With our recent winter storm, we are sure to see that ugly, white coating of salt on the roads, walks, cars, even in the air we breathe. Safety first, of course, but all that salt has many gardeners wondering what they can do to protect their gardens from winter salt damage.
Salt damage is a real concern, especially if your garden is adjacent to, or close to, a drive, walk, or the road. The city is apt to err on the side of caution and put down more salt than less to ensure the safety of travelers. Doing so can result in excess amounts of salt in your gardens, and over time that can spell trouble. According to Laura Jull of the University of Wisconsin, Cooperative Extension, the build-up, over time, of sodium from road salt (NaCl) in the soil destroys soil structure, raises soil pH, reduces water infiltration and soil aeration, and eventually leads to increased soil compaction, erosion, and water runoff.
(Above: A dry creek bed directs excess water away from the garden. It can be placed in a low spot in the yard, as a pure decorative element, or near the road to create a salt buffer.)
So what can you do?
Create a Buffer Zone: The garden doesn’t have to abut the road. Gardens along a road risk car and foot traffic, dog damage, and the accumulation of winter salt. One option is to create a dry creek bed running along the road. Now plows, should they weave a bit off coarse, move rocks, not your garden. We can add larger rocks and small boulders for visual interest, and plant a garden starting on the home side of the decorative rock arrangement.
Create Good Drainage: Salty water should not be allowed to puddle in the lawn or garden. Proper drainage draws the salt infused water away from desirable plants and the lawn.
Plant Selection: Many salt tolerant plants are also on our favorite pollinator plant list. Good news: it’s a long list of plants which can tolerate road salt. Your garden designer will select plants that will do well with salt exposure while enhancing your new landscape design. A few possible contenders include:
Asclepia tuerosa, Anemonastrum canadense, Baptisia, Rudbeckias, Solidegoes, and grasses such as sideoats grama, Karl Foerster, and Little Bluestem.
If your landscape is exposed to a lot of street salt, call us and we will devise a landscape plan that tolerates salt beautifully.
(Above: Sideoats gama and Little Bluestem handle salt well as does Asclepias with its oragne blooms.)