Preventing Chloride Damage To Your Landscape

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Snow and Ice management costs money to keep your patrons, residents and clients properties safe. Aside from the costs associated with ice melt and snow removal there are hidden costs. One potential big expense we see often is vegetation damage from salt, ice melt applications and snow melt runoff. There are procedures you can follow to not only save you shrubs, grass and other plants while at the same time REDUCING your materials cost for salt every year!

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The number one reason vegetation gets damaged from winter maintenance practices is the over application of salt and other chlorides. This can be caused by using too much, applying salt where it isn’t needed, applying too close to green areas and putting snow push-piles in less than optimum areas.  There has been a fast growing consensus of concern about the environmental effects of our way of life on our natural surroundings. Consumers now value any efforts to reduce impacts on the environment more and more. Reducing your chloride emissions can greatly increase a positive public perception of your organization and demonstrate your evolution with current expectations.

Secondly, reducing chloride usage will preserve your property and the plants you work hard to keep healthy. Once landscape damage has occurred via salt or other chlorides, you must flush the contaminated area with fresh water, reseed the grass and replant the trees or shrubs that are showing the devastating effects of chloride-burn. The costs associated with labor and materials to fix the damage can be reduced to near if not exactly zero.

As stated by the Chicago Tribune- “Salts can damage plants in two ways. If the plants come in direct contact with the salt because of salt spray from roadways or because salt-laden snow was blown or shoveled over them, they can suffer bud death and twig dieback. Evergreen foliage will turn yellow and brown. Also, repeated yearly applications of ice melters can cause salts to build up in the adjacent soil, which can damage plant roots so that they are unable to take up water. Heavy watering of well-drained soils can help leach out excess salts, but this will not work well with fine-textured clay soils that have poor drainage.”

Review your application rates vs. weather- Visit our article on application rates vs temperature to find where to start.

Use extreme caution in sensitive areas- Keep salt 10 inches away from all sidewalk edges, plants and grass.

Use Treated Salt- Less bounce and scatter, lighter application rates.

Use another solid- Magnesium Chloride, CMA or Potassium Chloride are much more gentle on green areas than sodium and calcium chlorides.

Try Using Liquids- No over application, reduce chloride emissions by 60-80% WHILE reducing cost of materials by 8-25%! Stopping snow from bonding with the pavement can reduce labor costs by over 50%.

Try using salt tolerant plants- Here’s an article on salt damage and salt tolerant plants.
Don’t salt if it is TOO cold- When the temps are too low for your salt to work, don’t salt! Watch the weather forecast for these conditions and either preapply liquid anti-icers or wait for the weather to warm up. The salt you would put down when it is too cold for the salt to work will simply blow away or be tracked in to areas you may not want it, all without melting a thing.

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By:Joseph Barrett

Links to the cited studies for this article. Chicago Tribune Purdue University