Using Lime for Lawns: a Guide

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Lime as an additive for lawns helps maintain healthy grass by amending the soil. Every homeowner wants an attractive lawn because it enhances the appearance of the property. Maintaining the soil as well as the turf grass will lead to an improved look.

TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson recommends, "Always take a soil sample before applying lime so that you know how much is needed."

Acid Laden Soil

There are no turf grasses that can grow properly in highly acidic soil. At the same time, there are many parts of the country–especially in mining locations–where the soil is naturally acidic. There are several factors contributing to an acidic condition, including the leaching out of calcium and magnesium, which are alkaline elements found in soil. Annual applications of nitrogen-based fertilizers and organic materials like peat moss or compost, and the introduction of sulfur into the soil through natural rainfall, can all add to acidic conditions that need to be managed.

Sour vs. Sweet

Acidic soil is commonly called sour dirt. Alkaline rich soil is called sweet dirt. These are measured by the pH factor. Soil with a pH higher than 7 is alkaline; lower is acidic. Although acidic soil is not infertile, it does lack sufficient calcium and magnesium to maintain healthy growth. To fight heavily acidic soil where lawns are concerned, lime needs to be applied.

What is the Function of Lime?

Lime is a soil conditioner. It is not a fertilizer, although it's commonly mistaken as such. It performs several functions that aid in proper lawn growth and maintenance including:

  • Correcting soil acidity
  • Replenishing the important nutrients of calcium and magnesium
  • Reducing the occurrence of toxic substances such as aluminum, iron and manganese
  • Helping promote and regulate zinc, copper, and phosphorous
  • Providing for organic decayed matter or compost to operate at efficient levels
  • Allowing greater air circulation in porous soil
  • Increasing the ability for soil to absorb and retain water.

When to Apply

The very best time to apply lime is when a new lawn is about to be laid. Prepare the soil with an application of lime because research shows that it will take 2 years for lime to move 2 inches deep into the soil. Applications on established lawns can be made through late fall, winter, or early spring. Late spring and summer rains may make the soil too wet for an even distribution.

How to Apply

Lime should be spread evenly across the entire lawn, because it will not move horizontally. Using a spreader allows for even distribution, especially around flower beds and trees. Lime is now available in pellet form. Although it's more expensive, it allows for a hand application without the presence of dust that can be blown around the yard or tracked into the house.