What Does Lime Do To Soil?

What Does Lime Do To Soil

Ensuring the soil in your garden or lawn is balanced is essential to achieving beautiful plants or perfectly cropped grass. Your soil needs to have a balanced pH – if it’s too low, the soil probably has higher levels of acidic content. When this happens, the soil is unable to absorb nutrients properly.

As a result, your lawn or garden might not do well. So, it’s imperative to ensure your soil has the proper pH. Lime is a great way to reduce the acidic levels in your soil, thus raising the pH level and giving your lawn or plants the chance to flourish. 

What Does Lime Do To Soil?

Any lawn or garden connoisseur should familiarize themselves with two primary types of lime additives: agricultural lime and dolomite lime. Both of these types contain calcium, but dolomite lime also has magnesium. Adding these elements to the soil can correct the soil’s pH. 

What Should The Soil pH Be?

For the most part, plants prefer a pH between 5.5 and 6.5, and grasses prefer a pH between 5.8 and 7.2. Of course, a few outliers prefer a soil pH outside of these brackets, but most plants and lawns tend to flourish in these ranges. When the pH is too high (alkaline) or too low (acidic), your plants can’t absorb the nutrients they need from the soil. 

When this occurs, the plants may show signs of nutrient deficiency, such as stunted growth or pale leaves. When you add lime to the soil, the plant roots are able to absorb the nutrients they require for healthy growth. 

How Do I Know If My Soil Needs Lime?

You’ll know your soil needs lime when the plants or grasses begin to show signs of nutrient deficiency. Perhaps you’ve tried almost everything you can think of – fertilizers, weed killers, soil conditioners, etc. If nothing seems to help, your soil’s pH might be out of whack. 

Here are a few signs that can indicate your soil needs lime:

  • Weeds or moss have taken over your yard. 
  • Fertilizers don’t seem to help, even though you use the product according to the instructions. 
  • The soil is sandy or consists of clay – both of these are naturally acidic. 
  • The grass is turning yellow
  • Your area has been receiving a lot of rainfall, particularly acid rain. 
  • Drought has taken hold, and your lawn is struggling to recover. 
  • A soil test reveals a low soil pH level. 

You can buy soil test kits for an affordable price, but if you’d prefer to conduct a test without purchasing a gadget, you can use vinegar to test the soil. Simply collect about a cup of soil from various parts of your lawn, then put two spoonfuls into separate containers. 

Add ½ cup of white vinegar to the soil. If it fizzes, the pH is between 7 and 8. If nothing happens when you add the vinegar, add distilled water to the other soil. Continue adding water until you have a muddy mixture. Then, add ½ cup of baking soda. If it fizzes now, you have acidic soil, probably with a pH between 5 and 6. 

If the soil doesn’t react at all, the soil likely has a neutral pH of 7, which is excellent for you!

Can You Add Too Much Lime To Soil?

Yes, you can add too much lime to the soil. There are two opposite ends of the spectrum: acidic and alkaline. If you add too much lime, you can make the soil too alkaline. When this happens, plants and grasses cannot absorb the nutrients, even though they’re present in the soil. 

Alkaline soil may also accumulate excess salts, and when combined with a lack of nutrients, you’ll probably notice stunted and yellowed plants. So, it puts you back on square one. Make sure you only add enough lime to correct the problem.

How Much Lime Do I Need To Add?

There’s not necessarily a specific amount that you need to add to achieve the correct result. Every lawn is different, so the amount of lime you should add hinges on the initial pH and consistency of the soil. 

Although you can use a home pH test, it won’t take the type of soil into account. So, without the proper data, judging the amount of lime you should add is a process of trial and error. It’s usually best to send in a soil sample and have a professional soil testing lab conduct soil analysis, as this ensures you end up with recommendations specific to your soil. 

When Should I Apply Lime?

Grass

For the most part, fall and spring are the best times to lime your lawn. However, fall tends to be the superior season, as the following rain, snow, and freezing/thawing cycles help break the lime down. This allows it to begin to work on correcting your soil’s pH. 

Traditional lime can take quite a while to do its job, which is why the fall is so ideal. Throughout the winter months, the lime breaks down in the ground and begins doing its job, prepping the soil for spring, when everything starts to grow. 

You can always buy fast-acting lime, which starts correcting the soil pH immediately. This is a great choice, especially if you’re applying in a growing season. 

Where Can I Buy Lime For My Lawn?

Lime additives for your lawn are available from most home improvement stores, including Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and Lowe’s. You can also check the garden center at your local grocery store if it has one.