Test Soil pH Before Applying Lime

Fall is the best time of year to add lime to your garden soil. This gives the lime plenty of time to react with the soil chemistry and do its job raising the pH of the soil.  The next best time to apply lime is right now, in early spring. There are several weeks to go until the gardening season is in full swing and any lime applied now will still have some time to react.

Some gardeners add lime to their gardens quite regularly without really knowing if the soil needs it or not. If you ask why often the answer is,  “we always add lime”.

Lime is a generic term for different types of calcium products. It is used to sweeten soils or raise soil pH.

Adding lime without testing the soil first is setting you up for problems in the future. Too much lime will cause such a rise in soil pH that some nutrients in the soil will no longer be available to your plants.

Lime induced chlorosis is one typical problem we see. In this case the leaves of the garden plants begin to turn yellow due to lack of iron. Iron is needed by plants and is readily available in low pH or sour soils. As the pH rises, less and less iron is available for the plant to use until a point is reached where symptoms start to show up.

A sample of your garden soil can be tested by a soils lab.  Soil pH is routinely tested along with critical soil minerals.  The most reliable tests are available through the County Extension Office.

At the very least do your garden a favor,  pick up a soil pH test kit from the garden center and test the pH yourself. Most of the pH tests are fine for home garden use.


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