Understanding Lime

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Lime now, but only if you need it
Our high rainfall and soil composition in our region typically causes us to have acidic soils. Speaking technically, our soils will typically be below a 7 on the pH scale. And being practical, we add lime (in one of its many forms) to the soil to make it less acidic.

 

Fall is the ideal time to apply lime to pastures, hay meadow, lawns and landscapes. Different soils will require a different amount of lime to adjust the soil even if it has the same pH value. The texture of the soil, organic matter content and the plants to be grown are all factors to consider in adjusting the pH value. For example, soils low in clay requires less lime than soils high in clay to make the same pH change.

 

How much lime is needed? I have no idea, but for about $15, you can find the exact amount needed. Both Texas A&M and SFA have a soils lab and charge $10 per sample for the basic test that will tell you how much lime is needed to correct the pH. An additional $5 is required for postage.

 

Soil samples should be taken now, in the fall, for the succeeding year’s crop. If test results indicate a need for limestone, it can be applied in the fall or winter months. Generally, for best results, limestone should be applied at least two to three months prior to planting to allow time for it to neutralize the acidity.

 

Ground agricultural limestone is most frequently used. The finer the limestone particles, the more rapidly it becomes effective. Agricultural producers needing large quantities typically have two choices, regular “ag-lime” or super-fine lime. Ag lime is currently just under $60 per ton, spread in the pasture. The super-fine lime, though higher, is a bargain as it does a better job.

 

Homeowners can choose from four types of ground limestone products: pulverized, granular, pelletized and hydrated. Pulverized lime is finely ground. Granular and pelletized lime is less likely to clog when spread with a fertilizer spreader over turf areas. The finer the grind of the limestone the faster it will change the soil pH value.

 

Wood ashes can be used to raise the soil pH, but should be used with caution. Unlike lime, wood ashes can raise the pH too high! They are not as effective as limestone but with repeated use, they can drastically raise the pH value of a soil, especially if the soil is sandy in texture.
Wood ashes contain fairly high amounts of potassium & calcium, and small amounts of phosphate, boron and other elements. Ashes should not come in contact with germinating seedlings or plant roots as they may cause damage.

 

Spread a thin layer during the winter and incorporate into the soil in the spring. Check the soil pH annually especially if you use wood ashes. Avoid using large amounts of wood ashes because excessively high pH values and subsequent nutrient deficiencies may result.

 

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Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.

 

Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu.

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