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How To Tell If Your Lawn Needs Lime

lawn lime Depositphotos 209909020 XL min How To Tell If Your Lawn Needs Lime

You water your lawn regularly. Apply only the best fertilizer. Mow only at the proper times. And get rewarded with brown, dead-looking grass filled with weeds and moss. Why?

Your soil may just need a lime application. Acidic soil does not allow grass to pick up nutrients.  Lawn grass grows best in soil with a ph level of 6.0 – 7.4. Adding lime to your lawn raises the ph level.

A simple soil test will tell you the ph level now. Applying lime allows the grass to pick up the available nutrients. 

The benefits of applying lime may take 6 – 12 months to appear. The sooner you get started, the better for your lawn.

Your Lawn Needs Lime When . . .

The ideal ph for most grasses is 6.5. If your testing shows lower readings, your lawn could benefit from lime applications.

A Soil Test Reveals Low pH

Once you begin to suspect there is a ph problem with your yard, do some soil testing to confirm your suspicions. Many universities and colleges offer soil analysis. These analyses provide the most accurate results. They tell you exactly how much lime you need to apply along with your soil type–and will suggest additional amendments. 

But for a simple confirmation of your suspicions, you can buy a meter like the one below for under $20.00. The meter will give you a fairly exact ph reading so you know how much lime to apply.


Courtesy: Small inexpensive ph/moisture/light meter.

Note: There are tests involving vinegar and baking soda. They tell you if the soil is alkaline or acidic. Not by how much. They only let you know that your lawn needs a lime treatment. Not exactly how much lime.

Your Grass is Lifeless and Yellow

Acidic soil prevents grass from absorbing nutrients such as potassium and phosphorus. The grass will be yellow and eventually die. Applying lime releases nutrients.

You Are Getting Weeds Everywhere

Many common weeds thrive in acidic soil. Finding them in your lawn is a way to tell that it is probably time to lime your lawn.  Some of these weeds are:

  • Broadleaf Plantain
  • Dandelions
  • Ox-eye Daisies
  • Nettles
  • Hawkweed
  • Dockweed
  • Knockweed
  • Shepherds Purse
  • Mullein

Note: Sorry. Applying lime will not kill the weeds. It will prevent more.

Patches of Moss are Appearing

Moss loves acidic soil. Finding moss growing throughout your lawn–not just in low wet shaded areas–is a good sign your lawn needs a little help.

Fertilizers Seem Worthless

Using more fertilizer on your lawn is not producing the desired results. It is still yellow and sickly looking. It may be the fertilizer. It is more likely your soil is too acidic and an application of lime is needed. 

Note: Make sure you use fertilizer containing nitrates, phosphorus, and potassium. Fertilizers containing nitrogen, ammonia, or urea make the soil more acidic over time. 

Herbicides and Pesticides Don’t Work Either

Very acidic soil seems to reduce the effectiveness of pesticides and herbicides. Neither the bugs nor weeds die quickly–if at all.

Your Soil May be Naturally Acidic

Naturally acidic soils exist along the west coast, in states around the Great Lakes, and in the east from Texas to Maine. These areas have acidic organic matter and more rainfall–leading to more acidic soil ph.

If you live in one of these areas, you will likely need to apply lime regularly.

Types of Lime

There are two popular effective types of garden lime.

  • Dolomitic Lime. Most popular. Contains calcium and magnesium. Recommended for low ph and low magnesium soil. (You will need a different testing kit to measure magnesium levels.)
  • Calcitic Lime. Mostly calcium. No magnesium. Recommended for soil without a magnesium deficiency.

Lime is also available in a number of forms.

  • Pulverized. Fast-acting powder. Difficult to machine-spread. Cannot use on a windy day.
  • Pelletized. Spreads easily. Takes longer to work.
  • Hydrated. Very fast acting. Also very easy to apply too much and damage the lawn. Can irritate the eyes and skin.

Note: Smaller lime pellets act faster in the soil. Larger lime pellets last longer. 

Amount of Lime to Apply

Figure out how much lawn you have by using a 100′ tape measure or just pacing it out. Most lime suppliers have recommended application rates that you should follow. But here are roughly what you will need.

PH under 4.9Apply 200 lbs. per 1000 square feet
PH 5.0 – 5.5Apply 100 lbs. per 1000 square feet
PH 5.6 – 6.0Apply 50 lbs. per 1000 square feet
PH over 6.1No lime required

How to Apply Lime

The best time to add lime to your lawn is in the fall. Late fall and winter rains help the lime to be absorbed into your soil. In areas that get snow, spring melt carries lime into the soil. The lime should spread more evenly and be ready for the spring and summer growing seasons.

It is best to apply lime after you aerate your lawn. Aeration removes plugs of dirt up to 3″ long and around 3/4″ in diameter. Lime pellets falling into the holes speeds up the absorption by getting deeper into the soil.

lawn spreader Depositphotos 114356802 XL min How To Tell If Your Lawn Needs Lime

Most garden spreaders and drop spreaders should handle any type of granular lime. (Check hole sizes.) Make sure you check the spread rates. Make sure you choose a calm windless day–especially if you are using pulverized lime.

Note: Pulverized lime tends to plug up both types of spreaders.

Water your lawn after the application of the lime. Water ensures that the product is not stuck to the grass, will not blow away, and gets into the soil.

Lime usually takes months to work. If your ph levels are really acidic, you should consider treating the lawn more often. It may even be worthwhile considering an application of hydrated lime first to get the process going quicker.

End Notes

Test your soil yearly. Spring and fall. All lawns get more acidic over time. Keeping records will let you know how quickly yours is acidifying.

Once your soil is back into the proper ph range to make for a healthy lawn, you should not have to apply lime for about three years. And you won’t need as much.