Salt your steak not your trees!

Mar 19, 2023

Here in Southern Ontario we are very quickly approaching that time of year, when the temperature swings are extreme. Our day time temperatures are hitting plus two or three degrees while our night temperatures are still dropping well below zero. All this freezing and thawing creates a ton of ice, that can be very hazardous. We have become very accustomed to using salt to remedy our slippery sidewalks and driveways. But what does all this extra salt do to our environment and our oh so important trees??

All this extra salt has to go somewhere. Unfortunately just because it dissolves into the ground does not mean it has disappeared. Salt in the urban environment has a major impact on our trees. One big problem with soil saturated by salt (say that fast three times) is it restricts the trees ability to absorb water into the roots. Too much salt can actually draw water from the roots. This causes the tree to display drought symptoms, and can cause great stress during the summer months when water is already scarce. Salt can also be absorbed by the tree causing disruption in nutrient uptake and cause leaf scorch in turn the tree can’t photosynthesize properly. Although trees photosynthesize to create energy, a trees true life source comes from the soil that it is planted in. Salt not only contaminates the healthy soil but it disrupts the soil structure and biology. Adding salt to the environment can cause the soil surface to crust over which reduces how much water can seep into the ground causing … you guessed it DROUGHT! We also have an entire network of organisms that live together in harmony below our feet. This network is made up of fungi, worms, spiders, nematodes, beetles, and lots of other fun critters you played with as a kid. These guys don’t like salt either, imagine that? All these creepy crawlies work together to keep soil healthy as well as structurally stable. Adding salt to our environment has such a significant affect to our ecosystem, so much more than we are aware of.

So what’s the solution?

Salt does help when dealing with ice and it does not seem as though things will be changing on a municipal level just yet, safety first! But we can cut down on the amount we use on our private properties. We can look at using sand instead of salt. If salt is the only option timing can be very helpful, if you put the salt down during the day when the sun is out it is far more effective and less goes a long way. Clearing your driveway and walkway of snow before it gets a chance to harden. Also if you see water pooling you can dig out trenches in the snow to redirect the flow to a storm drain or a location that is less hazardous. If you know you have used a lot of salt you can make sure to give your trees a good watering in the spring to help dilute the amount of salt in the soil. If you have any concerns about your trees or think you may have a salt issue please contact us, we are happy to come take a look and help you make a plan to protect your trees.