What Garden Plants Need Lime (Well Researched Guide)

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Gardeners have been using liming for thousands of years as it nourishes the soil and raises its pH level to help plants grow and flourish. For these reasons and several other additional benefits, liming is still a popular gardening technique today.

However, as a gardener, you must know that not all garden plants need lime. In fact, liming may have adverse effects on some plants. This makes it essential to understand how liming works and what plants may benefit from the liming process.

Garden plants that need lime
Person watering plants

So, here’s a thorough guide that highlights everything you should know about the liming process and what garden plants need lime.

Importance of Liming Garden Plants

Understanding the importance of lime for garden plants will help you identify what garden plants need lime and how much of it should be added.

Providing your garden plants with the right nourishment through minerals and nutrients will help them thrive and reach their full potential. The right environment and conditions of plants may be difficult to identify at first; however, if they seem to be wilting, stagnant in their growth, or don’t produce any fruits or vegetables, it is likely that they are in need of nourishment.

More often than not, the reason why garden plants, especially vegetables, are undernourished is that they require lime to raise the pH level of their soil and harbor the ideal alkaline soil for them.

Understanding Soil pH

Understanding the components of the soil and what makes it acidic or alkaline will help you decipher how to enhance growth of your plants.

Soils are classified on the basis of their pH levels. These levels are determined through the pH scale that measures from 0-14.  Depending on the pH levels, the soil may be acidic, alkaline, or neutral. If a soil has a pH value of below 7, it is considered to be acidic, if it’s above 7, then it is alkaline, and if it is at exactly 7, then it’s considered to be neutral.

Just as garden plants have preferences for levels of water, sunlight, and temperature, they also have preferences for pH levels in the soil. This usually falls between pH6 and pH7. However, if the pH level of the soil goes under pH6, it is too acidic; Hence, minerals, such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, become inaccessible to the plant.

Lime is a natural alkaline that is added to raise the acidic soil to make its pH level neutral. Adding lime continually to the soil will eventually make it alkaline.

Garden plants, especially vegetables, usually prefer soils that are alkaline. However, if the soil is too alkaline as well, then certain essential minerals, such as phosphorus, iron, and manganese, become inaccessible. Therefore, the soil should neither be too acidic nor too alkaline.

It is important to consider that lime is not a fertilizer and cannot necessarily kill insects in the soil. It is simply an agent that makes important nutrients in the soil available to the plant to boost its growth.

It is important to note that lime works like magic on certain garden plants, while it can completely destroy others. It largely depends on the type of plant you are growing. We will discuss what garden plants need lime in more detail below.

How to Measure the pH Level of the Soil

In order to test the pH levels in the soil, take out a portion of it from different areas in your garden into a measuring cup, and give it to the laboratory for testing.

This is the most accurate way of measuring the pH level of the soil, as they can tell you the exact pH value of your soil, and how much lime needs to be added for the growth of certain garden plants.

Benefits of Lime for Garden Plants

There are multiple benefits a resource like lime can provide to garden plants. Some of the benefits include:

  • It provides a healthy base to garden plants, enabling them to grow and thrive due to access to multiple nutrients and minerals
  • It provides garden plants access to nutrients like phosphorus and zinc
  • It promotes the growth of new and beneficial bacteria
  • It helps your garden thrive and flourish by producing more vegetables, fruits, or flowers if you have garden plants that need lime
  • Itis a cheaper way of making your garden look more beautiful as it fertilizes the garden in addition to providing nutrients

List of Garden Plants That Need Lime

Garden plants that grow and flourish in soils above the pH value of 7 and are alkaline would benefit from the addition of lime. If you’re wondering what garden plants need lime, then lime can be applied in the soils of the following plants:

  • Spinach
  • Legumes; such as broad beans and peas
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Parsnips
  • Asparagus
  • Squash
  • Apples
  • Parsnips
  • Lettuce
  • Cantaloupes
  • Tomatoes

When it comes to flowers, those found in ornamental gardens prefer the addition of lime. These include:

  • Delphiniums
  • Buddleia
  • Gypsophila
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Lavender
  • Lilacs
  • Honeysuckle
  • Phaselia
  • Polemoniums
  • Lily of the valley
Garden plants that need lime
Person plucking vegetables

List of Garden Plants That Do Not Need Lime

Unfortunately, there are certain garden plants that do not like lime and would be destroyed if lime was added to them. Here is our list:

In terms of vegetables, the following plants will not prefer lime:

  • Potato crops; such as potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Capsicums

Many fruits also do not require lime, these include:

  • Berries; such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries
  • Grapes

The following flowers don’t grow in alkaline soils that may require lime:

  • Magnolia
  • Azalea
  • Japanese maples
  • Daphne
  • Rhododendrons

It is important to note that this is not the entire list and there are several other garden plants apart from these that may not benefit from lime.

What garden plants need lime
Field of vegetables

Signs You Need to Add Lime to Your Garden Plants

While garden plants need lime, they don’t require it to survive. Like we mentioned above, garden plants need lime because it gives the plant nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium, for their growth.

While lime can make essential nutrients available to the plant, you need to remember that it does not cure these plants of these nutrient deficiencies.

The following symptoms can tell whether your plants are in need of nutrients and could benefit from lime:

  • Distorted leaves
  • Leaves that are yellow or turn yellow overtime
  • Plant appears to be stunted or fails to grow
  • Fruits fall off the tree
  • Vegetables are not growing
  • Gardens have an abundance of moss

What Type of Lime Should You Add to Your Garden Plants?

There are many different types of lime that you can add to your garden plants. However, the two best types of lime that you can use are powdered lime and palletized lime.

  • Powdered lime comprises fine granules of lime and thus, can be easily spread on the soil with the help of a spreader.
  • Palletized lime is a type of lime that includes evenly sized pallets of lime that can be spread onto the soil and activated by water.

When to Add Lime to Garden Plants?

Lime needs time to react with the water in the soil so that the pH is adjusted and the nutrients are made available. This process may take several weeks or even months.

Therefore, experts recommend that you add lime to your soil at the end of the growing season so that by the time the plants grow, the pH in the soil has adjusted. This is usually during the fall or winter season.

While the frequency of adding lime to your soil varies depending on your garden plant and its condition, it is typically advised not to add lime more than once in two years.

How Much Lime to Add in Garden Plants

Before identifying how much lime your garden plants need, it is best to first identify the level of existing pH in the soil and the type of soil you have. As mentioned earlier, you can get the pH of your soil tested at the laboratory. After testing the pH level, you can identify the type of soil through this guide.

There are three types of soil:

  1. Clay Soil: this type of soil includes tiny particles that are stuck together, making the soil stiff and dry. Working with clay soil is hard as plants have a hard time breaking through the tiny particles to get to the nutrients. Drainage is also difficult. However, there are plenty of nutrients in this type of soil.
  2. Sandy Soil: this type of soil includes the largest particles but the least amount of nutrients. However, water drainage is no issue in this soil.
  3. Loamy Soil: this is the ideal type of soil as it contains equal parts of clay and sandy soil. Thus, it is also the type of soil that plants love and thrive in. This type of soil is usually not available naturally. However, you can prepare it easily through the application of compost.

You can identify the type of soil your garden has by rolling a small amount of the soil in your hand using water. If the soil binds into a ball, it is likely to be clay or loamy soil. If it doesn’t bind together at all, it is sandy soil.

The following amount of lime is needed for each type of soil for approximately 100sq feet (9 m²) of soil. You can make your adjustments in the quantity based on the size of your garden:

  • Sandy loam soil: 5 pounds
  • Loam soil: 7 pounds
  • Heavy clay soil: 8 pounds
garden plants that need lime
Man planting

How to Add Lime to Garden Plants

Before adding lime to your garden plants, it is imperative to arrange your plants. Make sure those garden plants that need lime and require more pH are at a distance from those garden plants that don’t like lime. This is because lime is beneficial for one, but deadly for the other.

Lime can be applied to garden plants through a machine called a lime spreader. It evenly spreads the lime as you walk behind and push it. The lime can also be scattered using a spreader. If you don’t want to use a spreader or don’t have one, you can scatter and spread the lime using a shovel.

Besides being spread on the surface, the lime must also be mixed in with the soil. Mixing proves to be more beneficial than spreading because it goes deep into the soil and works faster. It is recommended that the soil be mixed with lime at a depth of about four to six inches.

Therefore, if you are applying large amounts of lime to your garden plant, then you must use both techniques.

What to Do if You Have Added Too Much Lime?

Since lime is alkaline and raises the pH levels of the soil, too much of it can be bad for your plants. If you have accidentally dropped too much lime on the soil while spreading, scoop out as much as you can.

However, if you have already mixed in the lime and then realized that you added too much of it, that too can be fixed.

Use the following substances to lower the pH level of the soil to make it more acidic.  

  1. Sulfur: using this is the most effective way to reduce the pH level. Sulfur is added into the soil as powder, and similar to lime, it can be spread and mixed. The soil bacteria consume the sulfur particles, lowering the pH level in the soil.
  2. Peat Moss: this is an expensive alternative; however, it is ideal due to its acidic value. Peat moss is effective in lowering the pH values of the soil and improving the soil texture.
  3. Manure: using well-rotted or composted manure can be a little tricky, but it is highly effective. Animal manure will be effective in making the soil acidic and adding more nutrients. However, be sure not to add manure from carnivores, such as dogs, cats, or pigs, as they may harbor parasites and bacteria in the plant.
  4. Compost: if you have added too much lime, then compost is the best alternative. Not only because it will counteract the alkalinity of the soil, but also for the many advantages it will provide to the plant. Compost can improve the fertility and health of the soil by adding beneficial microbes.
what garden plants need lime
grey watering can and plants

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Final Thoughts

Lime can be a great resource for garden plants that need lime. However, before you start the liming process, it is imperative that you understand what garden plants need lime and what garden plants do not like lime.

It is also important that you know just how much lime is needed for your plants in order for it to be effective. Make sure you take a soil test before adding lime to your garden plants to know exactly how much is needed. While most vegetables are tolerant of pH-increasing lime, it is still important that you understand what conditions help your garden plants thrive.

To know whether lime has been effective for your plants’ growth, you will have to wait. The impact can only be seen much later since lime takes time to reach the roots. The results from adding lime often take months or even years, so don’t expect to see a lush and green garden overnight. However, research has proven that over time, liming will certainly boost plant growth and health!

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