We’re seeing a lot of damage to trees along the coast caused by salt spray and storm surge affecting the leaves and needles of evergreens and deciduous trees. This is just the beginning of the problem, in areas that got flooded from the tom, salt levels in the soil are going to rise dramatically, causing damage and even death to many trees. The browning of needles and leaves caused by salt desiccation is only going to increase over the next few months and will likely be seen heavily next spring. How do we remedy excess soil salinity? Rain is our best ally. Salt needs to be flushed from the soil to deeper levels and needs to be washed from the surface of the trees’ leaves, needles and buds. Unfortunately, deep, extended watering is the only answer. Light flushing, such as watering with a garden hose, will only make the salt more soluble and spread it throughout the soil. Rainfall over the next few weeks will be crucial. Therefore, although we curse the upcoming Nor’easter on top of the hurricane, it will actually help wash the plants off. Unfortunately the additional storm surge may bring more salt into the soil. We need more rain without any coastal flooding.
The big dog in saline soils is the presence of excess amounts of sodium, which binds to soil particles and “clogs” the soil, preventing water from becoming available to roots (hence the tissue desiccation.) One worthwhile technique for decreasing soil salinity is to use gypsum or other similar calcium based products to chemically break down and help remove sodium from the soil. The calcium in gypsum helps replace the salt and the sulfur helps make sodium more soluble (and more easily washed out) by turning it into sodium sulfate. At Fox Tree we like to use materials such as SolU-Cal (see link: SolU-Cal label) which are highly soluble and quick working.
Once sodium levels are on the way down, we highly recommend repopulating damaged soil ecosystems with beneficial bacteria, fungi and other soil micro-organisms that will also help break down the salt levels and will also allow the root systems to operate more effectively, reducing stress. Be very careful, however, of adding high nitrogen fertilizer to soils at this point: most of these fertilizers will increase soil salinity, even if only marginally, (lawn fertilizers are generally a no-no.). Low nitrogen, organic-based fertilizers are usually safe.
If you’ve had soils and trees damaged by salt, call Fox Tree right away to set up a recovery program! We’re offering a 10% discount on any soil remediation and root inoculation program to those affected by Hurricane Sandy!