Soil Amendment: Bonus Uses for Gypsum
From dog spots to weed control, this is a product that should not be overlooked!
For those of you reading this who have used our Soil Test Kit, you know that we recommend sampling your front and back yard separately. What we didn’t elaborate on is why.
As Canadians, we are all familiar with the necessary evil that is winter road salt. It covers your vehicle, stains your shoes, and can irritate your pets’ paws – the obvious downfalls. What you don’t see, however, is the damage being done to your soil.
When sodium accumulates in soil, it can become harmful to root systems.
Road salt is primarily made up of sodium chloride so, if you live along a main road, you can guess where this sodium originates. Maintenance vehicles that are equipped with a spinner disc can throw salt upwards of 20 feet into your front yard.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking: “My street doesn’t get salted, so I don’t need to worry!” Right? Not necessarily. Think about how much snow builds up on your vehicle during winter driving. Mixed in with that snow is the salt from city streets – some of which is bound to end up on your driveway. In most cases, driveways are sloped to drain right onto the lawn. Maybe that isn’t the case, but where do you throw snow when you shovel?
In general, sodium concentrations are higher within a few feet of hard surfaces.
In these areas, gypsum can be applied without a soil test. This product is naturally mined and is effective in the displacement of sodium ions. Once these ions have been detached from the soil particle, they can be flushed out with rainwater – this process is also called “leaching."
Bonus application #1: Reduce sodium.
Apply gypsum along curbs and other hard surfaces where sodium burns are becoming an issue ( figure 1 ). Use a small container to sprinkle a generous amount in these areas. Water in thoroughly or apply just before rain.
Sodium leaves your lawn in a weakened state, leaving affected areas vulnerable to weeds ( figure 2 ). Being opportunistic in nature, weeds LOVE poor nutrition. Get rid of the sodium before they have a chance to move in.
Bonus application #2: Alleviate compaction.
In soils with high clay content, areas of heavy traffic will become compacted over time ( figure 3 below ). Applying gypsum generously in these areas can aerate the soil and allow enough air circulation to re-establish grass. Please note that this solution is not as effective as core aeration.
A low-rate blanket application in the spring can also help to open the soil and give grass roots a head start. This is a great way to set your lawn up for success throughout the growing season.
Bonus application #3: Repair dog spots.
Scoop a cup of gypsum and sprinkle onto damaged spots. Soak with water after application. Doing so will displace the minerals that cause burning and flush them from the root zone. Gypsum is non-toxic and is safe for use around pets.
Note: Blanket applications of gypsum will not be effective as a preventative measure for dog spots.