Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Liming Your Lawn (Or Almost)

— Written By Bill Hanlin and last updated by JoAnne Gryder

Most landscape chores have to be carried out during certain times of the year. Adding limelime to the landscape is one of those chores that can be done at any time. Liming is also one of the cheapest ways to improve soil conditions for most plants.

Soils in our area are naturally very acidic. Soil pH’s of 4.5 to 5.0 are common in areas that have not been limed. A pH of 5.0 may be good for blueberries and azaleas, however most plants do not tolerate these acidic conditions very well.

Liming the soil helps certain nutrients become more available to the plant. Proper soil pH will also encourage soil microbes to convert nitrogen to a plant usable form. Overall, homeowners will get more for their fertilizer dollars if the pH is in the correct range.

The soil pH can be brought into the desired range relatively quickly if lime is properly applied. Since lime moves very slowly in the soil, homeowners are encouraged to till lime into the soil, before planting. Be sure to use powdered lime, instead of the pelletized type, if the lime is going to be tilled in.

Adding too much lime and raising the pH up too high can also cause problems. Nutrients like iron, copper and zinc may become unavailable to the plant if the pH is above 7. These nutrient deficiencies can stunt the plant and cause leaf abnormalities.

The amount of lime needed will depend on how acidic the soil is. The best way to know your soil pH is to send a soil sample to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s soil lab. The service is free until November 26th, after which time a $4 per sample fee will be charged until March 31st. Samples must be in Raleigh at the soils lab by November 26th. Extension agents can also help interpret the analysis results homeowners get back from the lab.