Road salt may harm plants

Trucks have been spreading salt on roads in and around Youngstown after heavy snow hit Tuesday

Snow plow/salt truck at work on I-680.

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – According to the New York State College of Agriculture, 40-80 tons of salt is used per lane on heavily traveled highways each year. We can see the signs on our cars right away but the effects on plants may take a little longer to see.

Perfect pavement or a smooth sidewalk is something we’re all looking for especially right after winter weather.
But the salt we use to make sure roads are free of snow and ice could be harmful to our plants if too much is used.

“Essentially it can stunt the plants growth it can kill the plant if there is enough there,” explains Suzanne Mills-Waszniak OSU Extension Educator Montgomery County.

Salt absorbs water and OSU Extension Educator Suzanne Mills-Wasniak says if too much salt accumulates in the soil near the root system plants may suffer. A plants hardiness to withstand the cold can also be impacted when the spray from vehicles hits leaves and small twigs.

Plants and trees won’t see the damage from salt right away, but come spring you may begin to notice some discoloration.

“You will see plants that have lost their figure because one of the things salt does is bind water to it so essentially the plants don’t get enough water in spring to come out and bud because of stress,” Mills-Waszniak explains.

There are a few things you can do to keep your plants safe. Limiting salt unless absolutely necessary, mix it with sand or check the the packaging for alternative de-icing salts. You can also try a different type of plant that can handle the winter season a little better.

“We can also look at our landscape by selecting plants that are a little bit more salt tolerate. They are not as injured as quickly we can also not pile the snow and slush around the plants because that will impact their water take,” Mills-Waszniak says.

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