Last Updated on August 23, 2021 by Grow with Bovees
Do you dream of a green lawn and perfect flower beds? Ground limestone can help you achieve your goal.
The contents of this article can help you understand why we lime lawns, and the benefits it has:
- What is Lime?
- Does My Lawn Need Lime?
- Why is it Important to Perform a Soil Test?
- Why Does Soil pH Change?
- The Benefits of Applying Lime to Acidic Soil
- When Should I Apply Lime?
- How Much Lime Should I Apply?
- How Do I Apply Lime?
What is Lime?
The lime we use on our lawns comes from limestone. Limestone is a natural mineral mined from open quarries and underground mines. This mineral is full of calcium carbonate, and it may contain magnesium carbonate too. It’s perfect for neutralizing highly acidic soil.
Types of Lime
Two common types of lime for lawns are dolomite and calcite. Both reduce solid acidity but have different properties. Calcite is primarily made from calcium carbonate, whereas dolomite contains calcium carbonate combined with magnesium carbonate.
Calcitic lime is the preferred lime for home use as it works quicker than dolomite lime. However, calcite lime will not work if your soil is lacking magnesium.
If your soil is magnesium deficient, dolomitic lime is the way to go.
Soil is classified as magnesium deficient if the ratio of calcium to magnesium is 6:1 or higher. Telltale signs of a magnesium deficiency are weakened lawn grasses and yellowing plants. A soil pH test will help you confirm any nutrient deficiencies.
If you’re not sure what type of lime you need for your lawn, your local garden center can help you decide.
Lime comes in several forms to make it easier to combine with the soil. You can choose from pelletized lime, liquid lime, and powdered lime. Pelletized limestone is a popular choice among gardeners as it’s much easier to spread over the lawn than liquid and powder form.
Does My Lawn Need Lime?
Many signs indicate that you may need to lime your lawn. Sandy soil is naturally acidic and usually benefits from liming.
Other indications that your lawn needs lime include; yellowing grass, fertilizer not working, and weeds and moss growing in your yard.
The only way to tell for sure that your yard needs liming is to check your pH by performing a soil test.
Why is it Important to Perform a Soil Test?
Soil testing can help you decide whether you need to lime your lawn and which type of lime is best to use. Adding lime when it’s not needed can do more harm than good.
Testing the soil before adding lime to your lawn can help determine your soil’s pH and any nutrient deficiencies.
You can purchase a home soil sample kit from most local garden centers. The information gained from a home testing kit is limited to soil pH levels.
Contact your state university extension service to check if they offer soil testing if you want a more thorough test. The results of this test will be more in-depth and show any nutrient deficiencies and tell you how much lime needs applying.
According to the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, soil samples should be collected every two to three years.
It’s best to collect samples during the dormant season, between late fall and early spring. Check out this video for further information on how to take an accurate soil sample from your yard.
Why Does Soil pH Change?
The ideal soil pH level for healthy grass growth is between 6 and 7. A low soil pH below 5.5 is considered too acidic. A highly acidic soil pH can hinder the release of nutrients vital for a healthy lawn. Changes in your soil’s pH can occur for several reasons:
- Root respiration: Soil water dissolves the carbon dioxide produced by root respiration, resulting in a weak organic acid.
- Heavy rainfall: Rainwater percolates through the soil and leaches out nutrients such as sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium needed for proper growth.
- Decaying organic matter: Carbon dioxide is produced by decaying organic matter. Carbon dioxide reacts with rainwater to produce carbonic acid, causing mild soil acidity.
- Nitrogen-based fertilizers: Some nitrogen-based fertilizers can cause soil to become acidic if used inefficiently. Ammonium-based nitrogen fertilizers have the greatest potential to acidify the soil, whereas a nitrate-based fertilizer is less likely.
The Benefits of Applying Lime to Acidic Soil
The main benefit of lime is that it neutralizes acidity.
Adding lawn lime can also increase earthworm abundance. Earthworm activity helps create space in the soil, allowing water, oxygen, and essential nutrients to move around, making a better environment for your grass.
The neutralization of soil can also prevent weed and moss infestations as these prefer acidic soil.
When Should I Apply Lime
To achieve the best results, add lime to your lawn before planting grass seed or laying turf. However, it can be applied when your lawn has already been seeded or turfed.
Whether your yard consists of warm-season grasses or cool-season grasses, the best time to lime your lawn is during fall or early spring.
Many gardeners prefer to spread lime in fall, so it has time to react before the growing season. The copious rainfall and potential snow during the winter months will help work the lime into the soil.
Avoid liming during winter when it could potentially become frosty. The lime can’t react with frozen water, so the neutralization process will fail. The height of summer is also a bad time to consider liming. Heat can react with the lime and cause a further imbalance as well as risking grass burn.
How Much Lime Should I Apply?
When using an extension service to check your soil pH, the soil test results will specify the amount of lime needed for your lawn. If you’re planning on using a home testing kit, we can help figure it out.
Quantity needed depends on your soil type and soil pH. Generally speaking, there are three soil types; sand, loam and clay. A heavier soil type such as clay soil will need more lime per square foot.
Once you know your soil’s pH and type, you can use this calculator to help you decide on the quantity you need.
Applications that exceed 50-pounds per 1000 square feet should be split into smaller amounts and applied at different intervals. Leave several weeks in-between applications.
Too much lime can cause excess calcium in the soil. This can prevent plants from absorbing essential nutrients such as magnesium.
You can always find a local lawn care company to carry out this work for you, and they will no doubt be only too pleased to carry out all your lawn care throughout the year.
How Do I Apply Lime?
The best tool to use for liming is either a drop or rotary spreader. A drop spreader will evenly spread lime as you maneuver it around your lawn, dropping it from holes on the underside. Broadcast spreaders drop the lime from a hopper onto a rotating disk which propels it over your lawn. Rotary spreaders are great for big yards as they cover a larger surface area, getting the job done quicker. However, a drop spreader tends to achieve a more accurate and even lime application.
Apply half of the lime needed for your lawn by walking horizontally backward and forwards with your spreader. When complete, add the second half to the spreader and travel back and forth vertically across your yard.
After you have finished applying the lime, you should lightly water your lawn. Watering enables the lime to work its way into the soil. It also rinses any residue off grass blades, which prevents grass burn.
We hope that we’ve helped you in your quest for a greener lawn.