What are the effects of salt and vinegar on grass and shrubs that you don't want to kill? How long will it take for the ground to recover? How do I help the ground to recover?
Hardiness Zone: 7b
Mona123 from Bear Creek, NC
When too much salt gets into the soil, whether it's Epsom salt or a build up of fertilizer salts, water is drawn out of a plant's roots instead of flowing into them. This is normally referred to as "burning", but actually the plant is becoming severely (or fatally) dehydrated. The plant's leaves and stems start to shrivel and turn brown and leaves may mutate from chloride toxicity. The best way to remedy soil containing excess salts is to remove the contaminated soil and amend it with healthy, nutrient-rich soil. For the amount of salt used by most gardeners in homemade tonics, the area can probably be considered "recovered" as soon as it's refreshed with some nutrient-rich soil.
Vinegar is a weak acid and when applied to the soil, it lowers the pH. Changing the pH too quickly can damage or even kill plants by altering their roots ability to absorb water and minerals. Fortunately, because vinegar is a weak acid, it degrades in water and doesn't bioaccumulate (stay in the environment). After flushing the soil with water, you can expect the pH to return to normal within 48-72 hours.
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Very few plants will survive a dose of salt and/or vinegar. The only way I know of getting rid of it is to leach it out by regular watering. How effective this will be depends on what lies below the top soil; if its clay for e.g. then the remedy may not work - you may have to remove the top soil altogether. If its a well draining subsoil i.e. sandy then you should have some success - I hope. Also try a neutralising treatment to adjust the ph.
Salt kills plants. Dont use rock salt on your sidewalks. Only use plants near a roadway that can survive salt spread to prevent icing during the winter.
I'd try watering the effected plants heavily to try to wash the salts from the soil.
Having just experienced Katrina I can certainly attest to the fact that salt kills many things. We lost most all of our grass after everything was submerged by the Gulf of Mexico and were left with pretty much nothing but nasty weeds. Apparently weeds can thrive in salt! It has been a lot of work to get the grass back. And, while some of our shrubs and plants survived, a lot, like my precious azaleas, didn't make it.
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