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How to make a natural garden look intentional and cope with road salt in the yard


I would like to plant a more natural garden but am worried about irritating the neighbors who might think it is sloppy or not a garden at all! Any advice?

Make a natural garden look intentional. Here are three major design tips to make a garden’s intent obvious:

1) Give it obvious edges. Edges can be botanical, such as a row of blue sedge (pictured) or can be hardscape such as pavers, bricks, a path, low wall or low fencing.

2) Give it an obvious shape. This can be geometrical lines and angles (circle, triangle, parallelogram, etc.) but also can be flowing lines made obvious with big or repeated curves.

3) Within the beds, make plant choice obvious. Use blocks or ribbons of plants, repetition of key species, or a predominant plant family (e.g. grasses) with a few other species mixed in. Of course, banish all invasive plants. Use at least 70 percent native plants.

Our snow road crews spread salt liberally, then push salty snow onto my lawn and plants. Can I treat the soil with something to remove salt?

Your approach will depend upon how much salt you’re dealing with. If you’re in one of those locations where salt get deposited in piles which are still there after the snow melts, it is worthwhile to clean up the pile and dispose of it in the trash. Same for salt piled on turf. Remove what you can.

Salt damage symptoms include: poor or stunted growth in spring, dieback on new growth of evergreens, and marginal leaf browning or scorch on deciduous trees and shrubs.

If you suspect salt damage, you can have your soil analyzed by a soil-testing laboratory. Soaking the affected area with one-inch applications of water three to four times in the spring can often treat plant damage. Gypsum may be added to the soil to reduce high sodium levels. Replant with salt tolerant plants

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.


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About Mary Ellen Bellusci

Mary Ellen Bellusci is a longtime resident of Baltimore, Maryland... A foodie, traveler, writer, and pursuer of happiness.