You’ve been diligently watering your lawn. Not too much, not too little, but just enough so that it should be looking healthy. You’ve also given it a good dose of fertilizer and are eagerly awaiting the day that it gets its luscious green body back. So why is your turf still looking yellow in places and taking ages to grow? Adding lime might help, but what does lime do for grass?
Similar to us humans, your lawn requires a delicate balance of nutrients and chemicals to be healthy.
Just think how you’d feel after eating nothing but junk food for a week.
Like us, a lawn that looks beautiful after you lay down some fertilizer can start to lose its luster quickly when some underground factors end up causing an internal imbalance.
So when you’re struggling to keep your lawn lush and green, what can you do?
Adding lime to your soil might be what you need to bring back your turf’s good looks.
In today’s article I’ll take a closer look at what lime can do for your grass and which type of lime to use on your lawn.
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How Does Lime Help to Maintain a Healthy Looking Lawn?
There are a handful of ways that the addition of lime can bolster the quality of your turf.
From balancing the soil’s pH to helping good kinds of bacteria break down compost and plant matter, lime can work wonders for the soil.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into four ways lime can benefit grass.
1. It’s all About (pH) Balance
If your garden or lawn soil is too acidic, or too alkaline, then this will get in the way of your lawn’s ability to grow and retain vitality.
A pH level of between 6.2 and 7.0 is balanced and ideal for growing most grass types.
Depending on factors like rainfall, fertilizer content, run-off from nearby properties, pollution, and soil composition, the ground in your yard may build up acidity over time.
If your soil is too acidic, then a sprinkling of lime will sweeten the soil, balancing out the pH level and creating ideal growing conditions for your grass.
Basically, if your soil is not balanced, then nutrients become locked up in the ground and your grass can’t access the nutrition it needs.
This makes grass weak, off-color, and vulnerable to disease.
A healthy pH balance results in soil that retains crucial nutrients, while also releasing this ‘food’ to your lawn as it’s needed.
Every spring I use this soil test kit from Amazon that allows you to mail your soil sample to a lab for very accurate results. This will tell you your soil’s pH, but also what (if any) nutrients it lacks, and it might tell you a tweak to your soil’s pH will unlock nutrients for your grass (and save you a lot of money on fertilizer your lawn doesn’t need).
The Lawn Chick editorial team regularly interviews industry experts to bring our readers the latest science and expert recommendations to complement our own hands-on lawn care experience.
We Asked: How does soil pH impact a lawn’s ability to utilize the fertilizer you apply and the nutrients available in your yard’s soil?
Teri Answered: “Soil pH is a crucial indicator of soil acidity, and tells us if your yard has the ideal pH for the plants (like grass) you’re growing. It also impacts how well grass utilizes applied fertilizer and absorbs soil nutrients. The sweet spot for lawn pH is between 6.5 and 7.0, but most lawns are adaptable, typically ranging from pH 4.0 to 9.0.”
“If your lawn is thriving but the pH isn’t in the ideal range, there’s no need to adjust it. It’s typically difficult to adjust pH levels, but if pH is too high, you can try adding organic matter like compost, and if it’s too low, applying lime can help.”
Natural Science Manager at Sunday
At Sunday, Teri leverages data analysis, lawn and garden industry trends, and customer needs to create impactful content. With a combination of her conservation background and expertise in science communication and content strategy, Teri works to advance sustainable yard care practices on behalf of Sunday.
2. A Dash of Lime – Just What the Doctor Ordered
Lime is a mineral that contains mostly calcium carbonate and, in some cases, magnesium carbonate.
Calcium is needed for the regulation of other minerals in the soil including copper, phosphorus, and zinc.
Directly depositing lime onto the ground is like injecting your grass with a tonic that enables it to maintain a bright green hue.
It also helps the grass defend itself against high temperatures, water shortages, and the stress it endures from foot traffic.
3. Lawns Benefit from a Detox Too
Adding lime not only adds necessary nutrients to your soil, but it also helps to decrease the harmful effects of other minerals that become harmful in an overly acidic environment.
When aluminum, iron, and manganese quantities build up in acidic soil, they can become toxic for your lawn. This results in slower and less vigorous grass growth.
If you regularly apply iron to your lawn to create dark green foliage, periodically adding lime will probably be helpful for your lawn.
4. Lending a Hand to Beneficial Bacteria
I’m a huge proponent of supporting healthy soil and feeding and supporting your soil as the key to a healthy lawn.
Lime assists good bacteria and fungi when it comes to breaking down dead plant matter. This can include things like old grass cuttings and various forms of organic fertilizer. Lime is a natural food for these friendly microbes, and works especially well when working in conjunction with compost.
Homeowners with kids and pets who prefer to use organic treatments on their lawn will be glad to know that lime is an excellent addition to their natural lawn remedy arsenal.
By aiding the work of microbes that break down soil nutrients, you create turf that’s more resilient and well-nourished.
How Do You Know if Your Soil Needs Lime?
Before you rush off to your nearest gardening store to order lime for delivery, bear in mind that not all lawns will benefit from lime.
I have an in-depth article which details the best ways to tell if your lawn needs lime, but the short answer is you should conduct a soil test.
This will help to assess things like pH balance and nutrient distribution. At your local hardware store you can buy a cheap pH meter to check the pH of your lawn, but I find these have questionable accuracy.
This is why I spend about $30 annually to invest in a quality soil test kit (this is the one I use) that I can mail to a lab to get online results that are very accurate.
Best Overall Lawn Soil Test Kit
The Soil Test Kit I Use & Recommend
There are many options for testing your lawn’s soil, but I prefer a lab-based soil test that provides a detailed analysis of your soil’s nutrients and what’s needed for your lawn to thrive.
I use this one from MySoil every year.
The Risks of Overdoing it With Lime
If you just say ‘heck, why not?’ and have a load of lime deposited over your turf, you may end up wasting not only hours of your life and money, but you could create an imbalance in your soil’s pH by making it too sweet.
So best not to get too trigger-happy with the lime until you know if it’s what your lawn is missing.
What pH Should You Look For?
If you’ve got a testing kit and discover that the pH of your soil is lower than 6.0, then it could be time to try an application of lime.
If your soil is already somewhere between the healthy range of 6.2 – 7.0 and you add lime, then you risk making the soil too alkaline.
What Kind of Lime to Buy for Grass Lawns?
Lime is a natural compound that’s dug up out of the earth. From the mine it is manufactured into formats that are used by gardeners and farmers.
The three main formats you’ll find in commercial outlets are:
- Powder, and
- A Liquid Spray.
I’ll talk about each type of lawn and the pros and cons of using that form of lime on your lawn below.
Lime Pellets for Lawns
To create pellets, manufacturers grind limestone into a powder and mold it into pellets.
A binding agent holds these pellets together.
The binding agent needs to break down first, so it will take a longer time for the soil to absorb the lime when applied as pellets to your lawn.
Pellets are quite easy to distribute across your lawn, especially if you have a broadcast spreader that you use for fertilizer and/or grass seed applications.
Since pellets are heavier than the powdered version, they cannot be blown away by the wind, and are less likely to wash away in a heavy rainfall.
Pellets are usually more expensive than the other two forms of lime, and take longer to be absorbed by the soil.
Powdered Lime for Lawns
This form of Lime is a fine powder made from pulverized limestone. It’s what I like to use in my garden around plants that prefer sweeter soil as it’s cheaper and gets absorbed quickly.
This kind of lime is normally more affordable than pellets. Your soil also absorbs it more quickly.
A gust of wind or even a breeze can easily sweep away this pulverized limestone.
This not only poses the risk of losing your lawn treatment, but you or your family might breathe some in, which is not healthy. This can be remedied by wearing a mask, however.
It can be time-consuming to manually spread powdered lime out over a lawn. While this might work for small lawns, or isolated lawn areas, it’s not my recommended approach for a broad application. If you have a mid-sized or large lawn, go with pelletized lime.
Liquid Spray Lime
The liquid form of lime is sprayed on lawns or plants that show signs of calcium deficiency. It’s a fast, accurate, method of application, but poses challenges too.
Many homeowners struggle to keep track of where they have and have not applied lime, and could over-apply or under-apply more easily, creating a patchy look to their lawn.
This is the fastest method of replenishing calcium levels in a malnourished lawn. You can also use it on individual plants that are showing signs of deficiency in the garden as well.
Because this format is a liquid, it can be tricky to judge how much has been dispersed on any given patch of lawn. It is also time consuming if you’re applying lime to a large yard as it must be sprayed by hand.
Which Type of Lime is Best for My Lawn?
Whether you use lime pellets, powder, or liquid spray, your product is likely one of two types of lime formulation:
- Calcitic lime, or
- Dolomitic lime.
Calcitic lime is a mixture of limestone, marlstone, and chalk.
Dolomitic lime is a blend of calcium and magnesium.
Using Your Soil Test to Choose the Best Lime for Your Lawn
If your soil test reveals that your lawn is acidic, but not lacking in nutrients, then Calcitic lime would be the best choice. This (Amazon link) is the product I use when I apply Calcitic lime to my lawn.
However, if your soil has high acidity levels and is lacking the mineral magnesium, then I recommend Dolomitic lime. This (Amazon link) is the product I use when I apply Dolomitic lime to my lawn.
As for which form (powder, pellet, or liquid) is best for you – you can simply see what’s available from your local store or lawn service provider if you don’t want to order online.
I’ve had the best results with pelleted lime products on my lawn.
What Does Lime Do for Grass? A Lot
Lime is a natural mineral that can do a lot to benefit your lawn if your lawn’s soil is too acidic.
It can unlock your soil’s nutrients, and allow your grass to grow in ideal conditions.
Test your soil to be sure that lime is needed before you apply it. And consider the size of your lawn to choose the best type of lime for your yard.
And remember that whenever you’re applying products to your lawn, wear long sleeves and pants, and put on some gloves, goggles and a mask. It’s a basic safety precaution that’s easy to take, and costs you nothing but a few minutes of discomfort.
When applying lime to your lawn, make sure the lawn surface gets a splash of water to help the lime sink in and adhere to the soil before kids or pets are let out into the yard.
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