Fairway Green, Inc
9 Ilene Ct, Suite 14 Hillsborough, NJ 08844
Phone: (908) 281-7888

Category Archives: Winter Lawn Care

Salt Damage to Plants and Snow Removal Tips

Salt Damage to Plants

Each year, we apply more than 15 million tons of rock salt nationwide to help de-ice roads, walkways, and driveways.  While the salt makes it much safer for us to travel in the winter, it is important to understand the impacts it can have on your lawn and landscape.

If you live on a busy road or salt your own driveway and sidewalk, you’re probably well aware of the salt damage to your lawn.  When roads get salted by your town, they are most likely using rock salt, which is primarily made of sodium chloride. The salt works great for melting ice and making our roadways safer to drive on in the winter by lowering the freezing temperature of water. However, for your lawn, salt damages the turf primarily by drawing out the moisture (drying it out) and making it turn brown.

What many homeowners may not be aware of is that salt can also damage plants, trees and shrubs.  Wind driven salt sprays from road trucks can travel up to 150 feet.  Salt damage to plants can be extreme when it comes to pine, spruce and fir trees.  Salt damage to evergreen plants causes the needles to brown from the tip to the base. Trees that lose their leaves each year may be damaged as well, but it will not be noticeable until the spring of the following year when the plants do not leaf out.  If rain or snowmelt does not dilute excess salt placed on sidewalks or driveways, the soil becomes very salty and can damage the plants easily.  A good tip to help prevent salt damage to plants is to learn to control where you are applying the rock salt.  Avoid applications of rock salt directly into your lawn and landscape beds.  Also, minimize applying rock salt to areas that will run off into your lawn and landscape.

Although you can’t control what gets applied to your street, there are some options that you can use on sidewalks and driveways to help minimize salt damage to plants and your lawn.  Magnesium, Calcium, and Potassium chloride are all options that are more effective and safer for your plants, but come at a higher cost than rock salt.  In addition, Magnesium, Potassium, and Calcium are all nutrients that are beneficial to your lawn and landscape plants in varying quantities.  You can also try to improve traction by using sand or kitty litter.  Some homeowners put up a burlap screen or snow fence along walkways and driveways to block salt from getting onto the lawn and preventing damage.  If you do use rock salt this winter, try to minimize usage on your driveways and sidewalks, especially near the edges if possible to reduce salt damage to plants and turf.

It is very difficult to reverse salt damage to your plants, you might want to consider replacing the plants and some of the surrounding soil as an option. If your lawn is damaged, remove 4 inches of soil and reseed the areas.

Snow Removal Tips

This has to be near the top of every homeowner’s least favorite chore, unless you have a company come out to remove the snow for you!  Whether you have a snow blower or shovel, you still have to bundle up in your snow gear and head out to deal with whatever mess Mother Nature has decided to give us.  Prior to using any equipment this winter, make sure you follow a few steps to prepare.  Inspect your shovels for cracks or breaks and replace if necessary before the first snowfall.  If you have a snow blower, make sure you have the proper gas for the machine.  It’s always a good idea to start the snow blower to make sure everything is working properly before the first snowfall.  Speaking from experience, it’s never fun to find out your carburetor is clogged right after a large storm!  Also be sure to check that oil levels are correct and the belts don’t have any breaks or cracks.  If you find anything that needs repair, it’s better to have it done before you really need it.

When removing snow, you want to pay attention to where you are putting it.  By just throwing snow out of the way, you may be adding additional snow onto your landscaping plants. The added weight of the snow can cause damage to those plants, potentially snapping branches or causing some plants to lean unnaturally.  So the next time you are out there shoveling or snow blowing, pay attention to where the snow is piling up and try to avoid your landscape plants.

We know that snow removal from driveways, roads, and sidewalks is important, but don’t forget to also remove snow from your landscape plants to prevent injury.  After each snow fall, spend a few minutes inspecting your landscape plants and do your best to brush off the snow if there is any heavy build up.  Only remove the snow if it comes off easily, otherwise wait for warmer weather to melt it.  You may end up doing more harm than good by forcing snow off the plants.

If you are in our service area and have any questions about salt damage to plants and turf, or snow removal advice, please feel free to contact us at 908-281-7888

Anti-Desiccants: Everything You Wanted to Know About Protecting your Plants During Cold Weather

What is desiccation?

In biology and ecology, desiccation refers to the drying out of a living organism. In your landscape plants, winter desiccation injury occurs when plants lose moisture from the leaves and do not have the ability to absorb water from the frozen soil. This moisture loss may cause your plant’s leaves and stems to dry out, resulting in discoloration of leaves and even death to stems and branches.

What is an anti-desiccant spray?

An anti-desiccant is a material applied to the foliage of evergreen plants to slow the rate at which moisture is lost.

How is an anti-desiccant spray applied?

An anti-desiccant, also called “anti-transparent” is a liquid spray.  It is applied using a pump system which moves the material through a hose end sprayer.  The liquid is sprayed onto the foliage until it is completely covered and there is slight run off of material.  It will take about two to four hours for the material to dry.  Once dry, it adheres to the target area and is in place to protect your plants.

Here is a video of anti-desiccant being applied:

How long will an anti-desiccant spray last?

Anti-desiccants are typically applied in November and December, and will last for a couple of months. The material gradually wears off and will be gone by springtime. In areas that experience cold harsh winters, like New Jersey, multiple treatments are recommended to ensure the material is in place to protect the plant all winter long.

Do I need an anti-desiccant spray?

If you live in New Jersey and have broadleaf evergreens (plants that keep their foliage all winter) then the answer is yes.  New Jersey can have drastic fluctuations in temperature as well as high winds during the winter, both of which can accelerate moisture loss in plants.  Anti-desiccant applications are very beneficial for plants exposed to wind and/or full sun that will lose moisture faster than ones which are protected from the wind and in shade.

Warning- Not all plants should get anti-desiccant treatments. Do not spray an anti-desiccant on waxy-blue conifers such as blue spruce.

What can I do to protect my plants from winter injury?

The first step is an anti-desiccant application.  This will help your plants hold moisture by providing protection against evaporation and slowing down moisture loss. It will also protect the foliage from accelerated moisture loss due to wind.  This spray will break down over time, so it’s a good idea to have the trees and shrubs treated regularly in the winter to extend the anti-desiccant spray longevity.

Next, you may wrap your plants with burlap.  For small plants, you may wrap the burlap over or around the plants and secure it with twine.  For moderate to large plants, you may drive stakes into the ground around the plant and then secure the burlap to the stakes using staples. This creates a “screen” or “windbreak” around the plant.  Burlap and stakes can be purchased from most garden centers, improvement stores, nurseries and co-ops.

There are also rolls of tape that can be purchased to wrap around the bark of smaller trees.  This will help reduce splitting of the bark that can be caused by large changes in temperature during the winter.  Split bark can cause damage or disease to the interior (cambium) of the tree, leading to permanent injury or death.

Water the plants throughout the fall even as it gets cooler out.  In the fall, plants are still growing and require good soil moisture to do so.  Keeping the soil around the roots moist until the ground freezes will ensure the plants have adequate moisture going into the winter.

Another helpful tip is maintaining proper mulch levels in your landscape beds.  2 to 3 inches of mulch will insulate the soil and help regulate soil temperatures throughout the year.  Please note that mulch should not be piled high on the trunk of trees or covering the shrubs. This will lead to decay and damage in the future.

Conclusion

An anti-desiccant treatment should be applied to your broadleaf evergreens prior to and in many cases during the winter months to minimize moisture loss.  Minimizing moisture loss will not only maintain the look of your landscape throughout the winter but will also reduce stress on your plants.  In areas with high wind, like New Jersey, a burlap wrap is also recommended for certain broadleaf evergreens which are susceptible to winter damage.  It is best you do everything you can to protect your landscape from winter damage and overall plant health going into the winter can play a key role. Improve your plant’s health during the year with proper cultural practices and regular fertilization to maintain a beautiful landscape.

If you are in our service area and have any questions about protecting your plants this winter, please give our office a call at 908-281-7888

9 Ilene Ct, Suite 14, Hillsborough, NJ 08844 United States | (908) 281-7888
Phone: (908) 281-7888