Time to Lime? Test Your Soil First.

“I’ve heard that fall is a good time to lime my garden. Should I do it now?”

Yes – this month is a great time to lime, but are you sure that your soil needs it? Applying lime when it is not needed can cause problems for your garden or landscape. The only way to be certain is to test. A soil test, which should be conducted every three years, will determine your soil’s pH and fertility levels, thus letting you know if a lime application will be beneficial.

time to lime garden

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Why is pH important? Soil pH directly affects the nutrients available to plants, and is a gardener’s most important analysis from the soil test. In our region, soil pH is generally acidic. These acidic levels are great for some plants, but greatly inhibit the growth and development of many others. Liming is often necessary to correct these levels. Because of the length of time and amount of moisture needed for the lime-soil reaction to take place, fall is an ideal time to test your soil and begin preparation for next year’s planting.

There are several potential sources of lime – burned lime, dolomitic limestone, and pelletized limestone are just a few. As you might suspect, each has its advantages and disadvantages. Burned lime is a fast-acting form of lime but can be hazardous if used incorrectly and is difficult to apply. Dolomitic limestone is a slower acting material and is also a source of magnesium. Pelletized limestone is easier to apply, but is usually more expensive than other sources.

In addition to providing pH, a soil test will give lime application recommendations. The rule of thumb is 100 pounds of lime evenly applied over 1000 square feet to raise soil pH by one point. It is recommended this amount should be the maximum amount applied at any one time. For example, if your lawn’s pH is 4.5 (very acidic), a series of applications, one month apart, should be considered. After all applications are completed, additional lime should not be added until another soil test is conducted in three years.

By Bethany O’Rear, Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System.  Contact Bethany at bethany@aces.edu.


The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce.  Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.

Alabama Extension

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities and answers home-gardeners' questions each week on Birmingham Gardening Today.

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