Despite the recent indecisive weather official landscaping season starts next week. As you start prepping and cleaning your yard you may notice damaged patches of grass, this is most likely due to salt damage. Once salt trucks and sidewalk cleaners have come and gone, ongoing traffic and high winds most likely pushed some of that salt onto your grass.
Rock salt is commonly used as a de-icing agent, helping prevent winter accidents on roads, driveways and sidewalks. The same qualities that help the salt break through the ice make it deadly for your lawn. In addition to harming your existing lawn, rock salt can keep grass from growing for years.
Why it happens
Salt removes the moisture from the soil, keeping it from getting to your lawn’s roots. The plants become dehydrated and die. Touching dormant grass blades doesn’t do much damage, but the damage to the soil can keep dormant grass from getting the water it needs to grow in warmer weather.
Salt tends to separate into its basic ions when dissolved in water. The sodium ions block grass roots from getting necessary nutrients such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. The chloride ions are absorbed by the roots instead, growing to toxic levels. While soil naturally contains small levels of salt, when the grass contains too much chloride, it can’t produce chlorophyll effectively and will starve when it can’t turn the sun’s light into energy.
Some have tried getting rid of the salt by watering their lawn for long periods of time in the hopes of removing it from their grass, but since salt sips really deep into the soil it will take a very long time and will be expensive, due to your water bill that is.
The best solution is preventive action which you should do in the fall. While you can’t control what is being used to keep roads ice-free on those occasions when icy conditions are expected, you can help protect the areas of your lawn near the road by installing temporary snow or silt fencing. It blocks much of the salt, keeping it off your lawn. You can also cover your grass with plastic sheeting, held down with rocks or landscape staples. For your driveway or sidewalks, try an alternative ice-melt product. Garden centers often carry some that are labelled as safe for landscape use, or you can try sand or kitty litter to give you traction over small, slippery areas.
If however you are already experiencing issues with this the best way to fight salt damage is by fertilizing with a ph balancing fertilizer. These types of fertilizers contain gypsum which helps to balance off the pH in the soil.