Darrell Blackwelder: Applying lime on the lawn

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 11, 2023

Fall has arrived and now is the time to fertilize fescue lawns. Our soils need proper nutrients to allow for maximum fescue growth during the fall and early spring. Adding lime to lawns and gardens is too often a required chore for certain soil types and conditions, however, lime is often applied incorrectly. Below are a few facts about lime that will explain why it is recommended for certain soils.

  • Lime is a soil amendment and not considered a fertilizer. However dolomitic lime contains both calcium and magnesium nutrients.
  • Lime is available in powdered or pelletized form for easy application.
  • The soil amendment is applied to raise the soil pH. Soils in our area are clay type soils that most often have low soil. A soil pH of 7 is neutral. Any level below 7 is considered acidic while levels above 7 are alkaline.
  • Lime can be applied at any time of the year, however, fall is usually the best time for application.
  • Most plants, including fescue and garden vegetables grow best in slightly acidic soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Soils with a pH below 6.0 are considered too acidic for optimal plant growth.
  • Some plants such as azaleas, rhododendron and blueberries grow best in acidic soils with a pH below 6.0.
  • Both low and high soil pH levels inhibit the uptake of certain nutrients.
  • Soil testing is mandatory to determine both soil nutrient and pH levels.
  • Applying lime or any other plant nutrients without soil testing can be detrimental to plant growth and is therefore nonproductive. The phrase” You can’t put down too much lime” is incorrect, you can over apply lime.
  • Soil testing is conducted by the NC Dept. of Agriculture. The kits are available at the NC Cooperative Extension Office on Old Concord Road in Salisbury. Testing the soil is essential for applying correct amounts of lime and fertilizer.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Contact him at deblackw@ncsu.edu.