Time to leave your lawn looking sub-lime…
There are certain things in life that just go together. Batman & Robin. Fish and chips. Bangers & mash. Tea & biscuits. Lawns and soil. That’s right. If you’re to have any hope of growing a lush, green lawn then you need to make sure you look after your soil too. If you don’t, your lawn dreams won’t be possible because, for most plants to thrive, the pH level of the soil needs to be sitting pretty between 6 and 7, which is ever so slightly acidic.
Anything lower and your soil will be too acidic, which is a problem because your grass plants won’t be able to absorb the nutrients they need — and the lower your pH levels, the worse it gets (and by worse, we mean a lot of lawn care effort for not a lot of reward). In fact, let’s say the soil in your garden has a pH of 4.5 (hint: that’s really acidic), you can expect 70 percent of the fertiliser you applied will be wasted simply because your grass can’t make use of it any more.
The solution: lime.
Agricultural lime — the kind used one lawns – has alkaline properties that can amend your soil’s pH levels by moving it away from the dark side and back toward a more neutral setting. And with that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about using lime as a soil amendment for your lawn:
Spotting The Signs Your Lawn Needs Lime
Out of the nutrients your lawn ants, needs and loves, nitrogen is the most important because that’s what gives your grass that gorgeous shade of green you can’t get enough of. The problem is, your lawn’s ability to absorb nitrogen is hugely dependent on your soil’s pH level. Thankfully, there are a few signs that suggest your grass is battling against an acidic soil situation, such as:
- Slow growth
- Lawn moss
- Diseased plants
- Insect infestation
- An increase in weeds
- Lacklustre shade of green
- And, last but not least, all that effort you put into fertilising your lawn just goes to waste.
Of course, there are some lawn species that are less sensitive to acidity, such as fescues, but most of the time you want to try and get your soil pH to sit between 6 and 7.
How To Test Your Soil’s pH Level
Looking for the signs in your lawn is a great first step, but there’s only one way to really know whether your soil is the problem and that’s to test your soil pH. If you want to do this yourself (and relive your Year 7 science class), your best bet is to a) read about these super-easy ways to test your own soil or b) head down to your local garden centre or hardware shop and ask for a DIY soil test kit. That said, these tests are known to be more unreliable than most politicians and, like most politicians, the information they do provide may not be much help when it comes to the specifics of what’s needed.
Luckily, there is another option, which is to give Joe’s a call and book your free lawn care analysis, in which we’ll perform a soil test as part of our service. We’ll then be able to perform an SMP buffer test on your soil sample and find out exactly how much lime to add (if any).
Of course, most of the time, the pH level of soil is determined by climate and location. For instance, places where the topsoil lies over limestone bedrock, usually has alkaline soils, while places that get lots of rain tend to have more acidic soils due to rain being, well, ummm, acidic. Whatever the case, another easy way to get a better understanding of your soil’s pH levels is to pop into your local garden centre and ask them if acidic soil is a common issue where you live.
Top Tips For Applying Lime as a Soil Amendment
First things first, there are a few different types of agricultural lime that can be used to correct your soil’s pH, but from our experience in the lawn care game, the best of the bunch is either chalk or powdered limestone. However, if you really want to get it right and grow the snazziest lawn in your neighborhood, a quick soil test will tell you what type of lime is best for your soil. To help you out with this, here are two different types of lime:
- Calcitic Lime: this is lime with a high calcium content and thus comes with the added benefit of, you guessed it, adding calcium to your soil.
- Dolomitic Lime: this form of limestone has pretty high levels of magnesium, which may come in handy if your soil test shows a magnesium deficiency.
As for applying ye olde lime, you can’t go wrong with a standard lawn spreader; a contraption that won’t give you a sore arm but will give you an equal spread. Then, after you’re done liming your lawn, make sure you water it — and water it good — because these will help your lime get deep down into your soil where it will have the biggest positive impact.
When To Lime Your Lawn
As a rule of (green) thumb, you can chuck lime on your lawn whenever you want, so long as your soil isn’t frozen. So basically just not the depths of winter. That said, the most popular time to get liming is either spring or autumn and, if you really want to get the most out of it, we recommend doing it straight after you’ve had your lawn aerated. Why? Because aeration is all about making it easier for water and nutrients to be absorbed deeper in the soil and your sprinkled lime will latch onto this too.
Moving forward, our lawn care legends recommend you keep retesting your soil every year until you’ve reached the ideal pH levels, after which you can kick back, relax, pour yourself a margarita and stick to testing your soil every time there’s a World Cup.