Salt water damage to your lawn is a fact of life for many of us living so close to the ocean and bays of beautiful Long Island. A storm surge from a hurricane or heavy rain can wreak havoc on your lawn and garden beds.
I know for many of you the last thing you need to worry about after a surge that floods your house is your lawn or garden. You have invested a lot of time and money into your landscape. Don’t give up. After the water recedes, you get the basement pumped and life starts to get back to normal. You should consider these few simple steps to get your lawn and garden back to health and protect it from salt damage.
Treating Salt Water Damage
1. Debris Removal
The first thing you should do is remove any debris such as leaves, branches and garbage. This will allow sunlight to get back down to the grass plants and help start to dry out the saturated, sponge-like soil. The next thing is to remove any silt (very small particles of rock) that may have deposited on the lawn as the water moved out.
2. Lawn & Garden Aeration
After removing debris, you need to aerate the soil of the lawn or garden. Aerating is simply poking holes a few inches into the soil. This can be done by wearing a pair of aerating sandals* that have 2 inch spikes on the bottom (similar to golf shoes), or you can do it by hand with an aerating tool. You can also rent a core aerating machine, which is similar to a lawn mower that you run over the lawn and it takes out plugs of soil. Another effective method is by slicing the soil with a spade. Be cautious to keep foot traffic to a minimum.
3. pH Balancing Your Lawn
Salt leaves excess sodium in the soil and it will probably change the pH. You should do a soil test and correct the pH balance by adding lime*, if needed. The next 2 steps are the most important. Irrigate your soil with fresh water to help wash the salt out of the root zone and then apply gypsum* to your soil. The gypsum will react with the salt and break it apart so it does minimal damage to your lawn or plants.
4. Fertilizing Your Lawn
Don’t fertilize right away. You don’t want to encourage excessive growth in damaged soil. Instead, apply a top dressing of compost such as Bumper Crop* or manure such as Chickity Doo Doo* and slowly add organics back to the soil. Apply regular fertilizer about a month later. This should bring your soil back to normal.
*All products mentioned in this article are available at The Dees’ Nursery & Florist in Oceanside, NY.