buds and small twigs of some plant species lose cold hardiness and are more likely to be killed by freezing temperatures.

Salt use in the winter can also harm plants when it accumulates in the soil. This is especially true when salt treated snow is piled up near landscape plants. Salt really absorbs water, as evident when you try to shake salt from a shaker that has moisture in it. The rock salt you use for ice melting does the same thing, rock salt actually absorbs moisture like I mentioned and if there is a low moisture in the soil already, it just may cause a drought-like environment for plants.

Salt in the soil also makes it difficult for plants to take up certain necessary soil nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. When you see plants in the spring and they show stunted growth, yellow foliage, premature autumn leaf coloration, death of the leaf margins and even twig die back, you can easily point your finger at salt injury.

It's also very evident that one very good tell tale sign of salt injury is where it occurs on the plant towards the direction of where the salt was applied on roads, driveways and even walkways.

Keep this in mind; if the problem exists one time it's okay, but if the problem happens several years in a row, it can kill the whole plant.

There are a couple ways to deal with salt build up. One is to use mulch around those plants and the other is to drench the area with water either during the winter or especially in the spring.

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