Winter Tree Damage Due To Salt And De-icing Products

Winter Tree Damage

How To Prevent It?

We are all familiar with the harsh Canadian winter. The long months of icy winds, snow and ice. Each year we prepare for the cold in so many ways—from bundling up each time we go outdoors, to cleaning our driveways, monitoring our plumbing pipes for damage, winterizing our cars, and much more. One of the routine activities we also do during the winter is salting and using de-icing products on our properties. Not many of us, however, are aware of the damage they can do to our natural environment. Winter tree damage is often a result of excess salt levels.

Salt is drawn into the leaves and twigs via roots, causing disfigured foliage, stunted growth and severe decline in tree health. As salt levels increase in the soil, root systems grow weak, reducing the ability of plants to fight diseases. The main damage caused is from toxic levels of sodium and chloride in the salt.

The problem is, winter tree damage may not be visible until the end of summer. Decline may not be noticeable for several years.

7 Steps To Help The Trees And Shrubs On Your Property Fight Salt Damage

  1. Avoid de-icing salt unless necessary. Mix salt with abrasives (sand, cinders, ash). The abrasives will help to prevent build up of icy surfaces.
  2. Use alternatives such as calcium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate.
  3. Improve soil drainage. Add organic matter such as activated charcoal or gypsum.
  4. Provide adequate irrigation and mulching to reduce water loss.
  5. Erect barriers between pavement and plants. This will stop or reduce the flow of salt and de-icing products from your patio, driveway, sidewalk, etc. into your trees and plants.
  6. Plant trees away from locations of salt spray.
  7. Plant salt resistant trees in areas where high salt spray is inevitable (see below).

Salt Resistant Trees

  • Horse-chestnut
  • Black and honey locusts
  • Bur, English, northern red and white oaks
  • Norway maple
  • Poplars
  • Austrian, jack, mugo pines
  • Blue spruce
  • Siberian elm
  • Russian olive
  • Mock orange
  • Callery pear
  • Staghorn sumac
  • Sargent and chokecherry
  • European cranberry bush
  • Alpine currant

In addition to following the above recommendations, you should also consult a Toronto arborist who can further help to reduce winter tree damage through:

  • Professional tree pruning techniques to minimize wounding
  • Tree fertilizing to correct nutrient deficiency and improve health
  • Control of tree damaging disease and pest infestations

Don’t wait until the end of the cold weather to start nurturing your trees back to good health. Taking the right steps to minimize winter tree damage will ensure you have a vibrant and healthy landscape to enjoy when the warm weather is back.

Worried about winter tree damage? Call the experts at Ontree today at 416-412-2100.

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