FAST ACTION is your best bet to assure that road salt doesn’t have a chance to damage that verdant lawn you remember, and crave, now that spring is here.

The salts applied to clear our roads and keep us from slipping on winter ice can do severe damage to lawns. They can last for years in your soil, building to toxic levels that destroy your lawn. You may notice unsightly brown spots around the edges near the street or along the driveway, wherever salted snow was piled up and concentrated in a specific area.

snow moldWith proper preventative measures and rapid treatment early in the season, you and your lawn care professional can develop a plan to keep your lush lawn green and healthy, despite winter’s barrage of snow-melting salts.

Your lawn care expert can do a quick assessment of your lawn to determine the exact cause of the problem (salt damage, pink or gray spring snow mold…) and the best method to remedy the situation. That way, you can begin to enjoy your lush spring lawn now and take preventative steps in the fall.



  • “How does it kill my grass?”

Salt in the form of sodium chloride (NaCL) prevents the uptake of water through the roots and dehydrates the blades of grass as it dries on them, thus the brown patches on certain “salty” areas of your lawn. It can also block the absorption of essential nutrients, such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. And the excess of chloride interferes in the production of chlorophyll from sunlight, so the grass starves as well as dehydrates.

  • “So how do I turn my brown grass green?”

Once the salts are already on the lawn, the best thing to do is to flush as much as possible out of the top soil and off the blades of grass. If the damage is in concentrated areas, simply take a hose and flush the areas with fresh water to force the salts to sink below the root line of your grass. In broader areas, you may need to water the lawn thoroughly so that the salts are sufficiently diluted and can flush naturally through the soil during spring rains. If there is insufficient rain, you may need to water more frequently in order to keep the salts flushing out rather than accumulating near the roots.

In extreme cases, or if soils are such that they do not flush easily or have become compacted, you may need to seek a more aggressive remedy, such as applying a liquid carbon to reverse the ionizing effects of sodium chloride (road salt, rock salt, table salt). Certain methods that may be acceptable in some areas are not advisable, or sometimes not permitted, in other regions. This evaluation of “best practices” should be done by a specialist who can determine the proper substance and amounts to apply as well as suggest a combination of tactics that will net the best results for your lawn. The last thing a “spring anxious” homeowner needs is for his “cure” to cause more damage than the original problem. Once the salt has been sufficiently neutralized, your lawn care professional can then take steps to rebuild that lush lawn you’ve grown to love.

  • “How do I avoid this problem in the future?”

salt damage on lawnEven though you can’t control the types of de-icing salts used by your local road crews, you CAN take control of your own space to minimize the damage done. (We should give a “shout out” to Wisconsin ingenuity for using an abundance of leftover cheese brine as a salt additive and some municipalities are even using beet juice.)

This is where a collaborative plan with your lawn care professional can provide THE BEST chance of avoiding future salt damage to your lawn. Together you can decide from a list of preventative options and customize the plan to best achieve and maintain the lawn you love to enjoy.

PASSIVE RESISTANCE: Less is more when it comes to snow and the removal agents.

Keep walkways shoveled often and BEFORE adding de-icing agents. NEVER use de-icers until after you have removed the clean snow. Use the least amount needed to do the job under the circumstances.

Use a “snow fence” material along roadsides to prevent splash onto your lawn. Plant a salt-tolerant hedge as a vegetative barrier. Grow herbaceous shrubs to buffer walkways and driveways.

ALTERNATIVE DE-ICERS: For the homeowner, there are a number of de-icing choices that provide an alternative to using sodium chloride for your walkways and driveways.

You could try sand and salt or kitty litter in a mixture to provide an abrasive surface to prevent slipping. (Or if you make your own cheese and have left over brine….)

You can use calcium chloride, potassium chloride, or CMA (calcium magnesium acetate), but each has limitations of effectiveness at various temperatures. Your lawn care expert can help you decide the best option for your situation.

PROPER GRASS AND PROPER MAINTENANCE: Ask your lawn care professional which type of grass will provide the best salt tolerance for your area and soil type. Healthy, loose soils can drain faster and flush salts better. As an expert on YOUR specific lawn, your professional will know the best cutting height and proper nutrients to provide the best resistance to salt damage. If you’re looking for the fastest route to a lush green lawn in early spring, prevention is the best cure.

Repairing Salt Damage To Grass | 920.434.7918 | Green Bay, WI


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