- There are different kinds of lime, not all of which are preferred for landscaping purposes. As Charlotte Glen of the North Carolina State extension notes, agricultural or “garden” lime is made from calcium carbonate, and dolomitic lime from dolomite; both are suitable for landscaping use. But Glen warns that slaked lime and quick lime “are not recommended for lawns and gardens.” The same source observes that both the type deriving from calcium carbonate and the kind that comes from dolomite furnish your garden with calcium, while the latter is a source of magnesium, as well. So while lime is not really a “fertilizer,” it can, nevertheless, supply your garden with important minerals.
- Have a soil test done before you even think about adding lime to your garden or lawn. To accomplish this, simply send in a soil sample to your local county extension office. Prior to taking any action, have them explain the test results and subsequent recommendations to you if you do not understand them fully.
- Remember, when adding such minerals to the soil, you are playing with chemistry. Unless you are a chemist and really know what you are doing, err on the side of caution — do not add lime based on the erroneous notion that “it can’t hurt anything because it is natural.”
- Some plant problems are caused by soil being too sweet. Chlorosis (appearing as a yellow discoloration on a plant’s leaves) is an example. The Utah State University Extension remarks that chlorosis is “caused by iron deficiency, usually in high pH soils (pH above 7.0).” Iron can become unavailable to a plant growing in ground that is so high in pH (that is, the iron may be present in the soil, but the plant is unable to access it).
- Lime often fails to provide a “quick fix.” That is why liming is often treated as one of the tasks of lawn and garden care in the fall (as opposed to waiting till spring). If you rototill lime into your garden in autumn, you may actually start to see some results in terms of vegetable plant or landscape plant performance over the course of the following growing season.
- Adding Lime To Soil: What Does Lime Do For Soil & How Much Lime Does Soil Need
- What Does Lime Do for Soil?
- How Much Lime Does Soil Need?
- How and When to Add Lime
- All About Lime for Your Yard and Garden
- A Little Chemistry
- Nutrient Content
- Soil Type
- Reducing Acidity
- Buying and Applying
- Drawing Conclusions
- The Bottom Line
- Ask Ruth: Types of Lime & How to Use Them
- Lime for Gardens
- Using Garden Lime for Healthy Plants
- Where Does Lime Come From?
- Understanding Garden Soil pH
- When to Apply Garden Lime
- Using Limestone for Gardening
- Can Plants Have a Lime Deficiency?
- Where Can I Buy Garden Lime?
- Which liming material is best?
- What to look for
- Types of liming materials
- Value for money
- Lime Application Tips for Lawns: Adding Limestone to Your Grass
- What Does Lime Do for Grass?
- Should I Put Lime on My Lawn?
- What You Need to Know About Lime Before Applying to Your Lawn
- What is Lime Treatment For Lawns?
- How Can I Tell if My Lawn Needs Lime?
- When is it Time to Apply Lime to Your Lawn?
- How to Apply Lime to a Lawn
- Where Can I Buy Lime for My Lawn?
Adding Lime To Soil: What Does Lime Do For Soil & How Much Lime Does Soil Need
Does your soil need lime? The answer depends on the soil pH. Getting a soil test can help provide that information. Keep reading to find out when to add lime to the soil and how much to apply.
What Does Lime Do for Soil?
The two types of lime that gardeners should become familiar with are agricultural lime and dolomite lime. Both types of lime contain calcium, and dolomite lime also contains magnesium. Lime adds these two essential elements to the soil, but it is more commonly used to correct the soil pH.
Most plants prefer a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. If the pH is too high (alkaline) or too low (acidic), the plant can’t absorb the nutrients that are available in the soil. They develop symptoms of nutrient deficiency, such as pale leaves and stunted growth. Using lime for acidic soil raises the pH so that plant roots can absorb the necessary nutrients from the soil.
How Much Lime Does Soil Need?
The amount of lime your soil needs depends on the initial pH and the consistency of the soil. Without a good soil test, judging the amount of lime is a process of trial and error. A home pH test kit can tell you the acidity of the soil, but it doesn’t take the type of soil into consideration. The results of a soil analysis performed by a professional soil testing laboratory includes specific recommendations tailored to meet your soil’s needs.
Lawn grasses tolerate a pH of between 5.5 and 7.5. It takes 20 to 50 pounds of ground limestone per 1,000 square feet to correct a mildly acidic lawn. Strongly acidic or heavy clay soil may need as much as 100 pounds.
In small garden beds, you can estimate the amount of lime you need with the following information. These figures refer to the amount of finely ground limestone needed to raise the pH of 100 square feet of soil one point (for example, from 5.0 to 6.0).
- Sandy loam soil -5 pounds
- Medium loam soil – 7 pounds
- Heavy clay soil – 8 pounds
How and When to Add Lime
You’ll begin to see a measurable difference in the soil pH about four weeks after adding lime, but it can take six to 12 months for the lime to dissolve completely. You won’t see the full effect of adding lime to the soil until it is completely dissolved and incorporated into the soil.
For most gardeners, fall is a good time to add lime. Working lime into the soil in the fall gives it several months to dissolve before spring planting. To add lime to the soil, first prepare the bed by tilling or digging to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Spread the lime evenly over the soil, and then rake it in to a depth of 2 inches.
Agricultural lime is a conditioning agent that many folks apply to their lawns, vegetable gardens, flower beds, and pastures. If you’re not sure whether it’s right for you, read on!
Is your grass lush, like a thick green carpet, or is it marred by bare patches and weeds? Do you have problems growing basic leaf lettuce in your veggie patch?
One reason your lawn or vegetable garden may be in distress is that the dirt is too acidic, and this is where we’ll begin our discussion of lime.
Here’s the lineup:
All About Lime for Your Yard and Garden
- A Little Chemistry
- Nutrient Content
- Soil Type
- Reducing Acidity
- Buying and Applying
- Drawing Conclusions
- The Bottom Line
A Little Chemistry
The pH of soil is a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions in a mixture of dirt plus distilled water. Knowing this establishes whether we have acidic or alkaline soil. Neutral is 7.0.
Numbers below 7.0 represent acidity, and those above signify alkalinity. Different plants prefer different pH levels. The ideal for most turf grass is about 6.0 to 7.0.
Soil Savvy Test Kit via Amazon
To determine the pH of earth in your garden, use a product like the Soil Savvy Test Kit available on Amazon, or contact your nearest agricultural extension service for a kit.
Testing reveals not only the pH level, but nutrient deficiencies and excesses as well. Plants like grass require nutrients that are water soluble, so roots can take them up for healthy growth. A pH or nutrient imbalance inhibits this process.
We have a comprehensive guide on soil testing here on Gardener’s Path.
A variety of factors influence pH in the earth of your lawn or garden, including nutrient content, rainfall, fertilizer use, and soil type. Let’s talk about each.
To understand soil nutrients better, I consulted a paper titled Nutrient Deficiency Symptoms by horticulturist Barbara Bromley of the Master Gardeners of Mercer County, an arm of the Rutgers Cooperative Extension in New Jersey.
Soil contains primary macronutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium; secondary macronutrients calcium, magnesium, and sulfur; and micronutrients manganese, iron, boron, molybdenum, zinc, and copper.
In dirt with acidity above pH 6.5, there may be deficiencies in nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, or molybdenum. In addition, nutrients like aluminum, iron, and magnesium may become toxic in the presence of excess acidity.
The implications of such deficiencies include things like yellowing from decreased chlorophyll, withering of leaf blades, poor winter tolerance, slow-knitting sod, poor growth, reddish leaf tips, low resistance to disease, and reduction in turf density.
There are numerous natural and chemical applications available to remedy nutrient deficiencies determined by soil testing. For example, bone meal boosts calcium and phosphorus.
A note of interest: Nitrogen is so changeable that home test kits generally don’t measure it. You can inhibit nitrogen deficiency by mowing regularly and letting the grass clippings stay where they fall. They also contribute calcium and magnesium to soil.
If you live on the East Coast like I do, there’s enough rainfall to cause alkaline nutrients to leach out of the dirt, thereby increasing its acidity. As you travel west, dirt tends to be more alkaline.
If you fertilize regularly, or your grass absorbs runoff from neighboring properties, ammonium and/or an overabundance of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus may increase acidity.
Soil has a quality known as buffering capacity, aka reserve acidity, that is greatest in the presence of clay and rich organic matter. Dirt that can buffer changes in pH is less likely to become too acidic or alkaline. If yours is sandy, it may not be able to buffer properly to avoid becoming acidic. Read more about understanding the kind of dirt that you may have in your plot.
Neutralizing acidic soil helps to ensure efficient nutrient uptake so grass is healthy and attractive. It also has a positive effect on soil structure, creating more airspace in clay dirt and compacting sandy soil for better airflow and moisture retention. This process is called flocculation.
You may “sweeten” acidic soil with two types of agricultural limestone:
Calcitic lime (calcium carbonate) comes from limestone, chalk, or marlstone.
Dolomitic lime (calcium magnesium carbonate) is comprised of the mineral dolomite.
If your dirt is acidic, and the nutrient content is adequate, the calcitic type is the better choice. Conversely, if your dirt is acidic and lacks magnesium, dolomitic lime is the more suitable option.
Both types of agricultural lime contain traces of additional elements, and it’s the amount of pure calcium carbonate that distinguishes the best products. The calcium carbonate equivalent, or CCE, is factored into calculations to establish the recommended number of pounds per acre. Lime is also judged by its fineness, as measured by the ability to pass through mesh sieves of different sizes.
Other categories for ranking include effective neutralizing material, ENM, and effective liming material, ELM, but they are beyond the scope of this article. Knowing the basics will help you select quality products.
Buying and Applying
If testing indicates the need for either calcitic or dolomitic lime, you may like the following products.
Pelletized Dolomitic Limestone via TSC
Pelletized dolomitic limestone is available from Tractor Supply Company. Pulverized and bound into pellets, this product generates less dust than non-pelletized types. Apply it easily with a broadcast spreader. Packages contain 40 pounds, enough to spread over 1,000 square feet.
Soil Doctor 54050860 Pelletized Calcitic Limestone via Amazon
Pelletized calcitic limestone by Oldcastle is available from Amazon in 40-pound bags, for 1,000 square feet of application with a broadcast spreader.
The Scotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader is available from Amazon. With an ample hopper and heavy-duty frame, this multi-purpose spreader adjusts as needed to apply lime, feed, or seed.
Scotts Turf Builder Classic Drop Spreader
I recommend pellets, but there are also pulverized products available that have not been bound into pellets. The choice is up to you.
Pellets tend to be pricier, and they are made with a binding agent that must break down before the lime can work its way into the earth. The plain pulverized version is generally cheaper and breaks down faster. However, it is such a fine powder that the slightest breeze makes it airborne and poses an inhalation risk.
Be sure to read package labels before purchasing lime products. Don’t confuse calcitic and dolomitic agricultural limestone with non-agricultural quick lime (calcium oxide), and slaked/hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide), which are used in a variety of applications from cooking and papermaking to construction and water treatment.
You may also come across liquid lime (chelated calcium) for spraying directly onto the foliage of calcium-deficient plants.
Fall is a good time to apply lime to your lawn or vegetable garden, so it has a chance to work into the dirt before the next growing season. A reduction in acidity may take place in the first year, or over several years, depending upon your lawn’s unique conditions. Once the acidity is reduced, nutrient uptake will improve, and so should the appearance of your lawn.
If your lawn doesn’t improve, test the dirt again. Sometimes we give our grass too much love and end up at the opposite end of the pH spectrum with too much alkalinity, iron issues, and poor nutrient uptake.
Liming was a tradition at my dad’s house, so when caring for the lawn became my job, I intended to do the same – that is, until I learned it’s not a one-size-fits-all application.
Back in the day, Dad evaluated ours by considering where we lived and what grew there. The yard was full of acid-lovers including boxwood, cypress, hemlock, and rhododendron shrubs, as well as some weedy crabgrass, dandelion, plantain, and sorrel. As it turns out, his pH assessment was an accurate one.
The Bottom Line
To summarize, liming isn’t a fall task that all homeowners with lawns should routinely perform.
If your lawn is beautiful, do not add lime. Grass that responds well to good care requires neither acid reduction, nor the addition of calcium or magnesium. Tampering with soil pH and nutrients may ruin a healthy lawn and take years to remediate.
A lawn that is patchy, yellow/brown/dead, weedy, mossy, shallow-rooted, or all of the above may or may not need lime. Only a soil test will tell.
Tell us about your lawn in the comments section below. Have you done pH and nutrient testing? What were the results and recommendations for improvement?
If you’ve enjoyed this article, see these guides for more information on lawns and grass:
- 11 Winter Lawn Care Essentials
- How to Repair a Bald Spot in Your Lawn
- Tasty Turf: Tips for Using Culinary Herbs as Ground Cover
© Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published February 3, 2019. Last updated: January 5, 2020 at 16:14 pm. Product photos via Soil Savvy, Tractor Supply Company, Soil Doctor, and Scotts. Uncredited photos via .
About Nan Schiller
Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!
Ask Ruth: Types of Lime & How to Use Them
What is the difference between different kinds of lime available for garden application? I have some instructions that say “Do not use slaked lime”, but I
don’t know what that means.
I asked the local garden center, and they told me their lime was dolomitic. What is that? Is dolomitic lime also slaked? Please help!
-Anna, (Asheville, NC)
I’ll do my best to keep it simple, and I invite soil scientists in the neighborhood to send us additional comments on this important topic.
There are two basic types of lime available:
-Calcium Carbonate, called calcitic limestone (CaCO3)
-Calcium Magnesium Carbonate, called dolomitic limestone .
If calcium carbonate is heated, the carbon dioxide portion escapes and the result is called burnt-lime or quick-lime (CaO). If the burnt-lime is combined with water, hydrated-lime or slaked-lime is produced.
Limestone alters the pH of the soil and provides nutrients to plant life. Ground limestone, either calcitic or dolomitic, is the most used, most abundant, and generally least expensive form of lime. Certified Organic growers are not allowed by the USDA Organic Rules to use either burnt-lime or hydrated-lime. In your backyard garden, it’s up to you. I figure most of the organic rules are based on reasonable environmental arguments. It is possible that burnt-lime can kill some of the beneficial microbial activity in your soil, and it can also burn plant roots during unfavorable conditions. Hydrated-lime is liable to leach beyond the reach of plant roots becoming unusable to the plant. If you do use either burnt or hydrated lime, extra protection for your skin and eyes is required. Maybe that’s why your instructions stated, “Do not use slaked lime.”
Why is lime so important? Primarily, lime sweetens the soil by raising the pH and adjusting the acidity of the soil. Lime can facilitate better nutrient uptake and it’s probably the most economical way to provide additions of calcium or magnesium. It’s a fact that proper pH is extremely important to optimal plant health and maximum yield in your garden. Lime can also benefit the structure of both clay and sandy soils. Lime should be evenly distributed over the garden and well incorporated into the soil, as it doesn’t move around much.
Most vegetables prefer a pH range of 6.0 to 6.5, but this varies by region, and by crop. Beans and peas like more lime than other veggies. Potatoes don’t really like lime, and a number of plants prefer acid soil, such as blueberries, hollies, and rhododendrons. Getting a soil test is essential to ensure that your application rate is correct, and not overly sweet. Like Goldilocks… you want it just right.
Guess what? North Carolina is one of the only states that still offers FREE soil testing. Go to your local Cooperative Extension office where they will provide you with a box and instructions. After gathering your soil for testing, put your sample boxes in another box and ship it to Raleigh (you do have to pay the postage). Turn-around times are longer in spring than other seasons, so try to think ahead. Right now their website says it takes 5-7 days for the results to be posted, which seems optimistic for this time of year. Your soil test will tell you exactly how much lime to add, if any. Fall is a great time to get your soil tested, and a great time to apply lime to the soil since lime is somewhat slow-acting. If you don’t have a soil test to go by, and the soil has not been limed in the last 3-4 years, it would probably be safe to apply 50 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. of garden. Timing recommendations vary from liming a year ahead, to 4-6 months, to 2-3 months, and to applying just prior to spring planting. The general consensus seems to be to apply lime at least a few months ahead of planting so it has enough time to effectively alter the pH. The finer the particle size of the limestone powder, the faster acting the lime will be.
In general, the soils in Western North Carolina are naturally high in magnesium, so in most cases dolomitic limestone would not be the preferred lime for this area. Many area farmers actually use a high-calcium lime that acts to balance the calcium/magnesium ratio in the soil and results in better nutrient uptake. Gypsum can be used when you want to add calcium without changing the pH. Elemental sulfur is used to acidify the soil when you have an acid-loving plant. Bagged lime is available at local garden centers.
Ok, Anna, I hope you are ready to forge ahead with your project!
Web Resources for further reading: www.soil.ncsu.edu/publications http://hgic.clemson.edu
Ask Ruth © 2013 Ruth Gonzalez & Organic Growers School
Lime for Gardens
Table of Contents
Using Garden Lime for Healthy Plants
There are few things more rewarding than growing delicious vegetables and eating them when they’re at their ripest. Unfortunately, gardening isn’t always simple and, sometimes, you have to leave your garden up to nature. Many experienced gardeners will even tell you that they’ve struggled to yield a good crop at one point in time.
Pick up any gardening book or magazine, and you’ll likely see the word “lime.” Reading these publications may make it seem like lime is the magic solution to all of your garden’s problems. But just what is lime, and what does garden lime do?
When correctly applied, lime works to increase the pH of acidic soil. This creates a healthier base for plants to grow, because they’ll now have access to the nutrients and minerals they need to thrive. Garden lime is a powdered or pelletized product made from naturally occurring minerals. It has been used safely in agriculture for over a thousand years to change the soil pH, making it easier for plants to take up minerals and nutrients from the soil.
Lime also promotes the spread of new, good bacteria in your garden by supplying critical nutrients like phosphorus and zinc in your soil. Limestone also enables you to fertilize your garden more effectively, which means you won’t have to spend a lot of money to have a beautiful garden. To help your garden reach its full potential, apply garden limestone to your soil.
If you slept through high school biology and chemistry, don’t worry. Modern soil tests conducted at your local garden center or Cooperative Extension office can help you understand your soil’s pH and whether or not you need to adjust it to grow a lawn, flowers or a vegetable garden. Commercial lime products, such as pelletized lime, make it easy to add just the right amount to adjust soil pH.
Where Does Lime Come From?
Garden lime is mined from deposits formed millions of years ago. During that time, shallow seas covered much of the Earth, and prehistoric sea creatures lived in those waters. The creatures’ shells, composed largely of calcium, formed the deposits known today as limestone.
Using lime in the garden is one of the earliest known gardening techniques. For centuries, farmers have been transforming limestone and other rocks into lime powder to spread on their gardens and farms. In years past, they may not have known exactly what magic worked under the soil, but today, we know lime does several beneficial things to the soil. Lime is great for:
- Raising soil pH, which is necessary in many parts of the agricultural world to grow crops in acidic soils near human habitation.
- Adjusting the soil pH to grow a wide range of crops that people may not have been able to grow in that area before.
- Adding calcium and magnesium to the soil, two elements needed for vegetable and flower production. A lack of these minerals can cause malformed vegetables, poor fruit set or dropped fruits and vegetables.
- Making nutrients more readily available to plants, especially nitrogen.
- Helping herbicides work more efficiently.
- Aiding beneficial soil bacteria and microbes, which improve the health of your garden soil.
Among all the amendments you’ll want to buy for your garden, lime is among the best things you can bring in. Knowing how much to add, when to add fertilizer to a garden, the type of lime to buy for your needs, and asking the important questions like “can hydrated lime be used in the garden” can help you garden more efficiently and effectively.
Understanding Garden Soil pH
Before learning more about lime and garden lime uses, it’s important to understand a basic chemistry concept called pH. The pH scale measures hydrogen ions on a scale ranging from 0 to 14. You’ve probably heard the terms acid and alkaline. Those terms refer to the far extremes of the scale, with 0 being a pure acid and 14 being a pure alkaline. The midpoint, 7, is called neutral.
Most living organisms prefer a pH somewhere near the neutral portion of the range, although variations aren’t uncommon. Among plants, different plants prefer different soil pH, depending on where the species evolved.
Blueberry plants, for instance, evolved in the acidic soils of rocky, cold areas, and so they require a garden soil pH of 4 to 5.5 for best production. Blueberries are an extremely acid-loving plant so you may be looking at how to make garden soil more acidic. On the opposite end of the spectrum are vegetables such as asparagus, which can tolerate an extremely alkaline soil pH of up to 8.0, almost unheard of among vegetables.
Most gardening books recommend that vegetable garden soil offers plants a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. This range creates the ideal conditions under which plants can absorb nutrients and trace minerals through their root system. Complex soil bacteria and fungi attached to the root systems of plants and found in colonies throughout the soil break down organic matter into its components. Water then transfers those components to the plant’s roots. If the soil pH is within the appropriate level for your plants, they can absorb these nutrients easily and effectively.
When the soil pH isn’t within a usable range for a plant species, diseases occur. For example, blossom end rot, a problem in tomatoes, occurs for many reasons, but one important reason is improper soil pH. When soil pH is too low or too high for tomatoes, they can’t absorb calcium, an important mineral necessary for good fruit development. Black, flat spots called blossom end rot then develop in the tomatoes.
Adding lime to change the soil pH as well as adding simple organic materials, such as a sprinkle of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate), makes the calcium and magnesium in the soil available to the tomato plants. They can then effectively use these minerals to produce an abundance of quality tomatoes. As you can see, what goes on in the soil, even at the microscopic chemical level, directly affects the health and productivity of your vegetable garden.
The Importance of Soil Maps and Soil Testing
The United States Department of Agriculture has actually produced soil maps showing the general soil types found throughout the United States. It’s a great place to start if you want to understand the basic structure of the soil in your area. Soil maps will help you understand whether your part of the country generally has an acidic or alkaline soil, and you’ll find the the type of soil (clay, loam or sand) you’ll most likely see in your county.
Once you have an overview of the soil in your area, it’s time to get a soil test done to know the exact pH of your garden soil. Not sure if you should add lime to your garden? The only way to know for sure whether or not your garden needs lime is to have a professional soil test completed.
Dig your soil sample from the area where you want to plant your vegetable garden, flowers or lawn. Dig up about half a cup of soil from approximately four to six inches below ground level. Take several samples and mix them together in your container. Label the container and bring it to the lab.
When you’re conducting soil tests, keep the following in mind:
- Conduct a soil test at least three months before you intend to plant in the area. This gives you plenty of time to have the test completed and to add anything recommended by the test, such as garden lime or fertilizer.
- Only use samples from among holes dug in a single-use area. For instance, if you’re planting both a lawn and a vegetable garden, don’t mix soil samples from the lawn area with those from the vegetable garden area. You want only vegetable garden soil in one sample and lawn soil in another.
- If you’re recycling a bucket or container to use for your soil test, clean and dry it thoroughly before adding soil samples to it. Any residual chemicals can affect the test readings.
- Use only plastic or glass containers. Metal can change the results.
- Tell the person conducting the soil test what you intend to plant in the area from where you’ve drawn the soil sample. They may recommend different amounts of lime to adjust the soil pH based on what you intend to grow.
Even if you’ve had your garden soil tested in previous years, it’s a good idea to get it tested each year in early spring. Adding commercial fertilizers to the garden can acidify the soil, changing the pH and pushing it outside healthy levels to grow your garden. Testing garden soil before adding lime and other amendments ensures you’re adding the right amount.
When to Apply Garden Lime
Some experts recommend adding lime at the end of the growing season to give it enough time to work through the soil. Lime needs time to react with water in order to be beneficial to your garden, so at the very least, it needs several weeks or months to adjust the pH and help make more nutrients available to your plants.
If you get your soil tested at the end of the winter, add lime immediately as recommended by the test results. Lime works best when mixed or tilled into the soil at the depth in which your garden will be planted — so don’t just spread lime on the surface of the vegetable garden and hope it works. Mix it into the soil well before your frost-free date indicates you can plant your vegetables or flowers.
Gardens found in acidic soil areas benefit from annual or bi-annual applications of garden lime. Raised bed gardens may get away with fewer applications. A soil test, however, is the best way to tell whether or not it is time to apply garden lime.
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How Much Lime to Apply
The results of your garden’s soil test will help you determine how much lime to apply. You’ll need to know your soil’s starting pH and the composition or soil structure. Soil generally falls into three categories:
- Clay soil: This soil type is characterized by tiny soil particles that stick together, making drainage difficult. Clay soil may dry into hard sheets that are tough to work with or dig into. It may have plenty of nutrients for plants, but the plant’s roots have a hard time breaking through the tiny particles to get to them.
- Sand: Sandy soil has the largest particle sizes and the lowest amount of nutrients. Water drains away rapidly through sandy soil.
- Loam: Loamy soil is the ideal soil type. It’s an equal mix of clay, sand and organic material that forms a rich soil base that almost all plants love. Very few gardens naturally have loamy soil, but loam can be created from other soil types through the careful application of compost and other organic materials.
To determine how much lime to add to your garden, first examine your soil or the previously mentioned soil maps to see what kind of garden soil you’re working with. If you’re not sure, you can do a simple soil structure test at home:
- Take a glass or plastic jar like an empty, clean jelly jar or mayonnaise jar with a screw top lid.
- Place about one cup of garden soil into the jar and fill the jar with water.
- Screw the lid onto the jar and shake the mixture for 30 seconds.
- Set the jar down and wait five minutes.
Here’s what the results can tell you:
- If the water is clear and most of the soil settled back onto the bottom of the jar, you have sandy or sandy loam soil.
- If the soil particles remain in suspension and the water looks murky and cloudy after five minutes, you most likely have clay soil. The tiny clay particles remain suspended in water much longer than sandy soil or loam.
Another way to test your soil is to scoop up about a tablespoon of garden soil into the palm of your hand. Add a few ounces of water and roll the soil to form a ball. The less water you need to form a ball, the higher the clay content. If the soil never forms a ball at all, it’s very high in sand content. The bigger sand particles don’t cling together the way tiny clay particles do in water.
Now that you know your garden’s approximate soil composition, here’s how to estimate lime needs. All figures are taken from Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension site. The following information will help you raise your garden soil pH to 6.5 for a vegetable garden. The amount of lime in the “Add” column is for 100 square feet of garden soil and assumes it will be mixed into the soil.
Using Limestone for Gardening
Types of Lime for the Garden
There are many types of lime available at the store, but the best ones to use for your vegetable or flower gardens are pelletized lime and powdered lime:
- Pelletized lime: Pelletized lime is evenly sized pellets of lime. It’s very easy to spread, especially on lawns. You can apply it to the surface, and it is activated by water.
- Powdered lime: There are different types of powdered lime. Each uses a different type of agricultural spreader to evenly distribute lime at the surface where it can be tilled into the soil.
Lime is usually sold in large bags or sacks. It should be kept dry until you are ready to use it, so store it in a garage or shed. Water can penetrate the sack and dissolve the lime, making it unusable.
How to Apply Lime to Your Garden
Most home gardeners use a lime or drop spreader to spread powered lime on lawns and gardens. A lime spreader is a machine you walk behind and push. It has a hopper in the front that you fill with powdered lime. A spreader then sprays out the powder in even amounts as you push the machine forward.
To apply lime to lawns, fill the lime spreader with the appropriate amount of lime. Walk in a straight line, making sure to spread the lime in the same direction with each pass of the spreader to avoid a ‘checkerboard’ look to the lawn.
Lime for garden soil can also be scattered using a spreader. If you don’t want to use a spreader, however, you can use a shovel to spread lime over the soil surface.
The lime should be tilled or dug into garden soil to mix it in so it’s more readily available to your garden plants. Mix it into the soil at a depth of about four to six inches. Lime applied to the soil’s surface will drip down about four inches after several rainstorms, but tilling or mixing it in makes it work faster at the root level where it can be of most benefit.
Lime needs water to mix into the soil and become available to plants. It’s not a quick fix. You won’t see your lawn turn a rich, emerald green after applying lime. Think of lime like vitamins for the soil. When you take a vitamin pill, you’re taking vitamins to boost your long-term health, not for quick energy. Adding lime to the soil is like a vitamin. It’s for the long-term health of the soil and your plants.
Lime for Lawns
Lime can be very beneficial for lawns. Lawns that have yellow patches, brown patches, weedy areas or an abundance of moss may benefit from an even application of lime. Weeds or mossy patches can both be signs that the pH of specific areas on the lawn differ from the overall pH of the lawn. Moss, for example, grows in acidic conditions — which can be improved by the addition of lime.
Adding lime to your lawn also does more than just raising the soil pH. Lime also adds calcium, which in turn helps grass absorb trace elements such as zinc, copper and others. By adding lime, you’ll boost the overall health of your lawn. An even spread of lime can correct many deficiencies and adjust the pH of the lawn over the growing season so the problems disappear.
Apply lime to lawns in the fall. Rain and cool temperatures help lime move into the soil. It can take up to two years to see a benefit from adding lime to the soil since it moves slowly from the surface to the roots, but don’t overdo lime application.
What Vegetables Like Lime?
Depending on your soil, you may need to add lime throughout the vegetable garden. Some plants love a little extra lime because they prefer “sweeter” soils, or soils with a slightly more alkaline quality to them. Remember that adding lime raises the pH of the soil.
Pay particular attention to beds where the following vegetables and fruits will be grown:
- Lime for tomatoes: Lime for tomatoes is almost a given in most garden soil. Soils that are even slightly too acidic won’t produce good quality tomatoes and will bind calcium and magnesium into the soil where plants cannot access it. Lime changes the soil pH to make those nutrients accessible to tomatoes, preventing blossom end rot and premature tomato drop. Lime for tomatoes is a good idea. Tomatoes need soil pH from 5.5 to 7.5.
- Lime for soybeans: Adding lime to fields prior to planting soybeans is also an excellent idea. Lime for soybeans also includes all legumes which prefer a more alkaline soil. Some growers claim that lime can even double a soybean crop yield.
- Lime for squash: Both winter and summer squash love soil that’s slightly more alkaline, with tolerance levels of up to 7.0 for soil pH. Adding lime to most soils improves squash plant yields.
- Lime for asparagus: Among the list of common garden vegetables, asparagus is probably the one that loves lime the most. Lime for asparagus is necessary to give the plant the ‘sweet’ alkaline soil it craves. Asparagus only needs a slightly alkaline soil, but it can tolerate soil pH up to 8.0. Because asparagus plants are left in the garden year-round, and an asparagus bed produces more crop the older it is, you may need to add a slow-release lime that’s gentle on plants. Pelletized lime offers a good option.
- Lime for cantaloupe: If you plan to grow cantaloupe, adding lime can also improve the amount and flavor of the melons. Cantaloupe prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.5, leaning toward the alkaline side. Lime for cantaloupe raises soil pH to the alkaline level.
- Lime for onions: Lime for onions raises the soil pH to between 6.0 and 7.0, which is what onions prefer in order to develop large, tasty bulbs.
- Lime for parsnips: Parsnips need a long growing season, so when adding lime for parsnips, add it in the early spring and again after harvesting parsnips in the late fall. Soil pH for parsnips should be between 5.5 and 7.5.
- Lime for lettuce: Almost all lettuce varieties benefit from a little lime, and lime for lettuce can help your plants develop strong, tasty leaves. Lettuce needs a soil pH between 6.0 and 7.0.
Which Plants Don’t Like Lime?
Any plants considered “acid-loving” plants shouldn’t be given extra lime. This includes blueberries as well as ornamental shrubs such as azaleas, rhododendrons and hollies.
If you’re adding garden lime to a flower bed where azaleas and other acid-loving plants are located, keep the lime away from the roots of the plant. Remember that the roots extend out under the soil in an umbrella-like shape under the ground. The drip line, or the imaginary line around the shrub where the leaves extend in a circle, is the line underground where the roots grow.
When you’re not sure about which plants like lime and which don’t, look them up online or in a good reference book.
Can Plants Have a Lime Deficiency?
Plants don’t need lime to survive, but they do need the trace minerals that often accompany lime, such as calcium and magnesium. They also need the soil pH to be within an acceptable range for their species so they can absorb these minerals and others elements from the soil for growth and development.
Plants that suffer from a nutrient deficiency may benefit from lime added to the soil. It’s hard to tell whether a problem is caused by nutrient deficiency, horticultural practices, microorganisms or insects, but you can spot nutrient deficiencies in vegetables and other plants by these symptoms:
- Distorted, misshapen leaves.
- Leaves that are yellow or turn yellow over time.
- Poor production of vegetables.
- Vegetables or fruit fall off the plant prematurely.
- Plant appears stunted or fails to thrive.
While adding lime may not cure nutrient deficiencies, combining it with a good-quality fertilizer containing trace elements of essential nutrients can help. Because lime changes the soil pH, it can make the nutrients more readily available to the plants, and the fertilizer can provide the extra nutrients plants may need. Over time, the plant can correct the nutrient imbalances.
If you’re not sure what’s causing your plant problems, consult your local Cooperative Extension office or take a sample of your plant to your local garden center for diagnosis and assistance.
What to Do If You Use Too Much Lime
You know the old saying, “You can never have too much of a good thing?” Well, you can have too much lime. Sometimes you just get overzealous with the spreader. Other times, a bag will break as you’re hauling it out to the garden, dumping lime everywhere. What should you do if you use too much lime?
First, if it’s on your lawn or another area where you can scoop it up, scoop up as much scattered lime as you can. If you’ve actually mixed it into the soil before you realized you added too much, don’t panic. There’s still a few things you can do to help.
Lime raises soil pH, but the following amendments lower soil pH. If you’ve added too much lime, the following can swing the pH balance back to the acidic side:
- Sulfur: Garden sulfur or elemental sulfur is one of the most effective treatments for alkaline soil. Soil bacteria feed on the sulfur and lower soil pH in the process. Sulfur is spread or mixed as a powder into the soil, and you can often find small bags of it at the garden center. Be sure to check with the garden center or your local Cooperative Extension office for application rates. These rates depend on how much lime you accidently added to the soil and how low you need your pH to go.
- Peat moss: Some gardeners don’t like the recommendation to use peat moss because it is harvested from ancient deposits that once depleted are gone for good. But peat moss is one of the most effective organic garden acidifiers. It’s expensive, but it works well to both lower pH and improve soil texture. You can purchase it in large bales or bags and mix it into the soil. It won’t harm plants, and it will improve drainage in clay soils.
- Manure: Manure is a little tricky to use because you will need to make sure you use well-rotted or composted manure in the garden. Animal manure such as cow, horse, sheep, rabbit and goat manure makes a fine garden soil amendment, adding both nutrients and acidity to the soil. It can counteract excessively alkaline soils or the effects of too much lime added to the soil. You can often find free sources of manure from local horse stables, but be sure to let it sit and rot for a while before adding it to the soil.Under no circumstances should you ever use manure from carnivores such as dogs, cats, pigs or similar animals. Such manure can harbor harmful bacteria and parasites.
- Compost: Compost isn’t strictly a soil acidifier, but it’s so good for your garden soil that it must be mentioned. It has a slightly acidifying effect on the soil, especially if it’s made from a higher balance of leaf matter than other garden debris.
Compost improves soil fertility and health, adds beneficial microbes and balances pH that’s slightly off if you’ve added just a little too much lime. Since you can’t overdo the compost, add as much as you want — as long as it is well-rotted and mixed into the soil prior to planting. Well-rotted compost smells sweet and has the look of crumbled chocolate cake.
Storing Extra Lime
Garden lime will “keep” for next year if you’ve purchased a little more than you need. Store it in a cool, dry place like a shed or garage. Stack bags of lime on pallets, blocks or bricks to keep it off of a concrete floor so the bags do not get damp.
Be Smart When Adding Lime to the Garden
Buying garden lime, such as lime from Baker Lime, can be very helpful in the home garden. But before adding lime, make sure you get a soil test to see how much you actually need. You may be pleasantly surprised and need less than you thought you did. Or, you may need more.
Excess lime usually dissolves into the soil, but the effects can last for a long time. That’s another great reason to know exactly how much lime to add to your garden soil before spreading it.
If you’re constantly battling against acidic soil, you may wish to investigate growing a raised bed vegetable garden. Raised beds provide you with a controlled planting area you can more easily amend than an in-ground garden. In addition, when you start with bagged garden soil, your vegetable garden will begin with soil that’s better than what you may have available naturally.
Raised bed gardens can also be ideal for people living in areas with poor soil or on land that’s been heavily farmed or planted with pine trees — which turn soil very acidic. You will still need to check the soil pH each year and add lime as needed, but probably not as much.
Your plants know what they need, so work with nature and not against it when you’re planning your garden. If your soil is naturally acidic, choose plants that thrive in a lower pH soil. Even when adding plenty of good-quality lime products from Baker Lime to the soil, you may still struggle to keep the pH high enough to satisfy alkaline soil-loving vegetables, like asparagus, if your soil is naturally sour or acidic.
Most vegetables, however, are tolerant of a wide range of soil pHs and conditions. If you’ve tried to grow certain vegetables and didn’t have much luck, adding lime may improve your chances of a good harvest.
Where Can I Buy Garden Lime?
If you need lime for your garden, you’ve come to the right place. Since 1889, Baker Lime has supplied farmers, landscapers and homeowners with high-quality lime mined from our own dolomite deposits in the heart of York County, PA. As one of the most well-known and trusted lime suppliers on the East Coast, we supply customers in New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland and beyond. You can request a quote online.
For over 125 years, we have built our reputation on providing our industrial, commercial and residential customers with the limestone products they need to transform their gardens. As you search for limestone for your garden, our friendly staff can answer your questions and provide free quotes! Contact us today to find the limestone you need at the best value.
Our lime can help your garden and lawn flourish, diminish plant problems and improve the quality and quantity of vegetables and fruits. It also adds to the health of your soil, helps plants absorb nutrients and is an all-natural product from American sources.
For more information or to obtain a price quote from Baker Lime, contact us today.
Which liming material is best?
If you have acid soil, adding lime will make it less acid, because lime is alkaline. There are several liming materials available, so you need to know which one will do the best job for you and give you value for money.
What to look for
Before you buy any liming material, check these details.
- Neutralising value (NV ) – NV tells you the lime’s capacity to neutralise soil acidity. Pure calcium carbonate has NV of 100, which is the standard. Ideally, NV should be over 95. The NV figure is marked on the lime bag, or the invoice if you buy bulk lime.
- Fineness – the finer the particles of lime, the faster they react with soil. Lime manufacturers have to specify the percentages of different-sized particles in their product.
- Calcium and magnesium content – your soil test results and your crop’s need of calcium and/or magnesium will help you decide which lime to buy. Agricultural lime has calcium and little magnesium; dolomite has calcium and magnesium; and magnesite has magnesium and little calcium. You will find the percentages of each nutrient marked on the bag or invoice.
Types of liming materials
Agricultural lime (calcium carbonate)
This is the most commonly used liming material on the North Coast. It consists of limestone crushed to a fine powder and is usually the cheapest material for correcting soil acidity. Good quality lime has 37–40% calcium.
Burnt lime (calcium oxide)
Also known as quicklime, burnt lime is derived by heating limestone to drive off carbon dioxide. It is more concentrated and caustic than agricultural lime and unpleasant to handle, so is rarely used in agriculture.
Hydrated lime (calcium hydroxide)
This is made by treating burnt lime with water, and is used mainly in mortar and concrete. It is more expensive than agricultural lime.
Widely but often incorrectly used on the North Coast, particularly in horticulture, dolomite is a naturally occurring rock containing calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. Good quality dolomite has an NV of 95–98, and contains 22% calcium and 12% magnesium. It is good for acid soils where supplies of calcium and magnesium are low, but if used constantly may cause a nutrient imbalance, because the mix is two parts calcium to one part magnesium (2:1), whereas the soil ratio should be around 5:1.
There is a blend of lime and dolomite available with a 5:1 ratio.
Magnesite (magnesium carbonate)
Made from crushed magnesium carbonate rock, good quality magnesite has 25–28% magnesium, virtually no calcium, and NV of 95–105.
Burnt magnesite (magnesium oxide)
This is derived by heating magnesite, and contains about 50% magnesium. It is sold in granulated form and its NV is 180–220. Use magnesite and burnt magnesite if your acid soil already has enough calcium.
Wet liming materials are sometimes available at low prices. Their usefulness is determined by the NV and water content. If the water content is 10%, then the lime will only be 90% as effective as dry lime. You need to consider the extra costs of handling, freight and spreading.
Lime and cement kiln dusts
These dusts can be good value but you need to check the analysis before you buy. Their NV varies from 70–150 and calcium from 25–54%. Magnesium is usually less than 1%.
Shells of oysters and other shellfish are mainly calcium carbonate, but the shell tends to be contaminated with sand and organic material and is usually too coarse to be effective in soil.
Gypsum (calcium sulfate)
Gypsum is classified by the Fertilizer Act as a liming material, but is not considered one in farming as it does not reduce soil acidity. It is used mainly to improve the structure of sodic clay soils, and these are not common on the North Coast.
Value for money
You can compare the value of different liming materials by checking NV and fineness against spread cost.
(Fineness × NV) ÷ 100 = efficiency
(Spread cost × 100) ÷ efficiency = comparative cost
Lime Application Tips for Lawns: Adding Limestone to Your Grass
Table of Contents
We weed, feed and seed our lawns, sometimes with disappointing results that leave us frustrated with yellow spots and insufficient growth. What we envision is a lush green grass under our feet throughout the growing season. Nothing beats the look or feel of a well-kept lawn, plus it provides the perfect backdrop for social events and quality family time.
Nobody wants to play games on a rough, patchy and discolored lawn, so the endless quest for the perfect green lawn continues for any person who has grass to take care of. Cultivating a great yard goes deeper than mowing and occasionally pulling or spraying a few weeds. Lime treatment to your grass can make the difference.
The quest for a healthy green lawn is important for many homeowners. We see inviting green blades everywhere and feel envious of it, yet barely have time at home to scatter seeds and hope for the best. Those perfect lawns you admire, and maybe envy, probably undergo a rigorous care schedule that includes regular intervals of the following steps:
The lawn caretaker might dare to fertilize or treat for weeds but usually leave the rest to nature, which may or may not need some help. If you live in the northeastern US like us at Baker Lime, you may already know that acidic soils can be a challenge to grow in our part of the nation.
The knowledge of liming grows as neighbors swap advice or generations pass down practices, but it remains a generally misunderstood and underrepresented practice. Not many people realize that lime can resolve many yard issues, not just for grass but also in your landscaping, garden and flower beds. This is why we’re motivated to share facts about lime for lawns and empower people to tame their turf and achieve the yard of their dreams.
What Does Lime Do for Grass?
Lawn lime application corrects the pH balance in soil by neutralizing its acidity and alkalinity. You can almost think of it as an antacid for your grass because you’re giving it something it needs. Fertilization of lawns causes the PH of the lawn to become acidic by applying limestone you can bring the PH level back down to a natural balance which allows grass to prosper. However, PH balance is not the only benefit that lime has on lawns.
Video – Benefits of Adding Lime to Your Lawn
Lime for the lawn provides grass with many benefits:
- Balances the pH level, also commonly called the acidity or alkalinity
- Inserts calcium and magnesium that grass needs to grow and be resilient through times of stress like extreme temperatures, drought or excessive snow or rainfall
- Helps with new seed, new sod or existing yards
- Puts nutrients in the soil that sometimes are not there
- Benefits other micro-organisms in the dirt that are needed for a natural balance
- Encourages thatches to decompose
- Maintains or restores soil affected by environmental factors
- Boosts the effectiveness of fertilizer and herbicide
- Makes application fast, simple and easy
- Grows strong roots for lasting beauty and endurance
Should I Put Lime on My Lawn?
You never know what Mother Nature will do, especially when the terrain can vary by the mile with woods, mountains, flatlands, rivers and quirky regional weather patterns. Factors affecting the pH balance of your soil include:
- Acid rain
- Surrounding land usage
- Fallen pine needles
- Rain totals
- Amount of decaying matter in the dirt
- What kind of soil it is
How many nutrients leach from the soil – and how often they leach – is a difficult thing to gauge without the help of a test because the conditions are truly different for everyone.
What You Need to Know About Lime Before Applying to Your Lawn
Lime is ground limestone, a rock formed chiefly by accumulation of organic remains such as shells or coral, and it consists mainly of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. If you’ve looked into lime at all, you’ve probably seen many different types, some of which are caustic and hazardous to handle:
- Burnt (hazard)
- Hydrated (hazard)
- Slaked (water added for mortars, plasters or cement)
Nearly all of the lime sold for lawn lime application is ground, dolomite lime for lawns. Dolomite is a mineral found in limestone that is rich in calcium-magnesium carbonate, making dolomitic lime-rich in calcium and magnesium. Calcitic limestone is also rich in calcium carbonate but has much less magnesium, so it’s not as nutrient-rich as dolomitic lime.
The basic mission is to have the carbonates in the lime bind with the particles in the soil. Turfgrass uses many different minerals, and when the pH level of soil drops below about a 6, it inhibits the availability of other necessary nutrients.
Besides the calcium and magnesium, those nutrients include:
Lime quality varies from place to place, so to gauge it you can ask about its effective neutralizing value. The lower that value, the more of the lime you’ll need to apply, so seek a lawn lime with a neutralizing value greater than 80 percent, such as Baker Lime that starts at 89 percent.
Dolomitic lime is usually sold in the form of powder or pellets. The powder is exactly that, a powder of fine consistency that works into the soil. The pellets are placed on the ground then dissolve and breakdown into the soil when the yard is watered or there is a decent rainfall. Many people swear by pellets because the powder can be difficult to manage, hard to spread, can blow away easily or leave a cloud of messy dust.
What is Lime Treatment For Lawns?
Lime for lawn care can actually help reverse the effects of damaging elements found in grass, including aluminum, iron and manganese. The calcium specifically has a sort of regulating effect on other soil nutrients such as copper, phosphorous and zinc, all of which can have damaging effects and inhibit growth.
There are a number of industries, entities and people that use a lime lawn application:
- Recreation or athletic fields
- Golf courses
- Commercial and retail business
- Lawn service
- Fruit growers
- Turf farmers
How Can I Tell if My Lawn Needs Lime?
Weeds, patchiness, discoloration or poor growth can all be signals you might need lime for the lawn, but it’s best to have your soil tested. A soil test is a simple process, and once you do it you’ll know the exact acidity level and can plan the best care regimen.
There are several homemade ways of testing soil, but the most reliable and accurate method is through your county extension or land-services office. If the university system in your state has an agricultural lab, you can often get the tests from there, as well as garden centers. In some cases they are free, but the cost can be as little as $10.
You can also do the test online and through the mail by sending in a sample to determine if you need lime for your lawn. Testing services will usually send you the results directly. An authentic soil test will give you better confidence in your results, as well as give you more power to cultivate the perfect, lush, green lawn you envision.
Lawn grasses in states that have cold winters generally do well with a soil PH level of about 6.5 to 6.8. The pH levels measure acidity/alkalinity on a scale of 0-14, with the low numbers to represent items with a high acid content, such as vinegar or lemon juice.
A good soil test also tells you levels of calcium and magnesium. This information will better guide you to either the most popular dolomitic lime that contains magnesium, or the more calcium-rich calcitic lime.
Some people say that you cannot apply too much lime to the lawn, but others argue that it can indeed happen – and that it’s hard to correct if it does. Too much lime is definitely possible, which is why an accurate, inexpensive soil test provides an excellent guide. The results will tell you how much lime to apply and your best insurance against unintentional damage.
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When is it Time to Apply Lime to Your Lawn?
Liming fits with everything else you do outdoors to prepare for summer or winter. Many insist fall is the best time to lime lawns because it gives the lime the longest time to work into the soil before the growing season.
Experts agree that you can spread lime anytime, but it is ideal during the Spring and Fall seasons and during the morning or evening hours. You may also wonder if you can put down lime and fertilizer together. Professionals advise against using lime at the same time as fertilizer, but they also say when you apply lime and grass seed to cover patchy spots, it’s OK to apply a gentler starter fertilizer. So be careful if you are looking to apply lime and fertilizer at the same time. The planting authorities say the ideal temperature for planting grass seed is 65 to 70 degrees F.
Quantities of lime for lawns are normally expressed in a number of pounds per 1,000 square feet (one acre is 43,560 square feet). For example, a hypothetical-yet-typical application might be 40 pounds of pelletized limestone per 1,000 square feet of grass area you want to treat.
The pH number revealed by your soil test serves as an excellent guide for gauging how much lime your lawn needs. You can also call an expert here at Baker Lime to help interpret the soil-test numbers and order the correct amount of lime for your yard size.
The lime normally comes in 40- or 50-pound bags. Opinions on how often to apply it range from every few months or annually to once every three or five years. So much of when to lime your lawn depends on your individual situation. The best tool you have is knowledge about what’s in your soil and what happens to it throughout the seasons. For example, lime will drain through a sandy soiled lawn and require a more frequent application than a yard with stickier, clay-based soil.
Each type of soil presents a different kind of challenge because lime runs through sandy ground too quickly, especially with heavy rain, and doesn’t mix quickly enough into clay-based soil. You can consider improving the texture of soil by introducing organic matter such as aged manure, finished compost or chopped pine bark. These things can aid the lime in doing its job and work it into the soil faster.
How to Apply Lime to a Lawn
How to apply or spread lime depends on the size and texture you choose. Most seem to agree that the powdered form of lime is harder to handle but can be applied with something as simple as a coffee can. Or you can use a pelletized lime instead.
A rotary-type spreader probably gives the best and most consistent application without much clogging or clumping. Some people say a drop-style spreader is less than ideal, but plenty of others make them work. How you apply the lime depends largely on what form of lime you buy and how much grass you have to cover.
People commonly use all types of spreaders, home-rigged tools, buckets, cans or sifters to get the lime onto the lawn. You may own a tool or be able to rig a tool that will do the job, but you can also check into renting the right equipment to apply lime or hire a contractor to do it.
The method of application can be as diverse as the land owner’s imagination. Any way you go about it, avoid spreading powdered lime on a windy day and try to use a crisscross pattern as you work it across the yard.
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Some plants in your landscape thrive in an acidic soil of 5.5 pH or less, so take care to avoid those areas when liming:
- Beech trees
- Dogwood trees
- Holly bushes
- Pin oak tree
- Willow oak tree
You can seed and apply lime at the same time, but many people recommend applying the lime first to give it time to work.
Speaking of time, it’s natural to want to see improvement right away. Remember, however, that lime is not an immediate-gratification application. It’s more like an investment in the long-term health and beauty of your lawn, but it does pay dividends well into the future.
It will take at least several months for lime to mix well into your soil and create the beneficial balance of nutrients. It may take a growing season or two, or even three, to see significant improvement. Rest assured that you can achieve continued hardiness with consistent lime lawn treatment.
Where Can I Buy Lime for My Lawn?
We at Baker Lime are limestone suppliers who have been producing quality lime products since 1889 for a wide range of clients. Baker mines the lime in York County, Pennsylvania and provides service throughout most of the northeastern United States including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.
By way of a unique system, it’s possible to ship and pick up lime from Baker practically anytime of the night or day, 365 days per year.
You can imagine how 126 years have enabled us to become lime experts and emerge as an acknowledged industry leader. We have a proven record of helping people reap high-yield fields, grow ideal yards, cultivate fertile gardens, install lush golf courses and create other beautiful spaces.
Along with technical skill and complete industry knowledge, the people of Baker Lime commit to becoming a partner to our clients and not just an institution that sells or supplies product. You’ll encounter friendly people who know how to listen and have the expertise needed to respond to your needs quickly and efficiently. Let us help you cultivate an ideal lawn! Contact us today for a quote.