Across the area, road salt and ice melt are being laid on roads and walkways in preparation for the weekend snow. Although it’s a great tactic to keep drivers and pedestrians safe during slippery conditions, road salt does a lot of damage to trees and shrubs. We’ve discussed the damage rock salt does to trees/shrubs in the winter before, but the damage doesn’t stop there. Being exposed to rock salt and ice melt this winter can greatly affect your tree’s/shrub’s ability to thrive and grow this spring.
Luckily we have some tactics that can help your tree heal and flourish this spring. And since this is most likely the last snow of the year and warmer weather is approaching, it’s a great time to start repairing the salt damage done to your trees and shrubs.
Does Your Tree Have Salt Damage?
First, you should keep an eye out for signs of Salt Damage. On Evergreens you will likely start seeing the effects of salt damage in late winter; however, deciduous trees will not show damage until growth resumes in the spring. Look for the common warning signs below as the weather starts to warm up during spring.
- Damage mostly on the side of the tree facing roads, sidewalk, and driveway
- Browning or discoloration of needles beginning at tips
- Marginal Leaf Burn: Browning or discoloration along the edges of leaves.
- Fewer and/or smaller leaves than normal
- Flower and fruit development delayed/smaller than normal
- Bud damage/death
- Twig dieback
- Delayed bud break
- Reduced plant vigor
- Discolored foliage
- Early leaf drop or premature fall color
If your tree is near a road or walkway it will most likely have some kind of salt damage.
TREES HIGHLY SUSCEPTIBLE TO ROCK SALT DAMAGE:
These trees are easily injured by rock salt damage and may take more time and care to recover compared to less susceptible species.
Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Boxwood, Dogwood, Black Walnut, Norway Spruce, Eastern White Pine, Douglas Fir, Pin Oak, Littleleaf Linden, and Eastern Hemlock.
ROCK SALT TOLERANT TREES:
White Oak, Northern Red Oak, Paper Birch, Colorado Spruce/Blue Spruce, Juniper, Mugo Pine.
Although these trees are tolerant to rock salt damage it does not mean that they won’t be affected at all. It is still important to follow the steps below to mitigate the damage done by rock salt this spring.
How To Fix Salt Damaged Trees & Shrubs:
Rinse The Plant: Once the snow melts rinse your tree’s trunk and your shrubs branches with water. This will remove whatever road salt/ice melt is on them. If you have evergreens don’t forget to rinse their leaves.
Rinse The Soil: Many times road salt will be absorbed into the soil. To keep your tree from absorbing road salt chemicals all spring and summer you need to flush out your trees soil. Water your trees and shrubs thoroughly to accomplish this. If there is any visible road salt you can pick up, pick it up and throw it in the trash before you start to flush out the soil.
Fertilize With Bio-Stimulants: To combat the stress and damage your tree experienced from road salt you will want to fertilize this spring with bio-stimulants. Bio-stimulant, which are a natural blend of sugars, good bacteria, humic acid, sea kelp extract, and good fungi, will act as a multi-vitamin for your tree and help it recover and thrive.
Lightly Prune: Remove dead twigs and needles on salt damaged trees to help them start spring healthy.