Lime for Lawns
Making your lawn (and its soil pH) awesome!
If you want your lawn to be nice and green, check your soil! One of the easiest things to work on is your soil pH. In this article, we'll explain:
- Why soil pH matters for your lawn
- How to improve your soil pH
pH is a measurement of the concentration of Hydrogen ions. By neutralizing an acidic soil we are decreasing the amount of Hydrogen ions in the soil. Excess Hydrogen bonds with soil nutrients, forming compounds that grass plants can’t absorb and that the microbes in the soil aren’t able to feed on.
Maintaining a pH between 6.5 and 7 is the best thing we can do to maximize the available nutrients for our lawns.
In the northeast we have a naturally acidic soil (i.e. a pH less than 7). A pH close to 7 (neutral) frees up nutrients and promotes microbial activity providing incremental soil nutrients. If we fertilize our lawns without first correcting the pH, we could waste anywhere from 20 - 70% of the fertilizer.
Image Credit: Jonathan Green
With a low pH, the Nitrogen and Potassium we fertilize our lawns with will bond with the excess Hydrogen to form compounds the grass plants can’t access.
How to improve your soil pH
Test your pH using a soil test kit or pH meter prior to putting down any fertilizer. If your pH is below 6.5, don’t worry, there are solutions that can quickly improve your pH. Agway Fast Acting Lime adjusts the pH as fast as four weeks and Jonathan Green’s Mag-I-Cal improves soil pH in as little as two weeks!
Both of these products provide Calcium, which bonds with the Hydrogen, neutralizing the acidic soil.
When to apply lime and Calcium products
Apply lime any time during the growing season (when the ground is not frozen), so that the calcium can dissolve and work into the soil. If you're pH is really low, you can apply lime up to 3 times per year (spring, summer, and fall). Keep in mind that fast acting products (as shown above) work in as little as 2-4 weeks, where as traditional powdered or pelleted lime takes 3 to 4 months. It used to be common practice to apply lime every Fall. The goal here, is to prepare the soil for next Spring.
How to apply lime and Calcium products
Lime and other products are easily spread using a broadcast or drop spreader. I recommend applying at the recommended rate on the package. Otherwise, the product will under perform if applied to lightly or you'll have additional waste by over applying. If you want to drastically improve your soil pH, I believe increased frequency of applications is better than increased 'dosage.' Keep in mind, the product needs to be watered in to work. Try timing the application prior to a rain or irrigate afterwards to ensure the product is dissolved into the intended areas.