Why and How to Lime the Lawn

Lime the Lawn

Beneath your yellow lawn, your soil is telling you it needs some help. You followed the fertilizer bag instructions precisely yet you’ve seen no improvement. Could your lawn need lime to restore the pH balance of its soil? Throughout this article, we’ll uncover why your yellow turf may need lime and how to apply lime.

Unfamiliar with lime? We’ll also explain what lime is, the different types of lime, and the best time to apply it to create a healthy lawn.

What is lime?

Lime is a soil amendment that comes from ground limestone. It’s applied to lawns to help raise soil pH. The soil’s acidity becomes neutralized by adding lime to it, creating a more conducive environment for your lawn to thrive.

Why you may need to lime your lawn

Turfgrass grows best with a soil pH level that is slightly acidic to neutral (6.0 to 7.0). Although, the ideal pH level can fluctuate with various grass and soil types. 

Lawns that could benefit from lime products generally have a pH below 6.0, which means the soil is too acidic. Here’s why that’s a problem: When soil is too acidic, the roots struggle to uptake available nutrients. So no matter how much fertilizer you apply to the lawn, the acidic soil will hinder nutrient absorption. Your turfgrass may weaken as a result, making it susceptible to the following ailments: 

  • Wilting grass blades
  • Yellow spots on your lawn
  • Lawn disease
  • Vulnerability to pests
  • Increase in lawn weeds
  • Increase in lawn moss

How to lime your lawn

There are several steps to take to achieve the best results from a lime application. Let’s talk about each of those steps.

Step 1: Test your soil

worker performing a soil test
Shutterstock | Starichenko

It’s important to test your soil before you lime your lawn. Why? Because a soil test will tell you how much lime to apply to raise your soil’s pH. 

If you play a guessing game with your soil and skip the soil test, you risk applying too much or too little lime. Applying too much lime can cause the opposite effect of what you began with, causing the soil to become too alkaline.  

How to Test: You can submit a soil sample to your local county extension office.

Step 2: Aerate and dethatch

metal lawn scarification tool
Silberkugel66 | Pixabay

It’s best to aerate and dethatch your lawn before applying lime. An aeration service will remove plugs of soil from the ground, creating pockets of breathing room for the soil and allowing the lime to more easily reach the soil. Dethatching helps to remove the thatch build-up that could possibly hinder the lime from reaching the soil.

Pro Tip: Dethatch before you aerate. 

Now, here comes the tricky part. Although you want to aerate and dethatch your lawn prior to applying lime, it might not necessarily be immediately before. That’s because you should apply lime in the fall. However, warm-season grasses should not be aerated and dethatched in the fall. Aerate and dethatch your warm-season lawn in late spring and then follow that up with a fall lime treatment. 

Cool-season grasses make for a simpler process as they can be aerated and dethatched in the fall, meaning the timing of a lime application can coincide with those other treatments. 

Step 3: Calculate how much lime you need

Carefully review your soil test to see the recommendation for the amount of lime your lawn needs. A soil test will likely recommend a certain amount of lime (in pounds) per 1,000 square feet. You may need to grab a pencil and paper to calculate how much lime you need according to your lawn’s size. 

If your soil test determines that your lawn needs more than 50 lbs of lime per 1,000 square feet, do not apply it all at once. You will need to split the applications into two treatments: apply the first half in spring and the second half in fall. 

Step 4: Apply the lime

For pelletized lime, use a drop spreader or a broadcast spreader to apply the lime. Apply half of the application going in one direction and apply the remaining half going in the opposite direction to create a criss-cross pattern. The criss-cross pattern helps achieve uniform coverage of the lime.

For liquid lime, attach the sprayer to your hose and spray in a side-to-side pattern, ensuring even coverage. Carefully review the packaging instructions to calculate how many gallons of liquid lime you’ll need for your lawn. 

Step 5: Water your lawn

watering
Kyryl Gorlov | iStock

Give your lawn some water after applying pelletized lime. Water will help the lime soak into the ground and not burn your grass. If applying liquid lime, refer to the package’s instructions, as you may need to wait a few hours before you can water the lawn.  

When to lime your lawn

Fall is the best time to lime your lawn. This allows the lime time to break down into your soil. By the time spring comes around again, it will have reached your grass roots and you can enjoy the benefits of a beautiful lawn with a more balanced soil pH. Liming your lawn in the summer can cause damage because the sun is too intense. 

Lime should not be applied if:

  • There is rain in the forecast
  • Your lawn is wet
  • Your lawn is stressed
  • Your lawn is wilted
  • Your lawn is dormant

Variations of lime

When shopping for lime, you may discover different types of lime and different forms of lime. Let’s further discuss these variations. 

Types of lime

The two types of lime are calcitic and dolomitic

Calcitic lime is made from calcium carbonate. Calcitic lime can be used on clay soils with a magnesium percentage in the soil greater than 20%.

Dolomitic lime is also made from calcium carbonate but it also contains magnesium carbonate. Dolomitic lime is best for sandy soils.

Forms of lime

Liquid lime and pelletized lime are common forms of lime that are available. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each. 

Liquid limePelletized lime
✓ Has a faster soil reaction than pelletized lime✗ Has a slower soil reaction than liquid lime
✗ Typically more expensive than pelletized lime✓ Typically more affordable than liquid lime
✓ Connect to a hose to apply(You’re probably more likely to have a hose lying around than a spreader)✗ You will need to use a spreader to apply lime to your lawn, which may be an additional cost for some users
✗ Not as readily available as pelletized lime✓ Commonly found in the garden section of home improvement stores

FAQ

Q. Do I need to lime my lawn every year?

A: It depends. After you’ve applied lime to your lawn, conduct a soil test the following year to determine whether the soil has reached the desired pH level. If the soil is still too acidic, you’ll need to perform another lime application. Once the ideal pH level has been reached, you can stop applying lime and resume soil testing every three to five years

Q. Is lime safe on my lawn if I have kids and pets?

A. Yes. Keep kids and pets off the lawn while you’re applying the lime, and allow the lime to absorb into your lawn before resuming activity.

Q. What causes fluctuation in soil pH?

A. Fluctuation in the pH of a lawn can be caused by several factors, such as:

1. Heavy rainfall leaching nutrients from the soil
2. Decomposing organic matter
3. Animal waste
4. Repeated fertilization over a long period of time

When to hire a professional

With your newly happy soil, your lawn has begun to grow rapidly. While this is exactly what you wanted, it means the upkeep of mowing and edging has now increased. Give the professionals at Lawn Love a call if you need help with your lawn maintenance.

Main photo credit: The Toidi | Shutterstock

Janae Soules

Janae Soules has a newly discovered love of gardening with her kids. She enjoys spending time in nature hiking, biking, or playing sports.