Salt damage in hedgerows

Garden Life
Hedgerows are used as a privacy shield from your neighbours and the road. In the winter, grit salt can get into hedges and bushes, causing damage to the plant. The salt can reach the trunk, saplings and evens the roots when it is covered in spray water. This salt is then drawn in causing shoots to appear later than normal, making the hedge become frail. The salt may even kill the plant completely.

Symptoms of damage

If the tips of branches are brown, particularly those branches close to the ground, then this is a classic symptom of grit salt damage. But these symptoms are not always easy to detect. Water is drawn out of the plant and the leaves often turn brown, starting from their edges. Grit salt effectively over-fertilises the plant, giving it too many nutrients and removing water from it. The most vulnerable plants are conifers like thujas, as well as rhododendrons. If there is too much grit salt in the soil, they can have a particularly strong reaction.

Repairing the damage

If the hedge is already damaged, then the only way to help is with frequent, intensive watering. This will allow the layer of salt to penetrate deeper layers of soil so that it can no longer damage the hedge. This will only work if the ground is not frozen. Pour around 20 litres of water per square metre onto unfrozen ground every five days for approximately one month. If the hedge is unprotected during winter and has accumulated a layer of salt, then a thorough wash with the garden hose should help.

To prevent salt damage in the long term, trees and plants that are less sensitive to salt should be planted in areas facing the road. Some suitable plants include firethorn, alder buckthorn, burnet rose, snowberry, lilac and certain species of spiraea, viburnum and—among the conifers—blue spruce, Austrian pine and mountain pine.