With spurts of murky yellow strands sticking out here and there, dry patches of brittle dirt have seemingly swallowed your property.
You drive to your local gardening supply store to find a solution to your problems.
That’s when you see it, a calm white bag with commanding letters in bold green that read “Lime”. You head to check out with a new wave of motivation washing over you.
As you gear up to spread it a heartbreaking realization hits you: you have no idea how to use this tool.
You rack your brain to remember how to use it. You remember hearing that it’s an additive made from pulverized limestone. You also know that your neighbor had used it to increase the alkalinity of his soil. But exactly how do you apply it to your property?
You check the label’s instructions and it doesn’t give you many instructions other than to say that it is not a fertilizer itself. You check the active ingredient – calcium carbonate. Without further instructions on how to use this soil conditioner, you hang your head in defeat.
We’ve all been there, and even those of us with the greenest of thumbs began unsure of where to start. But have no fear, this article is here, and it’ll be schooling you in all you need to know about using Lime.
What is Lime?
Lime is a soil additive that is made from grounded up limestone. You may have heard it called by other names like Aglime, agricultural limestone, garden lime, or liming.
Adding it to your lawn supplies the soil with essential nutrients like calcium and magnesium. These are derived from the supplement’s primary ingredients: calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate.
A common misconception about this product is that it can act as a replacement for your standard fertilizer products. This is not true. Instead, it is often used in combination with standard fertilizers because it improves the uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium into plants. So, while it plays several different roles in proper lawn care, acting as a fertilizer is not one of them.
What exactly is agricultural limestone used for in lawns, then? What follows below will answer that question. By reading this article, you’ll also learn when to schedule your application of the product for maximum effect. Lastly, you’ll find a step-by-step guide to follow when you spread the product on your lawn and what to do if you apply too much of it.
This supplement can be an integral piece of the puzzle in your search for a vibrant and thriving lawn or garden. And while knowing the when, the why, and the how is crucial for ensuring beautiful greenery, it is only half of the battle.
So read this before you grab your rotary spreader and get to work because we will be going over methods to keep you safe while also ensuring that you’re practicing proper lawn care methods.
What Does Lime?
Most lawns will not grow well in acidic soils that have a pH level below 5.5. This is because grass growth is optimal when the soil pH levels are between 5.8 and 7.2, which is a more alkaline pH level range.
While this is the general rule of thumb, it is important to realize that the specific soil pH level for optimal growth will depend on your grass and soil type. A simple soil test will tell you the pH and whether it needs a soil amendment like lime.
Typically, acidic soil makes it difficult for the grass to absorb the nutrients it needs to thrive and grow. That is why lime is a great additive for lawn care, as it will raise the soil’s pH and return it to the preferred range.
Many different things can change soil pH level. Fertilization is a major cause of increased soil acidity. Pesticides, pollution, acid rain, and several other things can raise your lawn’s soil acidity.
Think of lime as an antacid that your lawn needs for its overall health and viability. In addition to being a remedy for acidic soil, this agricultural supplement also provides the soil with nutrients that might otherwise not be present. By providing calcium and magnesium to soils, it helps the root system of the grass, which aids the grass in being more resilient during times of stress (a.k.a. extreme temperatures and drought).
Lime can also be beneficial to use when planting new grass seed or laying new sod. This is because by using the product, you will help the microorganisms in the soil that are an essential part of maintaining a healthy pH level.
But this additive is more than just a soil amendment, as it also provides several other benefits besides raising the pH level. For instance, applying the nutrient-rich substance encourages the decomposition of thatch problems. Applying it also boosts the performance of other fertilizers and herbicides within your lawn.
When to Apply
Opinions on the best time for Aglime application vary. Truth be told, you can apply it at any time of the year. However, just because you can does not always mean that you should. Remember, you are treating the soil and not the grass.
Generally speaking, fall is the best time to lime your lawn. Your lawn needs the product to work into the acidic soil to change the pH, and a fall application gives it the most time to absorb into the ground and correct the pH before the growing season. A fall application will also allow the supplement to go through rain and snow along with the freezing and thawing cycles of winter that will aid in its breakdown.
A spring application is also acceptable if necessary. However, it can take quite a while for the lime to serve its purpose and change the soil’s pH.
Overall, an application of the agricultural substance any time between the fall and spring will prove beneficial. Still, fall is considered the optimal time.
Is it a Good Idea to Apply It Before it Rains?
If rain is on its way, save the lime for another day. Yes, it rhymes, and yes, it’s true.
If rain is in the forecast, it is best to wait until after your lawn has drained thoroughly. You should never add the supplement to soggy, wet soil.
Too much rain will wash it away before the soil has a chance to absorb it. And, when you think about it, it’d be hard for the product to change the soil pH if it is washed down the drain.
Is it a Good Idea to Apply It with Fertilizers?
The answer to this question is that it depends. The application of agricultural limestone aids in plants’ uptake of essential nutrients and, in this regard, is a good idea.
However, before you apply fertilizer and lime together, you need to take a soil sample and perform a soil test. If your lawn has a soil pH below 6.0, you should avoid applying a fertilizer altogether. If this is the case, just apply the Aglime.)
You’d want to do this because acidic soil will not allow the fertilizer’s nutrients to be absorbed effectively. However, if the pH falls within an acceptable range for fertilization, you can absolutely apply the two lawncare products together.
How to Apply
Follow these steps for proper application.
- Check the Soil
Test your soil to determine the pH. The soil test results will tell you if your lawn needs lime.
- Choose the Correct Type
There are different types of lime for different types of lawns. Be sure to determine the best type of the agricultural additive based on your grass, your soil, and your climate.
- Select the Correct Amount
Check the label for the proper amount of lime to put on your lawn. This number is usually based on the pH of the soil.
- Spread It Horizontally
Using a rotary or drop style lawn spreader, spread ½ the recommended amount of lime horizontally across your lawn.
- Spread It Vertically
Spread the remaining ½ vertically across your lawn. This will ensure that the area is covered evenly.
- Just Add Water
Lightly water your lawn to help the lime absorb into the soil.
What to Do About Too Much Lime in Your Lawn
Adding too much lime can be a dangerous thing for the overall health of your turf. If areas of grass begin to turn yellow after applying it, you may have added too much.
One of the most common effects of having too much Aglime is iron deficiency. The turf can also suffer from magnesium or aluminum toxicity. Too much of this additive can also cause the soil to become too alkaline. Alkaline soil can cause the same problems as soils with too much acid. Alkaline soils will also impede plants’ absorption of nutrients.
There are several resolutions to combating tainted soil. For example, a remedy for lowering a high pH balance caused by excess Aglime is to spread granular elemental sulfur onto your grass. Elemental sulfur is oxidized by microorganisms in the earth and turned into sulfuric acid. This acid will lower the pH.
Adding aluminum sulfate or iron sulfate are two other solutions, although much faster. However, like sulfur, they can also be harmful to your turf’s overall health by adding salts and other elements that may build-up.
Adding fertilizers that contain ammonia or urea is another solution that can decrease the alkalinity of the soil over time. It isn’t a quick fix like the two methods listed above, but it will work.
In some circumstances, you should avoid adding chemical products to your yard altogether. One natural way to reduce soil’s alkalinity is to add Sphagnum peat. Add a layer 2″ thick to the turf and work it into the ground at least 6″ deep. Note that some larger areas of the property may require tilling.
And last but not least, you can always use mulch or compost. As the organic matter breaks down, it tends to make the soil more acidic. However, the use of organic matter is a slow process, so patience is key when going with this method.
A Few More Tips
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you get started.
Some Plants Prefer Acidic Soil
Remember that some plants grow well in acidic soil, so the area that they grow needs to be avoided when treating your property. These types of plants include, but are not limited to, azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, camellias, and magnolias.
An Acidic Lawn Gathers More Moss
Moss growing in your lawn is a sign that the soil is acidic. You should always test the soil to be sure, but moss is a tell-tale sign that your yard could probably use liming.
Look for Weeds
The appearance of common weeds in your lawn is an indication of a lower pH. So, if you notice weeds appearing in new places, then it’s probably a good idea to test a soil sample.
Why Won’t It Grow?
If you notice that your lawn is not showing signs of healthy growth or vigor after fertilization, you may have a pH balance problem. Keep in mind that alkaline soil can cause the same issues as an acidic one. Therefore, always perform a test on the ground so you are sure about the pH level and what methods to apply accordingly.
All You Have to Do Is Ask
The final recommendation is to not be afraid to ask questions. So much of this sort of thing is not common knowledge and can be a bit intimidating to learn at first.
The bottom line is that it’s okay not to have all the answers. There are pros at garden centers far and wide that will be happy to help you. So please don’t make a mistake that could cost you all the time and work you’ve put into your lawn to make it what it is.
Besides, professional advice may make your life a whole lot easier, but you’ll never know until you ask.