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Does Your Lawn Need Lime?

October 29, 2012

I found out that my Georgia lawn needed lime as a soil test showed a pH of 5.0, which means it is acid.  Other info on the test provided 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.  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.

Some states offer soil testing through their Extension Service. Check for soil testing labs in your state by clicking this link.

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.  If your soil pH is below 5.5, it is not uncommon to need multiple applications of 50 pounds of lime per 1,000 sq. ft. per year over several years. 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 lime.

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  1. Jenny permalink

    What do you recommend if the soil is alkaline? I live in the desert and my soil is alkaline at 8.2.

    • Hi Jenny
      If you can find granulated Sulfur (might be hard to find), second choice Gypsum. These materials are alternatives to Lime for high pH soils.

  2. I actually prefer using the Gypsum. I am actually allergic to Sulfur!

    • Hi Delane:
      I know what you mean… Sulfur can be dusty and hard to spread unless it is granulated. It works better at lowering a high pH than Gypsum, however Gypsum is much easier on the nose! Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Larry permalink

    in reading your article it sounds like if I were in your situation I would need 300 lbs of lime for a 6,000 sq ft lawn/year for a few years? that seems like a lot of lime…
    also in one of your answers you said sulfer and gypsum are “alternatives for lime”…. they aren’t really alternatives are they? you wold use lime when ph is below 7 and these when the ph is above 7, so you wouldn’t use them in place of lime would you?

    • Hi Larry
      You are correct, it does seem like a lot of lime. After putting down 50 pounds per 1,000 sq ft (300 pounds on a 6,000 sq. ft. lawn) in fall, you could do a pH test the following Sept to see if more is needed. Soil types and the kind of lime used can influence how much will be needed to raise the pH. It can take several years of doing this to get the pH up to the ideal range if your soil is very acid.
      You are correct, sulfur and gypsum are used on high pH soil (or alkaline soil).

  4. Elliot permalink

    Thank you for your speedy response to my questions posted apr 15,2013.
    Still unsure about lime issue since I spread pell.last oct.2012.
    A couple neighbors spread twice a year with no soil test.
    Is this OK?

    • Hi Elliot You are living in an area where the native soil is typically acidic (low pH). However, with regular lime applications, the pH moves into an ok range. A soil test is the only way you will know where you stand. The highest rate you typically put down at a time is 50 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. Since most folks do not put down this much, their soil pH does not move very much. You are probably not overdoing it with a yearly fall application. Before I did twice a year for many years, I would get a soil test. Good Luck with your lawn.

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