Cranky Man’s Lawn Epistles ’12: To lime or not to lime … Rain worries

rain-clouds-enjoy-waterBefore I get into the question of whether lime applications are necessary, I have to express my concerns over the lack of normal Spring weather.

Where is all the rain?!?

We were supposed to have showers this week; but all we got were very light, very short sprinkles.  I patched and seeded a number of bare spots on the front lawn last week.  But seed isn’t going to grow without moisture; so I’m already dragging out the hose to water those areas.  And if we don’t get some substantial rainfall soon, I may start wholesale lawn watering.  It’s WAY too early for that, but what choice does one have?

What we need a nice stretch of 2-3 days of soaking rain.  And we need it soon!

Rainfall totals for the first months of the year are way down, more so now for March and April; and that presents some concerns about where we are headed.  I can remember one year – I’m guessing 1999 – where rainfall for the entire summer was non-existent!  By August everyone’s lawn was a brown, crunchy straw.  (When you can HEAR your lawn crunching underfoot, you’ve got REAL problems!)  Once the rains came some lawns recovered, others did not.  You really don’t want to be in the latter group.  The costs and work involved in replacing a lawn are not pretty!

If the weather does not become more favorable soon, I suggest cutting your lawn at the highest mower setting you have.  Longer grass leaves will provide some protection for grass-roots should they begin to dry out, and longer grass can help the ground retain moisture longer.

So … Do a little Rain Dance …

Make a little love …

Get down tonight!

Sorry … a little KC and the Sunshine Band moment.

Now to the subject at hand … Lime treatments for your lawn!

And right off, if you pay attention to such things, you would have noticed that I already made a mistake!  Lime treatments are not for your lawn, they are for the soil in which your lawn grows.

Lime is essentially a “soil sweetener”.  It will make acidic soil less acidic.  Lawns like a slightly acidic soil.  Acidity/alkalinity is measured in pH levels.  A healthy pH level for lawn health is between 6.2 – 6.8 pH.  7.0 pH is considered “neutral” acidity/alkalinity wise.  The lower the pH, the higher the acidity.

Not quite ... but save these for later!

Not quite … but save these for later!

Lime adds calcium and magnesium to the soil.  There are chemical processes at work here which I do not pretend to understand.  But if you’re interested in delving into that aspect, check out Lime and Your Lawn.

So, does your lawn need lime?

Here’s a Cranky Man Secret:  I have added lime ONCE to my lawn; and I have learned two things since then.

  1. One lime application is not nearly enough to make a difference in the soil if my lawn had needed it.  Multiple applications of lime over a number of years is required to change the acidity level of your soil.  Lime is absorbed VERY SLOWLY.  Studies have shown that it can take as long as two years for lime to penetrate 2 inches into the ground!
  2. I really don’t need lime in my lawn.

If your lawn is already healthy, chances are lime applications will not make a difference.  Your soil is probably within an acceptable range of acidity.  Soils vary in acidic level depending on a number of environmental issues, including acid rain and the use of synthetic fertilizers.

If – on the other hand – your lawn is not particularly healthy, DO NOT rush out and buy lime!  If your lawn is not overly acidic, lime may actually harm your lawn.  Always have your soil tested FIRST!!  Then if you end up applying lime based on those results, have the soil tested again each year to prevent “overshooting” which could cause even more problems that can be much harder to fix!

Soil testing can be done by home and garden centers or landscapers.  Call around first to find someone in your area.

More tips from Lime and Your Lawn:

  • If you apply lime, never use more than 50 lbs. per 1000 square feet of lawn.
  • Do not apply lime when applying other fertilizers, the combination could be lethal to your lawn.
  • Do not apply lime when it’s HOT.  Spring or Fall is the best time to apply lime.  If you apply lime in the Fall, make sure you leave several weeks between the lime application and your Winter fertilization.
  • There are two kinds of lime (calcitic and dolomitic).  Make sure your testing indicates which type should be used, as they offer differing ratios of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate.  (And that’s about all the chemistry I can handle!)

For those who like to do their own research, I suggest Penn State University, College of Agricultural Sciences, Center for Turfgrass Science, Turfgrass Advice.

As always, good luck out there!

2 thoughts on “Cranky Man’s Lawn Epistles ’12: To lime or not to lime … Rain worries

  1. I lawn has patches in in and of course it’s June ! My husband done a weed and feed and a lot of my grass has patches now so I was told to a lime treatment! We also done a weed and back in April but I guess this time it wasn’t good I have been watering it thoroughly so I’m keep my fingers crossed. Need some advice please help and that in advance…

    • Depending on where you live, the brown spots could be dead growth – either just dead weeds or both dead weeds and old grass. If you had a big weed problem and the weed ‘n feed treatment worked, brown spots would be expected.

      If the brown spots are simply widespread dead growth, you might want to consider dethatching and then over-seeding. But I would suggest waiting until early to mid-September for that process.

      Since you are having problems, I would get a soil sample tested BEFORE applying Lime. You may end up doing more damage if your lawn’s pH levels is already within acceptable limits. Some garden/lawn supply businesses can do on-the-spot pH tests.

      Good luck … Let me know if any of the advice makes sense.

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