Simple Ways to Save Your Trees From Salt

Simple Ways to Save Your Trees From Salt

Winter weather is on its way. Learn more about protecting your trees in winter now!

Shawn Kingzette is an International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) Certified Arborist and District Manager of Davey’s Northwest Chicago tree service office in East Dundee, Illinois. Shawn met with Lou Manfredini on WGN Radio 720 to answer questions and inform homeowners about the impact winter can have on trees and his main concerns as an arborist.

Do you live in an area that receives a large amount of snow in winter? Read below to find out what that snow—and snow removal practices—is doing to your trees: 

Question: Do I have anything to worry about with all of this snow built up against these trees?

Shawn: As an arborist it’s really the salt that concerns me. The snow, in some ways, is a good thing because if we get a nice gradual melt, that water penetrates the ground. And, after the drought of 2012, that kind of water is actually encouraging to trees that were struggling due to the drought. So, the snow and water do not concern me; it’s the salt that’s inside it that worries me sometimes. Trees do not like it. It’s bad for their roots; it causes them all kinds of problems. Sodium chloride is not good for a tree’s health.

Question: Typically you don’t like when there is a box or pavers around the base of a tree, right?

Shawn: Correct. That’s kind of like suffocating a tree. You don’t want to have a lot of materials around the root flare, where the trunk transitions to the ground, and to put stuff around there can cause the trunk to rot, decay and girdling root.

After snow melts from your trees, check for smaller leaves or die back to determine whether they are stressed. Leafing out late is another sign of stress.

Question: So, when I see big piles of snow that are taller than me pushed up against trees, that’s not a problem, it’s just the salt inside it?

Shawn: Yes, the salt inside the snow. Often what we see is plows and other mechanical things will actually hit the tree. They have nowhere to put the snow so they keep shoving it up against the tree, and at some point they actually hit the tree with the equipment they’re using. You don’t really notice it until the spring when the snow is all melted, and then there’s a big wound on the tree. 

Question: What are some things listeners can look for after the snow melts that may be a sign the tree is in distress?

Shawn: Leafing out late, smaller leaves and die back.

Question: Can we wash our trees?

Shawn: Yes, we can. What salt does is it actually pulls the water out of the bud or out of the root. So, yes, you can rinse the salt out of your trees and you can also rinse the salt out of your soil. Watering a tree near a parkway is a good way to reduce the amount of salt in its system and any further damage from the salt.

Do you have a question about one of your trees? Contact us for a free consultation! One of our professionally trained arborists would be happy to meet with you and answer all your tree care questions this winter.

Add a comment:
Featured or Related Blog Posts
  • Oh, the Weather Outside is ... Mild

    The sun is shining. The birds are singing. The sky is a vibrant blue.

    I'm wearing a light jacket and gloves. There's a very slight chill in the air but the warmth from the sun wipes that away before it can even bother me. This weekend, taking a walk with my dog in the park, the pathways were rather full of others doing the same. They were smiling and jogging and taking in the scenery. Most of their heads were free of the typical tassel-topped hats that are signatures of the season.

    Though the leaves aren't on the trees yet and my spring bulbs aren't shooting up, the anticipation and excitement of the new season are so tangible I can practically taste them in the crisp air. And seeing the light in others' eyes and the skip in their steps tells me they are feeling the same.

    Read More
  • Winter Wonderland

    One of my favorite things to do in the winter is sit by my back windows and watch the bright blue birds eat the brilliant fruit off of my crabapple tree.

    It's one of those trees that, despite losing its leaves and becoming a seemingly uninteresting skeleton, transforms into a gathering place for the birds, tweeting and twittering as they munch on the abundant red spheres on the branches. And the arrival of cold weather often adorns the tree in striking frost. The crabapple is truly a tree with incredible winter appeal that brings enjoyment to my whole family.

    And what is a landscape if not a canvas for providing yourself with endless enjoyment in every season, regardless of what Mother Nature may bring in the form of harsh winds, sleet, snow and ice.

    Read More
  • Keep Winter Scavengers From Ruining Your Silent Nights

    To catch a better glimpse of the snowfall most of the Midwest has yet to receive, I recently made a visit to New Jersey, which was struck by a memorable Snowtober this fall. I walked among the trees nearby, marveling at the beautiful, fluffy, white snow on their branches and enjoying the calming atmosphere. All was quiet, peaceful.

    One line from The Night Before Christmas comes to mind: "Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

    But then I contemplated the authenticity of that familiar phrase. Despite the serene appearance of winter landscapes, does snow protect trees and shrubs from winter scavengers? Voles and deer, for example, are quiet creatures that can cause severe damage to your trees. In fact, critters could be tunneling just below the soil surface, under sheets of white snow, wreaking havoc without your knowledge.

    Read More
  • 20/20 Vision

    I could stare at fall foliage for hours at one time, mesmerized by its variety and vibrancy.

    It's exciting to witness the transformation from a lustrous, yet static, bright green canopy to a cornucopia of color among the leaves. The warmer shades of the color spectrum begin to take over, with a few glimpses of purples and plums sprinkled in throughout the leafy scenery.

    But when the winds begin to pick up, even the slightest breeze detaches a few fragile leaves from surrounding tree branches - one by one - gradually revealing the bark and hinting winter is near.

    Read More
  • Prevent Ice Damage on Trees

    There's nothing worse than walking out the front door, confidently bundled up in a warm coat, hat, scarf and gloves only to take that first certain step and have the  ice lurking beneath the snow make you do a slipping, sliding dance where your legs brace in a slight squat position and your arms flail out trying to help keep yourself balanced and upright.

    Absolutely no one looks cool doing the ice dance.

    When ice coats trees in thick crystal layers, forming perfect icicles that clink together, making pretty music in the wind, it can be a beautiful site (and sound). That is until evergreens start to double over and deciduous tree branches hang heavy as if weeping.

    Read More

Request a consultation

What do you need services for?
Sorry, we can’t seem to find the zip code you specified. Our residential tree care offices may not service your area. If you believe this is an error, please try again. Need help? Email us at
  • Email newsletter
  • Woodchips
*Please fill out all required fields.