Salt is a common sight in Minnesota this time of year. Unfortunately sodium chloride from deicing salt can be very toxic to garden plants when in high concentrations. Evergreen needles, tree buds, tree roots and turfgrass can all be damaged or killed by deicing salt splashing onto above ground plant parts or washing into the soil around plant roots. In addition when de icing salt washes into our lakes and rivers with spring snow melt, it reduces water quality and could harm aquatic wildlife.
What can a Minnesotan do?
Prevent future problems by reducing use of deicing salt
- Shovel snow soon after snowfall to avoid compaction and ice formation.
- Redirect downspouts so that water flows away from walkways.
- Use the least amount of salt necessary to break up the ice. Then use a shovel to clear the sidewalk.
- Reduce the amount of salt needed by mixing sand or gravel with a small amount of salt to provide traction on ice.
- Use non sodium chloride deicing salts like CMA or other acetate de-icers which are less toxic to plants.
If plant damage does occur, water plants liberally in the spring to flush the salt out of the soil. Next year use the steps above to prevent future damage.