Winter weather can be full of woe when it comes to plants. If correct steps aren’t taken, many gardeners find that some plants either didn’t make it through the winter or are severely damaged. During the winter, a common culprit of plant damage is the de-icing salt used to cover your sidewalks, driveways, and front steps.
While sprinkling salt effectively keeps your walkways less slippery, we often don’t think twice about how the salt in these de-icers is affecting our plants and surrounding landscape. This article covers everything you need to know about protecting your plants from salt damage during the winter.
How to Cover Your Plants in Winter
Common symptoms of salt damage on trees, shrubs, and other plants are yellowing foliage or complete plant death. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for plants to fully regenerate after salt burns once the damage has been done. Too much sodium in your soil will result in arrested cell development in your plants, stunted growth, and a lackluster growing season. It can also disrupt the proper balance of the pH, nutrient levels, and healthy bacteria in your soil. Simply put, salt is not something you want in your landscape!
Burlap plant covers are excellent for protecting trees and shrubs against most winter damage, but it also extends to salt damage. Keep in mind that salt damage can happen not just by your own hand. Depending on the layout of your landscape, salt damage can occur from the spray of a passing vehicle on the road, so it’s vital to be proactive in covering your plants.
The easiest way to help protect your plants is to properly cover them in the fall before winter has officially arrived. Applying a layer of mulch around the bases of your shrubs, trees, and garden beds where your perennials grow is a good way to protect the roots of your plants from salt. Even if you get a little carried away de-icing the driveway or sidewalk, the mulch will help prevent salt from soaking down into the soil and burning the roots.
If you’ve never wrapped your trees and shrubs before, it’s extremely easy to do. Evergreens will be particularly thankful for a winter cover, especially if you have plants like Arborvitae. Make sure you have enough fabric to wrap the tree or shrub at least twice, starting at the base of your plant and working your way up until you’ve completely covered the plant. Don’t wrap too tightly, or you might break some branches. Secure the burlap with a cord or twine at the bottom, middle, and top of the tree or shrub.
Look For Non-Sodium De-Icers
If you’ve covered your plants but still want to play it safe this winter, there are other de-icing methods you could try instead of salt. Some de-icers have different ingredients that are just as effective; for example, look for ones that list calcium magnesium acetate, magnesium chloride, potassium chloride, or potassium chloride. Alternatively, you can use other de-icing methods entirely like sawdust, gravel, sand, or even kitty litter to help with traction and to keep your walkways – and your plants – safer.
Plant covers are a simple solution to preventing salt damage this winter, but we hope you’ll also give some thought to how salt can affect your landscape overall. If you want to learn more about protecting your landscape in the winter or shop our plant covers for sale, stop into Meyer Landscape and Design. As always, keep yourself and your plants safe this winter!