Snow is good for your gardens… but flying snow and road salt accumulation in soil can cause major damage to plants. Don’t worry, because in this post I will show you how to recognize the effect of salt on plants, give you easy snow removal tips to prevent salt buildup in soil, and also show you how to avoid damaging your plants during snow removal.
This is a paid endorsement. The author has been compensated and provided with the product free of charge in return for their honest opinion.
Most of us forget about our gardens as soon as we’re done with our fall chores, and don’t think about them again until spring (except for day dreaming).
Who can blame us. During the long, cold winter months when we have the daunting task of clearing several inches of snow in the middle of the freezing cold winter, the last thing on our minds are the plants hidden under all that snow.
But forgetting about your gardens during snow removal can have serious consequences.
This is such an important topic that many gardeners never think about, so I was super excited when Troy-Bilt reached out to me and asked me to try out their Vortex™ 3090 XP Snow Thrower.
It was the perfect opportunity for me to talk about snow and salt damage to plants, and give you my best garden-safe snow removal tips!
Is Snow Bad For My Garden?
New gardeners often worry that snow is bad for their gardens, but a healthy layer of snow is actually good for your garden and plants.
Snow acts as an insulator to protect plants from severe cold and dry winter winds. It also helps to add nutrients to the soil and hydrate our gardens as it melts in the spring.
But when your garden is located near a road, driveway or sidewalk where road salt and deicing chemicals are often used, snow can end up being very bad for your garden.
Take a minute to think about all of the road salt and deicing chemicals that are dumped onto our roads during the winter.
No matter what we do, these will end up on our driveways and walkways… and ultimately in our yards and gardens if we’re not careful.
And road salt in garden soil is very bad, especially for salt-sensitive plants.
Related Post: Beginner’s Guide To Cold Frame Gardening
Why Is Road Salt Bad For Plants?
Landscaping plants, including trees and shrubs, can have a sensitivity to salt and other deicing chemicals that are dumped or sprayed on top of them over the winter.
These deicers are leached into the soil and absorbed by the plants. The salt pulls moisture from the roots and leaves of plants, and can cause them to suffer from dehydration. Salt stress in plants can also make them more prone to damage from severe winter cold.
The damage isn’t always apparent right away either. Salt can build up in the soil over time, and end up killing plants after a few years.
Salt Poisoning Symptoms In Plants
Many times you won’t see any salt injury to your plants until spring or early summer, and sometimes it’s a slower progression. Here are a few salt sensitivity symptoms to look out for…
- Yellow or brow leaves, especially if they’re on the side of the plant that faces the street or driveway
- Deformed leaf or stem growth on the plant
- Poor flowering or fruiting
- Wilted plants that never seem to be getting enough water
- Tip or marginal leaf burn
- Early fall leaf drop
Easy Snow Removal Tips To Prevent Road Salt Damage To Plants
Snow and salt damage to plants can be frustrating, but there are several things you can do to avoid severe damage to your garden. Here are some garden-safe snow removal tips to help prevent snow and salt damage to your plants.
1. Focus your salt applications – Rather than broadly spreading deicers to prevent ice or treating areas that don’t need it, use them only when necessary to spot-treat icy areas.
2. Don’t pile snow on top of your garden – Even though snow is usually good for your garden, it’s not good to pile it on top of plants. When using a snow blower, try to shoot the snow over the top of your garden areas and into the lawn rather than burying your garden plants in snow.
3. Be mindful when applying salt – When you do apply deicing salt onto your driveway or walkways, make sure you don’t accidentally sprinkle it into a garden area in the process.
4. Keep salt-laced snow out – Never dump the salt-laced snow into your gardens or on top of any of your plants. When snow blowing, take extra care to blow salt-laced snow over the lawn rather than spraying it over the top of landscaping plants.
5. Clear the snow before applying salt – Rather than sprinkling deicers over the top of the snow, clear the snow from the area first, then apply salt directly to icy patches if necessary. This will help to cut down on the amount of salt you’re using.
6. Protect plants from snow damage – When you’re using a snow blower, be sure to pay attention to where it’s pointing to avoid plant injury. Try not to hit any trees, bushes or garden areas with flying snow. Flying snow could break tree branches, and cause major damage to garden shrubs too.
7. Mix in some sand – Mix sand with your deicer to cut down on the amount of salt you’re using on your property, and to help with traction in icy areas.
8. Mark the area with stakes – In the fall before the ground freezes, use stakes to mark the edges of driveways and streets to avoid damage to your landscaping from your snow blower and snow plows. This will also protect your snow blower from being damaged by accidentally hitting landscaping rocks or edging.
9. Be careful around a garden pond – Be especially careful if you have a garden pond near an area where you do snow removal. Even small amounts of deicing chemicals or salt can kill the fish and plants that are hibernating in there.
10. Use salt-resistant plants – Plan ahead and plant salt-resistant plants near the road, driveway or sidewalk where salt and deicers are regularly used. (See below for a list of salt tolerant plants)
List Of Road Salt Tolerant Plants
Yes, it’s true that some plants are more tolerant of road salt than others, and planting salt-resistant plants is one of the best ways to avoid salt damage to your gardens.
Here’s a list of some hardy salt tolerant plants that are also common perennials to get you started…
- Butterfly weed
- Prickly pear cactus
- Hens and chicks (semp…)
- Bee balm
- Black-eyed Susan
You probably won’t be able to avoid getting salt and chemicals on your plants all together, especially in gardens that are right next to a road or driveway.
But it’s good to think about what you can do to minimize the amount of exposure your plants get, and do your best to prevent salt damage to your gardens.
More Yard Maintenance Tips
- How To Trim Tree Branches: A Step-By-Step Guide For Beginners
- How To Cut Grass Like A Pro Using Lawn Mowing Patterns
- 7 Tips For Winter Composting Success
- When To Rake Your Lawn In The Spring
- How To Build A DIY Greenhouse
Share your garden-safe snow removal tips in the comments section below.