Salt Damage: "Dr. Z's" Tip of the Week

As we slowly move into spring, we continue to deal with the effects of a long, harsh winter.  One common problem is salt damage to shrubs, caused by ice melters like rock salt.
This damage occurs in one of two ways.
First, wind (or a passing car) can blow salt dust from the road, driveway, sidewalk or walkway.  The salt cloud settles on the leaves of shrubs or trees nearby.  A bit of moisture is all that is needed to activate the salt, which will then burn the leaf and turn it brown.
Second, salt-laden water runs off a sidewalk or road and into the soil.  This salt-water is taken up by the roots of the plant.  This not only damages the roots, but also trans-locates throughout the plant to the leaves where it burns them.  This salt-water burn looks the same as a chemical burn where the edges of the leaf turn brown and may become twisted or curled. On needled evergreens, the whole needle will turn brown.
The best way to avoid salt damage is to avoid planting sensitive plants in areas where salt will be used.  Plants that thrive near the shoreline are typically salt-resistant, and the McArdle's team is ready to help you find an appropriate shrub for your location.  You can also put up burlap barriers to protect against the wind-blown salt dust.  Use ice melters sparingly, or use alternative melters that won't harm your plants.  Finally, flushing the soil of affected areas my move some of the salt out of the soil and help the plant recover.