Help trees survive damaging effects of road salt

Tree Trust and the Home Depot Foundation

Winter has arrived and salt will soon cover our roads and sidewalks. In winter, salt is used to simplify our lives as drivers and walkers, but it can cause major damage to trees.
Salt spray from roads affects plants above ground as well as below because salt accumulates in the soil. Common symptoms of plants that have been damaged by high salt accumulation include abnormal fall color and browning that starts on the edge of the leaf and progresses toward the leaf’s middle vein.
“Extensive use of de-icing salt may cause widespread damage, resulting in the disfiguration of stems and foliage, reduced growth and even death of trees and shrubs,” says Gail Nozal, certified arborist with Tree Trust. She says there are several things you can do to prevent salt-related problems:
• Avoid planting salt sensitive plants close to heavy traffic areas and busy intersections. Salt sensitive trees include sugar maple, pin oak and white pine. Instead, plant salt tolerant tree species such as Black Hills spruce, ginkgo and honeylocust.
• Avoid using de-icing salts on your sidewalks or use smaller quantities. Try mixing salt with coarse sand, cinders, ash or kitty litter.
• Protect tree trunks with barriers made of plastic, burlap or snow fencing.

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