Lime is a very important part of having healthy soil where we live. Knowing how much to apply and where to apply are very important considerations to effectively use lime. Let’s talk about what lime does, why you need it, how much to apply, and how to apply it.
There are a couple of different types of lime that you can purchase. Ag lime is a very common type. It is made up of calcium, carbon, and oxygen. Ag lime will do a very good job of raising the pH in your soil. Dolomitic lime also raises the pH level of soil, but it has magnesium in it as well. If your soil is deficient in magnesium, dolomitic lime is a good option to raise the soil pH, and to increase the amount of magnesium in your soil.
When you get to the bottom of it lime raises the pH in soil. If you recall from chemistry class, pH is basically a measure of the free hydrogen ions in a substance. In this case that substance is soil. pH is a scale that goes from 1 – 14. Numbers below 7 are acidic and numbers above 7 are basic. 7 is neutral. Our soil is going to be naturally acidic. I’ve seen soil reports with pH ranging from 4.5 – 5.5. Most plants like to have a pH of 6 – 6.5. The past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about fertilizers. pH is very important because it impacts how available the nutrients are to plants to be able to take them up. If the pH is low, then most plants won’t be able to grow because they can’t utilize the nutrients that are in the soil.
There’s no way to accurately know how much lime you need to add with doing a soil test first. A soil test will make a recommendation for how much lime you should add based on your pH. It is possible to add too much lime. If you add lime year after year with looking at a soil test as a guide you may end up over liming your land. This can lead to a pH that is too high. You can run into similar issues as with a pH that is too low. A high pH is not common around here unless you’ve over applied lime. In the western half of the country soils naturally have a high pH.
In small areas lime can be applied with a push spreader. You want the lime to make as much contact with the soil as possible, so it may take a few days to water it in. Lime does not dissolve very well in water so it may take a while for the lime to take full effect. Lime can be bought in powder form or pelletized. Both work well, but the pelletized may make less of a mess. There is also liquid lime. Liquid lime can be effective, but it will take more product because it has been diluted down. Larger areas such as a pasture may need a spreader truck to apply the lime evenly and efficiently.
If you have questions about lime contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.