Like it or not, living in New England comes with wintery weather and with it comes the potential for damage to your lawn from salt and plowing.
Salt damage is normally an issue along walkways, patios, and paved driveways—not necessarily large chunks of the lawn. However, if you salt regularly and the runoff from the melt or rain pools off the driveway and on the lawn, it can cause problems in these areas as well.
Salt damage is caused by filling the soil profile with sodium ions which in turn limits the soil’s ability to hold available water and nutrients for the turfgrass to take up. There are several formulations of salts out on the market. Common rock salt (sodium chloride) is the most common (and cheapest) but it also causes the most damage. Calcium chloride is a more turf-friendly alternative and equally effective in treating ice. The best way to avoid salt damage is to avoid using it altogether and using sand if possible. Sand has two good qualities: there is no lasting damage to turf and when you sweep it off into your lawn in the spring, it’s just like top dressing your lawn. Of course, sand does not have the same performance qualities of salt, so if you are going to use salt, be careful not to overapply or apply off-target as best you can.
If Spring hits and you are seeing yellowing of the turf along salt-treated surfaces, it is a good bet you have salt damage. It is possible the lawn will rebound as the turfgrass comes out of winter dormancy, but if not, Gypsum or some form of Calcium Sulfate can help. This compound will help flush the salt out of the soil profile and keep your turf happy and healthy.
When it comes to plow damage, the best treatment is prevention. Clearly marking boundaries with plow stakes or reflective markers gives you the best chance to avoid having to reseed damaged turf in the spring. If you do have to reseed, incorporating the seed into 1-2 inches of topsoil or loam will ensure you have proper seed-soil contact for germination. You should also alert your lawn care company to ensure they do not apply any pre-emergent weed barriers to the area as they will hamper your new seed. Mainely Grass offers spring Slice Seeding and Starter Fertilizer specifically formulated with a seed-safe pre-emergent so you can get the best of both worlds.