Tree Body of Palos Park
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LESS SALT, PLEASE

     If your trees and shrubs could talk, they would beg you to use less salt. However, we all know that keeping our sidewalks, steps, and driveways safe in winter is a problem. Most people resort to deicing salts (sodium chloride) to maintain safe, non slip surfaces. But, there is a downside to this solution. This same helpful salt can cause damage to nearby plant life and concrete. Salt mixed in snow melt, run-off, and splashes or spray from traffic can cause damage to trees and plants. Wind picks up the salt water spray and can cause damage for at least sixty feet from a roadway and often one thousand feet from a busy expressway. The salt deposited on twigs and buds causes desiccation and burn. On evergreens, salt spray causes browning or yellowing of needles, often only on the roadside portion of the plant.

     Melt water runoff from salted pavements kills adjacent grass and puddles up to make a salty soil. This salt remaining in the soil will stunt future plantings. Salt accumulates in drainage ways and depressions where it is channeled or splashed. Injury caused by intake of soil salt causes browning along leaf edges, stunted growth, fewer and smaller leaves, flowers and fruit the following growing season.

     Salt water collected in tire treads is deposited on garage floors where it erodes the surface of the floor causing pock marks.

     Homeowners who live near the hospital realize that the hospital must salt and plow frequently during winter storms to keep access open for ambulances and emergency patients. The county also maintains 80th Avenue and frequently salts and plows this same road. Most of the salt damage is on the east side of 80th Avenue, due to the prevailing westerly winds. Here is an excellent opportunity to plant salt tolerant plants.

There are some things one can do to decrease salt damage:
Shop for ice melter that contain urea and potassium chloride. Avoid products that contain a high percentage of sodium chloride. Potassium chloride does not hurt plants or concrete; however, be aware that it does corrode metal and is poisonous if eaten.

1. Reduce the amount of salt used by mixing it with sand, sawdust, or cinders. This will add traction.

2. Apply deicer after you shovel or plow. Avoid putting salt laden snow on top of the root zones of sensitive plants.

3. Protect susceptible evergreens by making barrier fences of burlap to shield them from salt spray.

4. Alter drainage patterns to avoid accumulation of salt run off near plants.

5. Check the list of salt tolerant trees and shrubs in the Morton Arboretum Tree and Shrub Handbook at the Palos Park Library. Select those plants for trouble spots.

6. The people at Sids Garden Center recommend applying pelletized gypsum on grass and plants near sidewalks and driveways before Thanksgiving to neutralize the effects of salt.

PLEASE WATER
Trees need water in winter. Before the ground freezes, please soak the ground around your trees and bushes. This is especially true for recently planted trees and evergreens.