Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Benefits of Adding Lime to the Soil this Fall

Atlanta is known for terrific azaleas, blueberries, dogwoods, camellias and tulip poplars, all acid-loving plants that thrive in Atlanta's acid soils. Due to rainfall levels common east of the Mississippi River and acid-forming oak leaves and pine needles, metro-Atlanta clay soils are acidic in nature. Review a wide selection of plants that do well on acidic soils. 

Soil tests include a useful measurement called the "pH". This refers to a range of values from 0 to 14, where zero is the most acid and 14 is the most alkaline. (Pure water is neutral with a pH of 7).

The lower case “p” in pH refers to a logarithmic scale, which means that a pH of 6 is 10 times more acidic than neutral, but a pH of 5 is 100 times more acidic!  So native Atlanta soils with a pH of 4.5 approach 500 times more acidic than neutral.

But sometimes soils can be TOO ACIDIC for good plant growth. And not all plants thrive on acid soils. Some, like Fescue, Bermuda and Zoysia lawns and culinary herbs prefer a more neutral soil. When soils become too acid, adding lime corrects the pH level.  

Converting Acid Soils

Crabapple LandscapExperts know the best way to convert acid soils for better plant growth is by adding lime. Lime application affects many aspects of soil and growing conditions. The primary benefits of lime include:  

● changes the soil acidity to more neutral

promotes better growth of plants

makes nutrients needed for good plant growth (added as fertilizer) more available to plant roots

● increases fertilizer effectiveness by freeing bound ions and making them available to plant roots

● the chemical formula of lime is CaCO3, therefore, adding lime adds Calcium to the soil, which is an essential nutrient needed for best plant growth that is often deficient in Atlanta-area soils

● Your LandscapExperts know that in addition to the Calcium deficiency, metro-Atlanta soils are typically deficient in Magnesium (Mg). So by choosing Dolomitic Lime with a chemical formula CaMg(CO3)2  to neutralize acidic soils, we are simultaneously adding both Calcium and Magnesium to the soil.

● reduces certain acid-loving weeds

● acts as a natural irritant to insect pests

● increases the microbial activity

offsets acid rain  

improves soil structure

Lime comes in many forms, dry crushed limestone from quarries, dug as marl or from industrial by-products. In many ways lime is similar to its cousin gypsum. CrabappleLandscapExperts recommend an application of pulverized dolomitic lime once or twice a year for optimal landscape health. Call your Crabapple Rep to discuss an application of lime to the landscapes you manage.

Photos Courtesy: Geri Laufer,, Outdoor Product Reviews

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