Winter Salt Damage

Post-Winter Lawn & Garden Fixes


We know you’re seeing all sorts of hidden messes revealed as the snow melts away from your yard at this time of year.  Check out this quick review of a few common post-winter lawn and garden problems we often see here in Rochester.  Let us know if you’re seeing any other issues around town in the comments below!

1. Salt-damaged trees & shrubs in your tree lawn

Winter Salt Damage

Have you seen this rusty-orange color on any of your trees or shrubs near the roadside?  Salt spray from plows can go much higher than most folks imagine, and with the winter we’ve had, it’s pretty common to see this sort of plant damage in local tree lawns.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a solution to this problem, except working with your soil to re-balance the pH.

Evergreen trees in particular like acidic soils, so the alkaline salt often affects them more than other trees.  We are happy to do a free pH soil test at Van Putte Gardens any time we’re open (we need about 5 minutes and a coffee can-size amount of soil to do the test) so you will know how much gypsum to add to the area. Hopefully established trees can rebound during the season.

As for perennials planted close to roadways, if the damage is too severe, come in and talk with one of our perennial division Green Thumb staff members about more salt-tolerant plants that will thrive in our zone.

2. Dead patches in your tree lawn

Salt Damage to Tree Lawn

As your lawn begins to wake up from dormancy and green up again, you may notice that there is a strip along the edge of the road that’s pretty darn dead-looking. It’s more than likely a result of the same salt-damage mentioned above, but it’s a bit easier to resuscitate turf-grass than established trees. Salt alters the pH of the soil as we mentioned before, but if you can see even the smallest bit of green on the tips of the blades, it can probably be saved if you act quickly.

First, flush the area 2 or 3 times with water to wash any residual salt out of the grass. Then, aerate the section to loosen compacted soil, and apply gypsum to re-balance the pH and a nitrogen- and phosophorus-heavy fertilizer, like a starter fertilizer, to promote greening and root growth. In a few weeks, you’ll hopefully see your grass bounce back healthy as ever!

3. Gray Snow Mold in your lawn

Gray Snow Mold

When your lawn is finally uncovered from snow, you may see what look like dead, slightly moldy patches throughout the grass, particularly where snow was piled or drifted. It’s probably gray snow mold, and it’s a common issue early in the spring. Luckily, it’s probably also one of the easiest issues to fix with just a bit of elbow grease.

Full prevention isn’t possible at this time, but keeping your lawn a little shorter in the fall (around 2 1/2″) and making sure leaves are raked out and snow isn’t piled up in the same areas over winter will help somewhat.  Applying a fungicide in the fall as a preventative measure is a good step.

Then in the spring, raking out the affected areas when you see it is the best solution (there is no specific fungicidal treatment at this time). Raking improves air circulation, and since gray snow mold needs wet, cold conditions to flourish, the combination of warmer weather and drying out the turf should start showing you results within a week or two.  Using Van Putte 15+ fertilizer is a good method of jumpstarting growth and strengthening your lawn, and it will hurry along the disappearance of snow mold.


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