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5:47 AM Fri, Feb. 22nd

Column: When it comes to plants, hold the salt

Do you like salty foods? Does the idea of french fries, potato chips and crackers make you drool? It's a good thing you are human and not a plant.

Plants do not do well in salty soil. Guess what? Our soil has a large quantity of salt. Perhaps this is the reason why your plants are stressed.

Plant damage from high salts that you can see include: temporary wilting; early leaf drop; leaf yellowing; stunting or reduced vigor; and leaf scorching or marginal burn.

When you water your plants, you may be contributing to the problem. The presence of high soil salts can cause a plant to become water stressed even though there is adequate water for the plant. Normally, water is drawn into the root as water is lost through the leaves.

As soil salts become excessive, uptake of soil water becomes more difficult for the plant. The resulting damage looks similar to damage caused from drought or root injury.

What do we do now? Flushing the salts below the roots is relatively easy to do. Salts may be removed by leaching the salts with several irrigations of water. Of course, you need soil with good drainage.

Periodically, once a month or so, deeply water the plants. Use a soil probe to determine the depth of water penetration.

Plants growing on saline soils should not be allowed to become water stressed because this concentrates the salts in the root zone. Make sure you water frequently.