The practice of liming soil is one of the oldest methods of improving soils and crops. This is a guide that gives information and facts on lime use, application, quantities, and many other topics related to using lime in your yard or garden.
What is lime?
Calcium oxide (CaO), commonly known as quicklime, is a widely used chemical compound. It is a white,caustic and alkaline crystalline solid at room temperature, according to Wikipedia. When lime is added into a stiff or clayey soil, it tends to make it friable (crumbly) and more easily worked. It breaks up the clay, reduces cohesiveness of the particles and so promotes better drainage, while at the same time it makes it easier to secure that fine condition of the soil which is so necessary for good cropping.
There is nothing better than a dressing of lime in first efforts improve clayey soil, and no better proof of its efficiency than to see how much easier it is to get fine surface soil for seed sowing in spring on land so treated. In rendering the clay more friable, it reduces the amount of labor that will be needed, and makes it warmer, thus ensuring earlier cropping in spring and earlier maturity of crops in autumn.
On the other hand, a loose sandy soil that dries up too quickly during drought is rendered more compact by the use of lime, more retentive of moisture and better able to carry crops through a spell of dry weather.
Lime Sets Free Plant Foods
Lime acts on humus, setting free plant foods. Soils should contain a fair amount of humus, and, when lime comes into contact with this, it sets free chemical substances that provide the food for plants. It is said, to reduce fertility by lowering the humus content of soils in this way, but such as a statement is a false explanation of the action of lime. Lime also acts chemically on heavy soils and set free potash that would otherwise be locked up and not available ato the plant.
Lime Counteracts Acidity and Sourness
In most cases land used for general garden and farm crops must not be of a very acid or sour character. Land of this nature seldom carries good crops, and, since it is essential to the development of good work of helpful soil bacteria, it must usually be modified. The addition of lime corrects acidity and improves the cropping power of excessively acid soil.
Lime as a Soil Tonic
Many diseases, such as club root, clover sickness, etc., stem from the soil and attack certain crops. Lime checks some of these diseases and thus promotes health and vitality in plants. Lime is distinctly distasteful, if not actually injurious, to some soil pests, such as slugs, leatherjackets and wireworms.
Lime as a Plant Food
Lime is also a plant food that is sometimes overlooked. Most plants need a supply of lime in order to grow, and this can be supplied to the plants and absorbed into the plant through the roots in the form of a solution. Some vegetable crops need more lime than others. Peas, beans, cabbage and turnips love soils rich in lime.
Bulbs require the addition of lime also. Crocus and narcissus can be naturalixed in grassland on lime soils. Tulips, and other bulbs need to be replenished every year with lime since it breaks down very slowly.
Yews, ornamental crabs, flowering plums and cherry trees, whitebeam trees, pears, mountain ash, and hawthorn give excellent results with the addition of lime. Euonymus europaeus, false acacia, hollies, roses, spiraeas, quinces, flowering currant, mock orange, honeysuckle, diervilla, and shrubby cornus also do well in lime. Others such as cotoneaster is particularly suitable to lime, boxwood and clematis, viburnum, elderberry, privet, lilac, juniper, lavender, phillyrea, escallonia, yucca and ivy also. Herbaceous plants such as phlox, delphinium, aster, geum, helianthus, inula, salvia, poppy, oenother monarda, and hypericum do well. The smaller plants such as pinks and carnations, primula and campanula, wallflower, stock, sweet william, saxifrage, sedum and hardy geraniums will also thrive in lime.
Lime is Harmful to some plants
Plants in the Heath family, as well as Azaleas, and rhododendrons will not tolerate lime in their soils. These plants as well as others require acid soils to thrive. Be sure to check on what type of plant yo have before applying anything extra to your soil.
When to use Lime
Land which requires lime betrays its deficiency in many ways. If grass is growing on it, as on the lawn, stronger-growing, coarse grasses and weeds are apt to assert themselves to the detriment of the finer grasses. Land in need of lime does not respond to cultivation and manuring as it ought to; weeds, sorrel, and so on flourish, and often a green scum grows over the surface. A soil test that reveals excessive acidity indicates the need for liming.
How much Lime to use?
Use ½ lb. Per square yard or up to 1 lb. Where a heavy dressing seems necessary. One pound per sq. Yd. Is roughly equal to 2 tons per acre. While acid soils may need a heavy dressing, it must be remembered that light dressings, in alternate years, give the best results.
How to Apply Lime
The efficiency of lime depends on an even distribution and good mixture with the soil. Poor results will follow careless applications. As it tends to work lower in the ground as time goes on, it must not be dug in deeply. It is best to broadcast it onto the surface of newly dug soil in late winter or early spring for the rains to wash in, the dry residue left being forked in when preparing the ground for sowing or planting. It is unwise to apply lime and fresh manure at the same time. Apply the lime a month or more after the manure.