Salt - what does it do to turf?

Discussion in 'Pesticide & Herbicide Application' started by fiveoboy01, Mar 5, 2007.

  1. fiveoboy01

    fiveoboy01 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,988

    I'm posting this in this forum becasue I'm looking for input from those who are knowledgeable about turfgrass and I figure this is one of the better places.

    I'm preparing several bids for snow removal for next winter, and a few of the property managers have expressed concern about salt and the damaging effects it can have on turf.

    I seem to remember reading something here or there about the truth behind that.

    What effects will salt have on turf, if any? How much caution should be used when applying salt to drives/walks to keep it off the grassy areas? And is there any type of ice control salt or chemical that is safe for grass?

    Thank you!
  2. turf hokie

    turf hokie LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,744

    Salt - sodium chloride will kill the turf along the edges. Sometimes up to 18" off the roadside depending on run-off and amounts applied during the season.

    Around here safety is first and turf is second when it comes to snow. And the levels of expectations are high when it comes to snow.

    If you are doing concrete walks or brick pavers use calcium chloride or better yet magnesium chloride. You may still get some kill depending on how much is applied. But you probably won't have to replace turf along sidwalks if you use one of these products. They are also much less harmful on the concrete as well.

    Whenever I did roadways or parking lots I always assumed we would be replacing some amount of turf along the edges. Some sites will pay for replacement as long as you are up front about the possible damage. Others want you to be responsible, so that needs to be considered.

    Depending on the site some will want sod to be replaced. Others are OK with soil and seed to repair the damage.

    Gypsum and other products, IMHO, do nothing to prevent the damage. These have to be applied after every rain/snow event to continue to do any good and become cost prohibitive for the amount of damage they prevent.

    Like I said, around here the level of expectation is very high. We use a tremendous amount of ice melt products and have turf damage b/c of this.
  3. philk17088

    philk17088 LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 17,386

    A real trouble spot is where plows push corners, the piles are loaded with salt and can really burn turf hard. Also along busy roads expect to see salt burn on evergreens due to the spray coming off of vehicles as they drive past.
  4. fiveoboy01

    fiveoboy01 LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,988

    Thanks for the replies. The property managers I have spoken with have expressed concern about turf damage but have also been adamant about safety for the tenants. I will be sure to stress that safety should outweigh any possible concerns about the grass.

    One other question - pets. Is there anything to be concerned about as far as dogs or cats go? Can salt/calcium chloride/magnesium chloride be toxic to small animals? The prop. manager mentioned this and I don't want to be responsible for killing anyone's dog...
  5. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,956


    Down here in South Florida when I see we are about to have a Big Gulf Effect Snow Storm I pre wet all hard surfaces that need snow removal with Liquid Magnesium Chloride. I get about 2,000 sq ft out of a gallon. If it is the dead of winter and the snow is dry and power like, I can blow it off with a Back Pack and there is no need to worry about ice because of the pre wetting. In early spring snow storms that are heavier and wetter I will use Urea(cheaper than salt) to melt the ice the pre wetting doesn't get and fertilize the grass for about 8 inches on either side of the side walk. Of course when spring warm up comes that grass beside the side walk will grow very tall instead of turning brown and I can charge extra for more cuts per week during that time.

    I do caution My Customers that their dogs and cats can burn their feet if they get into a lot of Slush with high salt contend. However in most cases the pre wetting with MgCl will not be strong enough to burn their feet.

    BTW Snow removal has not been a real profitable business here in South Florida. :D
  6. Drew Gemma

    Drew Gemma LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,510

    ld 50 is the number that refers to the amount of salts a particular plant type can handle before death I believe.
  7. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,697

    Salt will poison the soil. If at all possible, potassium chloride (a type of fertilizer) is the best for melting snow and ice in sensitive areas.
  8. Ric

    Ric LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 11,956


    Thanks for the laugh My eyes are still watering.

    May I suggest you go to your local Grocery store's Salt Ilse. Look for the Morton's Lite Salt in the light blue box shaped like a cylinder. Don't get it mixed up with the darker blue box of Salt. Now read the contends of that Box. Bet you a Million Dollars it says Potassium Chloride.

    Muriate of Potash or MOP is in fact a fertilizer and some times called Potassium Chloride. However it has a very High Chloride contend and a very high burn factor because of the Chloride content. By use it as a de icer you are not getting any better melting nor any less turf burning qualities over other salts.
  9. muddstopper

    muddstopper LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,342

    Salt competes with the plants for available mositure. I will let someone else explain the technicals, but basicly, whenever the sodium levels are 1/10th of 1% greater than potassium, the plants will takeup the salt instead of the potassium. This results in the salt absorbing moisture to the point the plant cell wall ruptures and kills the plant.
    Calcium chloride will leach from the soil faster than magnesium chloride, both I believe have a lower salt index than potassium chloride. The addition of calcium, lime or gypsum will help some with the leaching out of the chlorides. Using Urea might cause possible problems with fungal deseases in your cool season turfs, especially if you have to make multiple application over the course of the winter. Because of the freezing temperatures, the urea most like will not gas off and will leach downward into the soil as well as run off into the storm systems. N moving downward into the soil is what will cause your fungal problems when the weather starts warming up and humitity levels start to rise.
  10. Grassmechanic

    Grassmechanic LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,697

    Thanks for the laugh Ric, a Florida man telling a Michigan man how to clear snow and ice, wooooohooooo.
    Ric, while I respect your viewpoint, you should stick to something you know (and in Fla. I doubt you have much snow). Sure, KCL is a salt. Just like NaCl. The fact that you're overlooking is that the amount of NaCL needed to melt snow and ice is far greater than the amount of KCL needed. I routinely use KCL on sidewalks and near landscape beds to control ice with ZERO damage to the plants. Several tons a year. And it works better than salt at lower temps.:hammerhead: :waving:

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