Lime Treatments for Sweet and Sour Lawn Soil

By Allyn Paul, filed under Lawn Tips.

Most homeowners think of their yard in terms of the grass only, but healthy soil is the basis for the green love we call our lawn. With this in mind, you should consider whether your lawn could benefit from an application of lime.

Turf grasses will not grow well in highly acidic soils. Acid conditions in lawn soil can occur due to overuse of nitrogen fertilizers; introduction of excessive amounts of organic soil conditioner, such as compost or peat moss, and by needles dropped from evergreen bushes and trees.
Acidic soils are commonly referred to as “sour,” whereas alkaline soils are called “sweet.” Extremes on either end are not good for turf grass.

Hopefully you remember a little something from 8th grade chemistry and testing pH levels: a really pretty lawn!remember that pH is measured from 1-14, with 7 being neutral?
Just like liquids in the chemistry lab, soil with a reaction of less than pH 7.0 is acidic and soil with a reaction greater than pH 7.0 is alkaline. Most turf grasses grow best between pH 6.5 and pH 7.0. (finicky little buggers those grass blades are!)

So how do you know your soil’s pH?

You can get a kit from one of my fine sponsors if you like. Gardens Alive!
sells a very easy to understand kit for $40. It comes with everything you need and can be used multiple times. Order now for arrival in time for Spring! (once you get to the site, use their search feature in the upper left with key words ‘soil ph’)

What’s lime and can it go in a pie?
Two important elements that help maintain the balance in the soil are calcium and magnesium. (Lime! but not for pies. ;) )
Acidic soil is not necessarily useless, but is a sign that the supply of calcium and magnesium is lowand needs replenishing. What’s more, high acidity or low pH levels may also cause other nutrients to be un-usable to grass plants. The greater the acidity of the soil, the greater the need for lime.
Lime is a compound of calcium or calcium and magnesium capable of counteracting the harmful effects of an acid soil on lawn grasses
Functions of Lime
Lime is NOT a fertilizer, but more of a soil amendment or conditioner. Here’s what it helps with:

  • Corrects soil acidity (obviously!)
  • Furnishes important plant nutrients-calcium and magnesium (redundant right?)
  • Promotes availability and use of major plant nutrients and micro nutrients. It’s like greasing a wheel… it just makes things run through more smoothly.
  • It increases bacterial activity in the soil which promotes more air exchange, thus aerating the root system. (It’s all microbial and stuff like that!)

soil test kit from Gardens AliveTime of Application
To obtain maximum results, the best time to apply lime to the lawn is when the soil is being prepared for planting. Too late for you and me right?
Applications of lime on existing lawnsare best applied in Fall and Spring because of cooler temperatures and readily available moisture. Pelletized lime is available at most garden stores or Home Depot, and you can use your normal broadcast spreader to apply it evenly across your lawn. –you can also get it from Gardens Alive!

You should follow the directions on the bagged product you purchase, however, I’d recommend a double pass underneath evergreen trees and shrubs as these areas are highly acidic from these acid-loving plants. Be sure to use your testing kit again about 3 weeks after the application to see if you have any improvement. If not, re-apply.

Finally, too much lime can be as damaging to lawn grasses as the lack of it. Lime is not a “magic bullet” for all lawn problems but is an essential fundamental step for soil health and the overall health of your turf.

(I’m hungry for some KeyLime Pie or Corona Light with a lime wedge, you?)

$20 off $40


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16 Responses to “Lime Treatments for Sweet and Sour Lawn Soil”

  1.   TEA ACIDITY by Health Tips Says:
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    [...] Lime Treatments for Sweet and Sour Lawn Soil [...]

  2. Josh Says:
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    Should this be done before or after seeding?

  3. Allyn Paul Says:
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    First: Test the soil and ensure the pH is near 7.0, if not, get lime down and then seed after.
    Where you are in NC, the soil is very sour as a general rule so you will prolly need some lime. Get started soon big boy!

  4. Tommy Says:
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    Hey Allyn! Thanks for subscribing to my feed. I have done the same. I am a lawn and garden freak in an awful subclimate that really blows for gardening. Been here 5-6 years and have had freezes in August and June in an area and climate that even my family only miles away disbelieve. We’re in the bottom of a canyon where apparently this stuff happens…it’s weird and I can’t expect you to believe it. I look forward to the reading. Always interested in taking on mother nature…of late…just losing a lot…LOL

    Tom@onequartlow.com…you should see in your subscriber management screen via feedburner….peace……T

  5. Mark Says:
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    Allyn, try using cotton instead of soil. It will surprise you. Just try it. :)

    I’m planning on starting a business using it. If you’re open to a business partnership, lets chat over, OK? In the mean time, if you do try it, please tell me what you think. It will probably surprise you. Don’t forget to water it regularly.

    By the way, nice blog you’ve got here. Or should I say nice niche? :)

  6. Allyn Paul Says:
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    @Tommy– I do believe you because here in Chicago, we get some very funky climate conditions (micro climates) when gardening on rooftops amidst skyscrapers.
    It is a challenge, but can also be very rewarding. In a micro-climate, you can sometimes grow plants that your friends a few miles away could never attempt.
    welcome aboard!

    @mark– cotton> Like “High Cotton” that Alabama sang about? Or the processed stuff that Mikcheal Jordan wears as underwear?
    I am very much interested in hearing your ideas.
    hit me on email and let’s talk:
    or hit me up on Blog Catalog.

  7. Protecting your turf and landscape from winter salt damage | Life and Lawns Says:
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    [...] may take several years for enough salt to accumulate in the soil to cause severe damage to larger trees. Normal rainfall will usually wash the salts deep into the [...]

  8. Lots of great stuff in this week’s NWI Blog Carnival | NWI Blogs Says:
    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1

    [...] Paul presents Lime Treatments for Sweet and Sour Lawn Soil posted at Life and Lawns, saying, “thanks guys! I would like to host one of these carnivals [...]

  9. Chris Says:
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    I’m going to have to start doing some serious lawn work this coming spring once the ground thaws out, so learning about soil pH is a good thing since I would have never thought about it.

    Speaking of roof gardening, the Daley Center always has a lot of green things growing on its roof right in the Loop. Putting trees and grass on top of buildings cuts down on cooling costs as well because the trees shade the roof from the rays of the summer sun.

  10. Daltonsbriefs Says:
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    Thanks for the information on lawn care, I can only sit here and stare at this snow and hope for a day when I can work on my lawn again. Did I say I’m sick of snow?

  11. Allyn Paul Says:
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    I’m with ya Steve, but this morning when I went out to start up my truck, I could actually feel the sun alittle, which to me means the Spring is on the way!

  12. Allyn Paul Says:
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    Oh, and Chris, I really like City Roof gardens. A whole different specialty than what I know, but still super cool.

  13. Preventing Dog Urine Spots in Your Lawn and Turf | Life and Lawns Says:
    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1

    [...] addition to altering the pH or the dog’s urine, you can alter the pH or your soil by adding lime. If there are common areas on the lawn that are affected by the dog’s urine, sprinkle them [...]

  14. What Type of Grass Seed Should I use for my Lawn? | Life and Lawns Says:
    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1

    [...] for areas in which increased shade or bad soil types are more of a problem. Here is an article on testing your soil and lime treatments. In addition, there is the Eco Lawn Fescue seed available that can be grown in shade or sun with [...]

  15. Which Grass Seed to Choose. All About Grass Types | Chicago Lawn Company Guide Says:
    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1

    [...] for areas in which increased shade or bad soil types are more of a problem. Here is an article on testing your soil and lime treatments. In addition, there is the Eco Lawn Fescue seed available that can be grown in shade or sun with [...]

  16. Ben Says:
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    Thanks for another great article! Thank you for actually stating the HOW of finding out the pH. Very helpful stuff.

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