Pros and Cons Of Using Lime In Your Garden

Garden lime can be used to correct soil that is too acidic. Using lime can be an effective and affordable way to lower soil acidity, nourish healthy bacteria, and add helpful nutrients to soil. However, amending the soil can take some time, and you may run the risk of over-liming or negatively impacting some of your plants.

Adding Lime To Garden

Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of using lime in your garden and to decide if liming is right for you!

What Is Garden Lime?

Garden lime is made from mineral powder, and it works to make soil less acidic. Garden lime can be found in both pellet and powder form, and it has calcium carbonate, which raises the pH level of garden soil.

Powdered lime

In powder form, limestone rock is crushed down to a fine powdery substance that, when added to soil, can begin working very quickly. Some have noticed that powdered lime can be difficult to transport and apply to soil because of it’s fine consistency. It may prove challenging to place the lime and keep it from blowing away.

Pelletized lime

Pelletized lime combines powdered lime with an adhesive, which creates little pellets instead of just powder. The effectiveness does not decrease, but the pelletized lime may be easier to manage. Once the pellets interact with water, the adhesive will dissolve and the pellets will return to powder form.

When buying pelletized lime, remember to look for high-quality lime that utilizes same-sized pellets. If the sizes of the pellets are mismatched, your lime application could be uneven and affect your plants.

What Is Garden Lime Used For?

For ideal plant growth and maintenance, the pH level of soil plays an important role. Garden lime can be used to correct your garden soil’s pH level if the acidity is too high, and it can also be used to add helpful nutrients to the soil.

What Should You Know About Buying Garden Lime?

1. Finding garden lime

You can buy garden lime at most garden centers and home improvement stores, such as Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowe’s, or even at online stores like Amazon. People commonly use garden lime in their soil, so it should not be difficult to track a bag down.

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Keep in mind that you will probably need at least 20 pounds of garden lime, so plan on making the necessary arrangements to pick up and transport a heavy load.

2. Amount of garden lime needed

The amount of garden lime needed depends on the size and needs of your garden. Most experts recommend between 20 and 50 pounds of limestone for every 1,000 square feet. If your soil is strongly acidic, you may need more.

These guidelines are only a recommendation, and you will need to tailor the amount to your garden needs. The amount of garden lime needed also depends on the type of soil you have in your garden. Clay soil, sand, and loam all require different amounts of garden lime. 

3. Garden lime cost

Thankfully, you can usually buy garden lime for a very low cost. While prices vary, a 40-pound bag of lime can be as cheap as somewhere between $4 and $10.  When buying garden lime, pay attention to the quality of the lime. If purchasing pelletized lime, aim for pellets that are similar sizes. This ensures an even spread around your garden. If pellets are different sizes, the application may not be as accurate.

4. Time frame

While you can lime your garden at any point in the year, experts usually recommend adding lime in the fall. If you plan on planting in the spring, a fall lime addition provides the perfect timeframe for the lime dissolving into the soil. To be most effective, garden lime needs time to adjust to the soil and interact with water. If you are in a rush, do not expect to lime your garden and have all issues immediately fixed.

How To Know If Your Garden Needs Lime?

1. Soil test

The best way to determine if garden lime could benefit your garden involves testing the soil. You could order a professional lab test from a specialty company, or you could buy an over-the-counter soil pH test kit to see if your soil has too much acidity.

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For planning purposes, try to test the soil at least three months before you plant in your garden. This gives you time to interpret the results and make any necessary changes to best help your plants thrive.

2. pH level

pH levels exist on a spectrum between 0 and 14, where 7 is considered neutral. Be aware that a pH level number under 7 means your soil is more acidic, whereas a number greater than 7 means that the soil is considered alkaline, or basic.

In a garden, the soil’s pH level should generally be in between 5.5 and 7.0, although plant needs differ greatly. To be certain of the appropriate pH level for your garden, you will want to look up the desired pH levels of the specific plants that you grow.

3. Visual changes

While you should always perform a soil test to check your soil’s pH level, you can also look for a few clues that mean your soil may have too much acidity. 

Most often, plants with highly acidic soil will have yellow leaves, a lack of fruit, and appear to be stunted. If you see those signs, plan on performing a pH test for your garden soil.

Low pH Squash Leaves

What Are The Pros Of Using Lime In Your Garden?

1. Corrects soil acidity

If your garden soil has too much acidity, usually indicated by a pH level lower than 5.5, you may want to consider correcting it by using garden lime. 

Liming your garden is usually very effective, but know that results often take a while. You can look for improvements as soon as four weeks after adding the lime, but it will take months and years after that for the full effect to show up.

2. Provides important nutrients

In addition to lowering acidity, garden lime adds both calcium and magnesium to soil, which can improve the health of plants. Also, activated lime may help remove toxic bacteria from soil by cleansing the area.

3. Nourishes necessary bacteria

Soil can possess both healthy and unhealthy bacteria. When combined with compost, lime can help the beneficial bacteria in your garden thrive. 

4. Cost and efficiency

As mentioned above, garden lime can be incredibly affordable, which means that this acidity-correcting solution will not break the bank.

What Are The Cons Of Using Lime In Your Garden?

1. Adding too much

If you add too much garden lime to your soil, your plants may suffer. Chlorosis, a condition that causes slow plant growth and yellowing leaves, may set in. To avoid this issue, carefully interpret the results of your soil test and make sure you add the recommended amount. If you feel nervous about adding the right amount of garden lime to your soil, make an appointment with a garden specialist who can advise you.

2. Time involved

If you want a quick fix, liming your garden takes time and effort, so just know that the process is long. According to AA Lawns, it can take two years for the lime to penetrate two inches into the garden soil, so the process may be arduous.

3. Damaging plants

If you do not research your specific plants beforehand, you may accidentally end up damaging plants that thrive with higher soil acidity. Plants such as blueberries, azaleas, and rhododendrons actually grow better in more acidic soil. As long as you are careful not to lime areas where plants that prefer acidic soil grow, you will avoid accidentally harming your plants.

4. Health risks

When used in the right way, garden lime does not generally pose a toxic threat to people or animals. That being said, the skin, eyes, throat, and nose can become irritated if you come into contact with it. If contact and irritation occurs, just use water to flush out the area.

Helpful Tips

Storing garden lime

Garden lime needs to interact with water once it makes contact with the soil. However, coming into contact with water before being inserted into the soil can dissolve the lime before it serves its intended purpose. When storing your lime, make sure it stays in a dry place where it will not come in contact with water. 

Applying garden lime

Depending on the size of your garden, you may choose to use a shovel or a spreader. Plan on tilling or digging the lime into your garden soil so that it can mix with water and soil. Leaving the lime at the top of the soil will cause the entire process to become much slower.

Final Thoughts

Adding lime to your garden can provide many advantages to your plants. Before sprinkling lime powder, however, make sure to test your soil and accurately spread the right amount for your needs.  Be careful not to over-lime your garden or lime plants that require a higher acidity. If you avoid these common downfalls, your garden should respond well to a lime treatment over time.