In many parts of the country, adding lime to your lawn is as essential as mowing it. Without lime, lawn grasses may be unable to benefit from the nutrients in your soil, including those you add through fertilizers. By understanding how lime helps lawns and why you may need lime, you can help your lawn reach its full potential. The following questions and answers can help guide you through that process, so you can lime your lawn confidently.
1. What is lime?
Lime is a soil amendment made from ground limestone rock, which naturally contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. When lime is added to soil, these compounds work to increase the soil's pH, making soil less acidic and more alkaline. Even though lime includes calcium and magnesium, which are essential nutrients for healthy plant growth, it's not a substitute for fertilizer. Lime's primary role is to alter soil pH and offset soil acidity, which can improve the availability of plant nutrients.
2. Why apply lime?
Lawns need lime when low soil pH starts inhibiting the availability of nutrients. Soil pH preferences vary between regional lawn grasses, but most grasses prefer soil pH between 5.8 and 7.2. Warm-season grasses tolerate slightly lower pH, while cool-season grasses prefer pH slightly higher. When within preferred pH ranges, the nutrients lawn grasses need most — including added nitrogen from lawn fertilizers — stay available for grass to use. When pH strays too far in either direction, even plentiful nutrients are restricted. Lime restores balance in overly acidic soil to bring pH back to optimal growing levels.
Poor grass growth and lawn moss are signs that lawns may need lime.
3. How do I know when my lawn needs lime?
When soil becomes too acidic, lawn grasses struggle and plants that flourish in acidic soil take their place. For example, the presence of lawn moss signals your soil pH has become too low for strong, healthy grass growth. Other warning signs include increases in common lawn weeds, diseases and insect pests. Many weeds prefer acidic soil, and low soil pH can inhibit the effectiveness of some herbicides and insecticides. When soil is overly acidic, you'll also notice that grasses don't respond to quality lawn fertilizers with the healthy, lush growth you normally expect.
4. Why is soil testing important?
Soil testing provides an accurate measure of your soil's current pH level and other factors, such as soil type, that affect the amount of lime or other soil amendments it may need. Without soil samples, you can't accurately judge your lawn's needs. Applying lime when it's not needed or applying too much can harm lawn grasses instead of help them. If your soil is overly acidic, you should retest every year until proper balance is restored. Established lawns should be tested every three to four years. Your local county extension agent can help with information and testing kits.
5. Why does soil pH keep changing?
Soil pH changes for many reasons, including the lime or other products you add. In areas with heavy rainfall, calcium naturally leaches away as rainwater passes through soil. The loss of calcium means soil pH drops and soils become acidic over time. In these regions, lime is usually a necessity for healthy lawns. In areas with very little rainfall, calcium doesn't leach away, and lawns can become too alkaline. Proper lawn maintenance also naturally lowers soil pH over time. Regular fertilization, proper irrigation and increased activity of beneficial soil microorganisms all contribute to gradual, normal drops in soil pH.
Lawns in regions with heavy rainfall tend to need lime regularly.
6. When is the best time to apply lime?
Fall and spring are generally the best times to lime lawns. Fall has an added advantage, as rain, snow and cycles of freezing and thawing help lime break down and begin to work. Traditional lime can take many months to change soil pH significantly, but Pennington Fast Acting Lime contains finely ground particles that are bound together in an easy-to-use, pellet-like form, and begin correcting soil pH immediately. With the added benefit of Advanced Soil Technology, this high-quality, fast-acting lime maximizes nutrient availability to benefit your lawn whatever the season.
7. How much lime should I apply, and what's the most effective way to apply it?
Soil test results will include the amount of lime your lawn needs, based on its soil type and current pH. Follow those recommendations closely, as acceptable amounts can vary significantly for soil types. For example, clay soil takes much more lime than sandy soil to achieve the same results.
Pennington Fast Acting Lime can be spread easily — without the excess dust and mess of some products — using a regular lawn spreader. Water your lawn when finished, so the fast-acting lime can get to work. Plants such as azaleas and blueberries prefer acidic soil, so avoid liming near these acid-loving plants.
By liming your lawn when it's needed, you help ensure your grass gets the nutrients and advantages it needs for lush, healthy, beautiful growth. Pennington and the Pennington line of lawn and garden products are dedicated to helping you give your lawn the best care possible, so you can grow and enjoy it to the fullest.
Always read the product label and follow the instructions carefully.
Pennington is a registered trademark of Pennington Seed, Inc.
Fast Acting and Advanced Soil Technology are trademarks of Encap, LLC.
All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.
By Joan Casanova, Bonnie Plants,
Photographs courtesy of Bonnie Plants
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