What is lime used for in gardening

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Gardeners all over the work have various ways in which they upkeep their garden. This includes synthetic additives as well as natural and home remedies that have been around for ages. Most of the upkeep recipes used are tried and tested through generations. One such method is liming. So, what is liming and what is lime used for in gardening? Let’s have a look.

What is lime and what is it used for in gardening?

Lime or gardening lime is a soil amendment used to increase the alkalinity of the soil. It increases the pH level of the soil making it less acidic. Lime is made from ground limestone rock. This naturally contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate these are considered natural elements necessary for plant growth.

The main reason liming helps plants grow healthier is that it reduces the pH level of the soil. When the soil is too acidic plants are unable to absorb the nutrients they require. This being said, some minerals such as aluminum can be at toxic levels when the soil the plants are in is too acidic.

The ph level of the soil determines the about of acidity in the soil this number is important while calculating the amount of lime that needs to be added.

Note: liming works well for all soil types except potting media, fertilizers or manure.

The best time for liming is considered to be winter or before planting. Too much time between liming and planting is not advisable as this would reduce the effect.

What Is Lime Used For In Gardening
What Is Lime Used For In Gardening

When is lime used in gardening?

Lime as we know it is a way to reduce the acidity in the soil. It is generally used for vegetables and other annual crops just before digging during winter. Gardeners specifically choose winter as this is the best time for the lime to sit on the soil and act on it without other elements hampering the process.

This is also done so that the young crop is not damaged if sprinkled after the seedlings have grown. Another reason why lime is applied before seeds are sown is that it takes months and sometimes years for lime to act on soil that has established plants.

Hence it is recommended that the pH of the soil should be adjusted before sowing seeds or in that case transplanting saplings.

Adding lime to the soil to soil is beneficial in a number of ways but only if the soil has a high pH. If you add soil to soil that is not acidic it will do more harm than good. Hence it is important to test the soil before adding lime to it.

Testing kits are available in local stores as well as over e-commerce websites. You can also get the soil professionally tested by local authorities.

Once you have the test results here is all you need to know about pH.

pH of the soil determines the alkalinity and acidity of it. A pH of 7.0 is considered neutral whereas pH above 7.0, is alkaline and below pH 7.0, indicates that the soil is acid.

Testing of soil can be done at any time and as many times as required. It is advised that you test the soil right before sowing so that you are sure of what is missing in the soil and the external additives that need to be introduced to better the soil.

Note: it is important to avoid testing right after liming, adding fertilizers, manure, or other additives, this will lead to misleading results.

Liming also depends on the plants that you are planning to grow in your garden. If you have acid soil loving plants it is important to lime the soil even if the tests indicate a pH of 7 or higher.

When to Apply Lime to Garden while gardening

If you are looking for a simple answer with the season in which you need to lime you are in luck, there are two options available. Depending on the type of soil as mentioned in the previous section and the plants you have in your garden, you can either lime your garden in fall or in spring.

Applying Lime in Fall

Expert and seasoned gardeners will advise liming your garden in fall especially at the end. This according to them gives your garden soil time to absorb the lime, it also gives it time to adjust the pH. The application depends on the type of soil and the current pH.

As it takes several weeks for the soil to absorb the lime it makes sense to lime early and let it sit for a while.

Liming in Fall has an added advantage, rain, snow, and cycles of freezing and thawing help lime break down and begin to work. This makes it easier for the soil to absorb the lime minerals. It is also advisable to lime right after you harvest. This will help the soil replenish quicker.

Applying lime in the Spring

There are studies that prove that you can add lime to the soil not only in fall but also in spring. If your garden soil does not require much prep before sowing this is the best time to lime your garden. You need to do it before you sow though as it will give the soil time to adjust and at the same time will be better ground for plants to grow in.

This being said no matter when you decide to lime the soil, it is important to give the soil time to set and soak in the lime minerals.

What is lime used for in the garden and why should you do it?

It is a common question when it comes to gardening. As we know it liming is a method used to decrease the acidity of the soil. We also know that it is used according to the plants in your garden and the specific requirements of these plants. But the question that arises is that is liming necessary when growing and maintaining the lawn.

The answer to this depends on the soil in your garden and the existing pH levels. If you notice that the pH is low and this is interfering in the availability and absorption of nutrients then it is important to start liming even if its lawn.

But again, it depends on the type of grass you are growing. pH requirements differ from one grass variant to the other, some grass variants like a pH between 5.8 and 7.2. There are also warm-season grass variants that love a low pH.

If the pH of the soil oscillates between too low or too high it hampers the nutrient absorbing capacity of plants as well as grasses. This is when it is important to test soil and lime when necessary.

Tip: Poor grass growth and lawn moss are signs that you need to lime your garden.  

What is used as lime for gardening?

What is used as lime for gardening
What is used as lime for gardening

Liming materials

Most gardeners use ground limestone also known as gardening lime. Ground limestone is widely used as it the most easily available liming material. It is readily available in gardening centers and over the internet. Other than this it is also easy to spread and does not harm pets or humans.

The active ingredient in gardening lime is calcium carbonate. If you are looking for other forms of calcium carbonate you can also use Calcified seaweed and ground chalk. There are other materials that are used when it comes to bettering the soil for plants.

One such material is Dolomite lime this is basically ground limestone rich in magnesium carbonate as well as calcium carbonate. This is generally used in soils that lack magnesium carbonate or for plants that require a boost of the mineral to grow well.

Hydrated lime

Hydrated lime is used by builders and is nothing but calcium hydroxide. Hydrated lime is a fine powder and is quick-acting as compared to other liming agents. A major disadvantage of this agent is that it can irritate skin and eyes if not handled carefully. This is the reason most gardeners avoid using this product.

The effectiveness of Hydrated lime is expressed in percentage and is called the ‘Neutralising Value’ (NV) as it neutralizes the value of calcium oxide. The NV varies between materials and the type of soil you have in your garden along with the plants you are planning to include play a role in determining the type required.

Some examples of hydrated lime available are:

  • Calcified Seaweed – NV 44
  • Ground Chalk – NV 50-55
  • Hydrated Lime – NV 70
  • Ground Limestone (garden lime)  – NV 50-55
  • Ground Magnesian Limestone (Dolodust) – NV 56

When using hydrated lime another important factor to note is that you have to use very little product as it is very strong. You can use it in combination with other liming agents but again a negligible amount is better than too much.

Tip: look for a variant that is finely ground. Anything with lumps will take months and even years to have any effect on soil.

How to use lime for gardening?

When it comes to using lime for gardening the most important factors are

The method of application used for liming and the quantity applied

The method of application.

The method of application depends largely on the quantity used and also the size of your garden. While applying lime to more than 0.5kg per sq m (14¾oz per sq yd), it is suggested that you dig half of it into the soil and sprinkle the rest on the surface after digging. This will increase effectiveness and give you better results.

On the other hand, when you are applying less than 0.5kg per sq m (14¾oz per sq yd), it is advised to dig the entire amount into the soil. This will increase reach and penetration. This being said if for some reason it is not possible to dig your garden you can sprinkle it over the surface.

The Quantity applied.

The quantity of lime required not only depends on the plants you are planning to sow but also the soil type. Research shows that clay in the soil resists changes in pH. This is also known as the buffering quality of the soil, in such cases, a larger quantity of liming agent is required. If your soil is sandy and course you will need to add less lime.

Sandy soil
Original pH of soilKilograms per sq metreOunces per sq yard
6.00.411¾
5.50.720½
5.01.029½
4.51.338¼

We have put together a chart with the soil type and the amount of liming agent required. For the purpose of ease, the recommendations below are for finely ground gardening lime (Calcium carbonate).

These are based on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) recommendations for incorporation into the top 20cm of soil and are enough to raise the soil pH to pH6.5.

Clay soil
Original pH of soilKilograms per sq metreOunces per sq yard
6.00.617¾
5.5129½
5.01.441¼
4.51.853
Loam soil
Original pH of soilKilograms per sq metreOunces per sq yard
6.00.514¾
5.50.823½
5.01.235¼
4.51.544¼

After you have determined the type of soil and the amount of lime it required you can apply it to your garden soil easily. You can use Pennington Fast Acting Lime it is a type that can be spread easily. This product can be spread without the excess dust other products produce.

You can use a regular spreader to spread it over your soil. Then simply water the lawn or garden and you are good to go. Plants that love acidic soil include azaleas and blueberries, keep liming material away from these plants.

What is the problem when using lime in gardening?

After answering the question of what is lime used for in gardening, we also need to explore the potential problems when it comes to liming.

The most common one includes the use of builder’s lime, as mentioned in the previous section this variant causes irritation to skin and eyes. One needs to wear proper gear while using this liming agent. 

When there is a mismatch in the lime levels in the soil plants may contact diseases. The most common disease associated with this is the clubroot of brassicas.

In some plants, liming can cause nutrient deficiencies. This is associated with acid or alkaline soil conditions.

Here is a summary of all that we spoke about:

What is the problem when using lime in gardening
What is the problem when using lime in gardening

The steps to follow when using lime in gardening

Step-1: Test Soil

The only way you know how much lime to add to your garden is by testing it. When tested you will know the pH level of the soil which will, in turn, give you an estimate of how much lime the soil needs. This can be done by using home testing kits as well as professional testing agencies. 

Step-2: Calculate Lime Needed

Once you know the pH of the soil you will know the alkalinity or acidity of it. Depending on these values you can determine the amount of lime the garden will require. The second most important factor to determine the amount of lime is the plant type. 

Step-3: Two Ways to Spread Lime in Garden

There are two ways in which you can spread lime in your garden. One uses an old fashion shovel. This way there are more chances of clumpy distribution. The second way is by using a garden or agricultural spreader. Spreaders offer a more even application of lime through the garden. 

Whatever the method it is imperative to use protective gear during application. 

Step-4: Till Lime Into Your Garden

Tilling the land after the application is a way to ensure that the lime is mixed well with the soil. You can either do it manually or by using machinery. The aim is to turn the soil upside down in a way that the lime is at the bottom of the trench or pit or layer. Sprinkling the lime alone will not give desired benefits. 

Step-6: Soak Garden

The lime will only set in when watered down. Hence, it is important to water down the garden once the application is done. 

Step-7: Avoid Sowing Garden Immediately

The final step is to wait. You will need to wait for the lime to set in and start acting on the soil. Only then will it be beneficial to plants. So wait a month or more before you sow. 

Here are a few questions we came across; all these revolve around liming and what is lime used for in gardens. It bursts some myths as well as answers relevant questions. 

Will lime used for gardening kill weeds?

There is no type of lime application that is known to kill weeds in your lawn. This being said there are various liming agents that improve the quality of your lawn helping it naturally fight weeds. It is important to provide only when needed for the lawns best health. 

Does garden lime kill bugs?

Liming is more to better your garden as compared to a pest kill or bug kill method. This being said bugs are part of the lawn or garden experience and it is important to look for other ways to keep them at bay rather than relying on liming. 

This being said lime, also known as pelletized lime, is a powder-like material made from limestone which can be purchased from home improvement stores in your neighborhood. Lime has also shown some effectiveness as a natural insecticide since it causes insects to dry out and suffocate.

Unfortunately, lime kills all insects, including beneficial ones, and it can also kill your plants if you use too much. There have been no positive results to show that lime keeps away rodents, snakes, and other creatures of the land. 

Does Lime Keep Snakes Away?

As mentioned in the previous section there has not been positive results to prove that liming helps keep snakes and other creatures at bay. This being said some gardeners claim that snakes are repelled by lime in gardens.

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In conclusion

It is important to remember that liming is a great way to better the overall health of your garden. It not only helps plants absorb nutrients better but also neutralizes the pH levels in the soil. Liming is an excellent choice when it comes to the upkeep and better growth of a few plants. This being said some plants do not like liming.

The key is to understand what the plant needs. This being said you also need to know the soil type and the amount of lime required. So, to answer the question of what is lime used for in gardening, we can say to help plants absorb nutrients better.

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