Dead or Yellow Grass this Spring? It Might Be Salt Damage

Every winter you treat your sidewalks at first sight of snow, the town salts the road. There are no accidents, no one slips and all is well.

But come spring, there’s a problem: the grass around these areas is destroyed— a distinct yellow or dried brown. While the rest of your turf comes back, as usual, these dead or dying patches just won’t recover without proper care.

We’re here with tips for repairing the salt damage, and for preventing your grass from dying next year.

Repairing Turf Salt Damage

Many deicing salts kill grass because they are composed of cheap, corrosive sodium chloride, commonly known as rock salt. This chemical saps your soil of moisture, collects to toxic levels and causes yellowing grass, turf root damage and more.

There are a few things you can do to reverse your grass salt damage:

Clean Up the Dead Grass or Plants

Removing dry patches in lawn

Begin by removing any patches of dead grass. You can cut these away using a shovel or raking, exposing the soil.

Passing vehicles on roads or snow plows can also spray salt up to 150 feet onto your lawn. Because of this, your plants can experience salt damage too— usually in the form of yellowing or browning tips of leaves, but sometimes worse. If any of these plants suffered extreme damage and died, remove them as well.

Give Your Turf a Good Spring Rinse

While rain can help to flush residual salt off of your grass and plant stems, buds, etc., don’t forget about your soil.

Once you’ve cleared the dead debris and grass, it’s time to give your soil a good rinse to wash away excess salt. Spray your lawn with two inches of water over a two to three-hour time span, then repeat after a few days to expel any sodium buildup. Questions about this? Ask someone from our team.

Apply a Soil Conditioner

Salt buildup dehydrated your grass and soil, so you need to help it retain moisture with a pelletized gypsum conditioner. The gypsum is made up of calcium sulfate, which adds calcium and sulfur to your turf to counteract the sodium, helping your turf and plants heal. We use gypsum to correct the soil at the Waterfront park and save the pine trees along the river.

Here at Green Sphere, we use professional-grade Hydretain products to help your lawn recover. They absorb water from the air and give it back to your turf as well as reduce your watering by up to 50%.

Reseed Bare Patches

Once you’ve rinsed and nourished your soil, lay down new seeds to regrow grass in bare patches. This can take a few weeks to come up nice and thick, but reseeding can help to ensure your lawn comes back full and green.

Seeding lawn

Preventing Lawn Salt Damage Next Season

If you had to fix your lawn from salt damage, you sure don’t want to have to do all this again next year! Protect your turf from harmful deicers, next year.

Here are a few things you can do to prevent salt from damaging your grass:

Line Areas with Burlap

If year after year, you know that your lawn dies in certain spots, lay down burlap. This will prevent the sodium from breaking down into your soil and killing your grass. You can use landscape staples to pin the burlap in place before the ground freezes.

This is especially helpful for homeowners or renters who can’t control what kind of deicer is used around their property. For example, your neighbor or the town may lay down harmful sodium chloride, which washes your way. Burlap can help shield your turf from these mystery chemicals.

Also, be sure to wrap your trees and shrubs before the winter hits. Not only can it protect your greenery from salt damage, but it also shelters them from hungry deer and dangerous influxes in temperatures. 

Choose the Right Deicer

It can be difficult finding a good deicer, but here’s an infographic with some great tips around choosing a product with the right ingredients.

Basically, you want to look for acetates, such as calcium magnesium acetate, sodium acetate or potassium acetate. These are typically more expensive than chloride deicers but less harsh on your lawn, and less corrosive on your stone or concrete. Ask our team about the best deicer for your Massachusetts property. We offer less corrosive products to our clients for their use and only use these on our snow removal properties.

Shovel Early

Once the snow hits, keep up with the buildup. Sometimes people use deicers to melt snow so that they don’t have to shovel when really it’s better to remove the snow so that deicers aren’t needed in the first place! The best option is to pretreat the walkway so that the snow and ice don’t bond to the surface allowing it to be easily cleared and often no additional treatment is needed after the storm.

Shoveling snow

Is It Definitely Salt Damage?

You might assume that your grass problems are the result of salt damage, but how can you be sure?

Read our Landscaper’s Guide to Regrowing Dead Grass After Winter Damage. It addresses common causes of dead, sparse or yellow grass after the snowy season— like snow mold, crown hydration, cold desiccation and more.

Preparation is Key to a Healthy Lawn

If you found these salt damage tips helpful, protect your lawn with more advice from our landscape professionals.

Download this Massachusetts Winter Landscape Checklist to ensure you’re prepping your lawn for everything the cold season throws its way.

Don’t have the time to do this yourself? Contact us today for a consultation. We’ll inspect the damage and give your turf the refresh it needs to recover from salt damage— or whatever the problem may be.

Massachusetts Winter Prep Lawn Care Checklist


Topics: Winter Lawn Care