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Lime Questions

Why spread lime on a lawn?

Answer: Lime helps to raise the soil pH level in acidic soils.  Soil pH is a measure of how acidic or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 7 is neutral, acidic soil registers below 7, and alkaline soil above 7. Your lawn can tolerate a fairly wide pH range of 5.5 to 7.5, with 6.5 being the ideal pH for growing grass.  When your pH is in the ideal range other nutrients in your soil and in the lawn food you spread are more available to your grass plants.  When the pH is outside of this ideal range, some of the nutrients get locked up by the soil and your grass can suffer.

What areas of the country usually need lime to raise soil pH?

Answer: Many lawns in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Northwest are growing in native soil that is naturally acidic.  The reason I say that all lawns in these areas are not necessarily growing on acidic soil is because soil chemistry can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Also, over the years lime may have been spread on a particular lawn on a regular basis raising the soil pH out of the acidic range.  For example, when I first tested my Georgia clay soil I found that it was acidic and needed lime.  After several years of putting down lime, a soil test showed my soil no longer needed lime.  I plan on testing my soil every 2 or 3 years.  Although not as common, you can find acidic soil in other parts of the U.S.

How do you figure out the pH of your soil?

Answer: A soil test kit that you buy in your local garden center can be used to measure your soil pH.  Most states offer more complete soil testing through their Extension Service.  Check for soil testing labs in your state by doing an internet search with your state’s name and the words “soil testing labs”.  Other info on these tests provides values for available phosphorus, potassium, micronutrients and organic matter.  As a former County Extension Agent, who looked at hundreds of soil test results for home lawns in Virginia, I know that the primary actionable number to look for is soil pH.  You can ignore the other measurements if you are feeding your lawn regularly unless one of them shows up as being abnormally low.  For example, if you find that phosphorus is low in your soil, you can substitute a Starter Lawn Food for one or more of your feedings during the year to help raise this important nutrient in your soil.

Will I hurt anything if I put down lime on my lawn without going to the trouble of getting a soil test?

Answer: Probably not in areas that are known to have acidic native soils.  It is always a good idea to do a soil test first before spreading lime on your lawn.  If you live in any area that I mentioned above that has native soils that tend to be acidic, you could spread up to 50 pounds of lime per 1,000 sq. ft. That’s 250 lbs. of lime on a 5,000 sq. ft. lawn.  To spread this much lime, you may find you will need to go over your lawn several times with the spreader set at one of the higher settings.  You will also find that granulated lime is easier to spread than pulverized or powdered lime.

When is the best time to put lime on a lawn?

Answer: Lime can be applied anytime the soil is not frozen.  Fall is a great time to spread lime since the upcoming alternating freezing and thawing of your soil can help to transport lime from the soil surface down to lower parts of the soil.

 

Killing Those Dad Gum Fire Ants

The shifting fall weather means fire ant mounds are showing up around these parts.   They wreak havoc on your lawn, and make it next to impossible to feel safe and enjoy your outdoor space with friends and family.  I have had great success with the Ortho two step approach to kill the fire ants I see and control the ones I don’t see.

fire ant sign

This one/two punch does the trick for me against fire ants.

Step 1: I use Ortho Orthene Fire Ant Killer for mound treatment.

Step 2: I spread Ortho Max Fire Ant Killer Broadcast Granules across my entire yard.

Fire Ant mound in our neighborhood.  Notice our red Georgia clay soil.

Fire Ant mound in our neighborhood. Notice our red Georgia clay soil.

Listen-in To Garden Radio October 25

This Saturday morning around 8:00 am EDT, I will be a guest on my friend Tom MacCubbin’s Florida “Better Lawns and Garden” Radio Show. (Click here to open his radio show website where you will be able to listen in.)

Former Extension Agents Tom MacCubbin and Ashton Ritchie share a laugh during a video shoot for Tom’s website: http://www.hisandhersgardening.com

Former Extension Agents Tom MacCubbin and Ashton Ritchie share a laugh during a video shoot for Tom’s website: http://www.hisandhersgardening.com

I Just Treated to Keep Bugs Out of Our House

Ants, Spiders, Scorpions, Roaches, etc. etc. etc. are coming a knocking. The nights are getting cooler and all those home invaders are looking for somewhere warm… our house.  Yesterday I protected our home from a long list of invaders by spraying a barrier around our foundation.  It was easy, fast and saves lots of money compared to hiring someone to do this job I can do myself.  I put down Ortho Home Defense MAX Outdoor Perimeter Insect Killer.  I like this product not only because it works great, I also like that it does not stain and there is no bad odor.  You can put down your protective barrier as dry granules or as a spray.  I used the spray.  Click here to learn how to treat outside your home like I didClick here to learn how to treat inside your home.

Late Fall Lawn Check List

Feed northern lawns (like Fescue, Ryegrass and Kentucky Bluegrass) at least one more time.  Turf experts recommend two to three feedings in fall at 6 week intervals with the last one in late November.  Southern grass lawns (like St. Augustine, Bermuda and Zoysia can be fed one last time this fall in the most southern areas.  However, in the mid-south you should hold off feeding as these kinds of grasses approach winter dormancy.  Scotts Turf Builder WinterGuard is a good choice.

Fall feedings are important in building a thick, sturdy lawn

Fall feedings are important in building a thick, sturdy lawn

Kill lawn weeds. As long as your daily temps are reaching a high of 50 degrees or more the day you spray, you can kill pesky perennial weeds like Dandelion, Clover and Ground Ivy (Creeping Charlie), as well as annual weeds like Chickweed and Henbit.  Kill them this fall and they will not be in your lawn next spring.  There are various Ortho Weed-B-Gon products depending on where you live.  Click here to see your options.  If you have lots of weeds throughout your lawn, you can use Turf Builder WinterGuard plus Plus 2 Weed Control rather than spot spraying.

Note: If you planted grass seed this fall, it is best to wait until the new seedlings have been mowed 4 times before you apply weed killers.

Fall is a great time of year to kill Ground Ivy (also known as Creeping Charlie).

Fall is a great time of year to kill Ground Ivy (also known as Creeping Charlie).

Don’t allow fallen tree leaves to smother your grass. You can skip raking your tree leaves by mowing them to dime size or smaller and feeding your grass after mowing.  This two-step process will help encourage the micro-organisms in your soil to compost the leaves right on your lawn.

Don't allow tree leaves to smother your grass and block sunlight needed for photosynthesis.

Don’t allow tree leaves to smother your grass and block sunlight needed for photosynthesis.

Mow your grass until is stops growing. Continue to mow at one of the taller settings rather than scalping your lawn with a very short cut.  The grass height after mowing should be:

2-1/2 to 3 inches for Bluegrass, Ryegrass and Fine Fescue

3 inches for Tall Fescue and Buffalograss

3 to 4 inches for St. Augustinegrass

1-1/2 to 2 inches for Bermudagrass, Centipedegrass and Zoysia

I mow my Tall Fescue/Ky Bluegrass lawn at around 3 inches (after the cut)

I mow my Tall Fescue/Ky Bluegrass lawn at around 3 inches (after the cut)

Listen-in to Home Improvement Radio Oct 11

I will be on the radio with the Home Improvement USA show this Saturday, October 11 at 8:20 am EDT. I have been a guest on this show with my old friends Dave and Steve several times a year for the past 19 years. Thanks guys for allowing me to spread some lawn and garden wisdom on your show!   (Click this link to listen live).

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Our Front Porch Winter Container Gardens

We decided to go with different plants in our winter container gardens this year because last year’s winter was tougher than previous years. We chose violas rather than pansies as they are more winter hardy.  Here are photos of our winter containers over the past three years:

This year we planted a Flowering Kale in the center, with 2 plants each of Purple Viola, Tricolor Sage, Italian Parsley and Silver Falls Dichondra.  (Click photo to enlarge)

This year we planted a Flowering Kale in the center, with 2 plants each of Purple Viola, Tricolor Sage, Italian Parsley and Silver Falls Dichondra. (Click photo to enlarge)

Last year we planted an Italian Stone Pine in the center, surrounded by Dusty Miller and Purple Pansies.  (Click photo to enlarge)

Last year we planted an Italian Stone Pine in the center, surrounded by Dusty Miller and Purple Pansies. (Click photo to enlarge)

Year before last we planted a small evergreen, surrounded by winter pansies and trailing ivy.  (Click photo to enlarge)

Year before last we planted a small evergreen, surrounded by winter pansies and trailing ivy. (Click photo to enlarge)

One nice thing about winter container gardens is that they don’t need much care as long as you use a good soil like we did. Even though we were tempted to use the old soil in the pot from previous plantings, we know it is best to start off with fresh soil.  We used Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix.  This special mix helps keep you from over and under watering, and best of all it contains enough feeding to make it thru the first few months.

Just to show you how plant roots love this soil, check out this photo of the root mass that filled these containers this summer.

Plant roots love Miracle Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix.  This solid root mass is from our spring/summer containers.  We like to start with fresh soil each time we plant.  (Click photo to enlarge)

Plant roots love Miracle Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix. This solid root mass is from our spring/summer containers. We like to start with fresh soil each time we plant. (Click photo to enlarge)

 

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