43 October 21, 2006

The last few weeks, I have talked to many customers about the importance of lime in improving their gardens. I think that it may be time to go over liming as a fall gardening project.

Soil Ph is the measure of how acidic or alkaline the soil is in a particular location. In New England you can be pretty sure that the soil is acidic. The acidity comes from the natural breakdown of organic matter, acid rain and even the fertilizer we apply to the soil. The question usually arises as to why acid soil is bad. When the soil has an acidic Ph, the fertilizers that are in the soil cannot dissolve in water. In order for plants to take up fertilizer, the fertilizer must be dissolved in water. You can actually have plenty of fertilizer in the soil, but if the soil is too acidic, the plants cannot get the food they need. The really bad news is that weeds can grow very well in an acidic soil. In most cases, when someone comes into the store and tells me they have lots of weeds in their lawn or gardens, I’ll ask when was the last time they applied lime to the soil. Usually the answer is never or if lime was applied, it was way too little for the area being covered.

You can and should do a Ph test on your lawns and gardens every few years. The test kits are inexpensive and easy to use. As a rule of thumb you probably will need to lime your soil each year. When you do the Ph test, you will get a number. Acid soils range from 6 down to about 4. You could get a lower number, but I have never seen it happen. What you are trying to do is to get the Ph up to about 6 1/2 . To raise the Ph by 1/2, you need to apply 1- 40 pound bag for every 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn or garden area. Lets say that you do a Ph test and your results come back at 5. In order to raise the Ph to 6 1/2 you would need to apply 3 bags of lime for every 1,000 sq. ft. If you have a 5,000 sq. ft lawn, that would mean that you would apply 15 bags of lime! In my experience, few people would apply that much lime even if the test results told them so.  People, you need to get up to speed on applying lime to your lawns and gardens.

When you apply lime to your lawn or gardens, you have to remember that it takes about 6 months for the lime to completely change the Ph. For this reason, fall is the best time of the year to apply lime. If you apply lime now, by spring, the Ph will be changed and your lawns and gardens will be growing better. If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do a Ph test, then a basic rule of thumb is to apply 1 bag of lime per 1,000 sq. ft.  This may not be enough to bring the Ph up to 6 1/2, but any upward change in Ph will make it easier for your lawn and gardens to grow better.

Make yourself a promise to apply some lime this fall. A pelleted lime is easy to apply and had a lot less dust than the powdered lime. This will make a big difference in how all your plants grow.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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