Think trees before tossing that salt

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .

holiday tree logoThis important message from Tree Pittsburgh is meant to build awareness about the impact that de-icing salt can have on trees.

Our city's street trees are particularly vulnerable.

There are environmentally safe de-icing solutions, which cost more than the standard, municipal inventories but the hope that individuals and public works departments will budget for those may be overly optimistic.

In the meantime, we can all be better tree and soil stewards when deicing sidewalks.

Tree Pittsburgh reports that de-icing salt "attacks healthy trees as well as sick trees, large trees as well as small ones."

 "Usually, trees can handle small amounts of salt and spring rains help to wash salt away from the soil and tree roots. But, when too much salt is applied, it can build up in the soil and start to desiccate (make extremely dry) and destroy tree roots. You can see this in the spring in a few ways: either when a tree leafs out and the edges of the leaves have brown margins, or when the tree fails to leaf out all the way.

"Not only will salt hurt the trees, but over time too much salt can begin to destroy soil structure. This will create soils where nothing will grow! There are a number of things that can be done to protect trees:
  1. Plant the right tree in the right place, since some species are more salt-tolerant than others. Just remember: no tree is salt-proof!
  2. Clear as much snow and ice as possible before salting, and use it conservatively.
  3. After thawing, sweep up any remaining salt and save it to re-use later.
  4. When spring arrives, water trees that have been exposed to a lot of salt. This will help to wash the salt from the soil.
  5. Consider an ice melt alternative.
Check out our website for more details on ice melt alternatives!

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