How To Improve Clay Soil With Lime

April 3rd, 2013 Garden SuppliesGardeningGardening Tips 0 Comments
How To Improve Clay Soil With Lime

If the soil in your garden is are clay-based then it is quite obvious that such a soil would be too acidic for optimum plant growth. The pH scale runs from 0 to 14, with measurements in the 0 to 7.0 range being acidic, and those above 7.0 being alkaline. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. The pH of your soil is so important to plant growth because it determines the availability of almost all essential plant nutrients. When soils become too acidic, certain nutrients become less available (phosphorus in particular), beneficial soil bacteria are less active, and certain elements — like aluminum and manganese — can become toxic. Not to mention the fact that your plants simply won’t perform their best. This is true no matter what you are growing; veggies, lawns, perennials, etc.

In such a situation you should apply lime to raise the soil’s pH and make it less acidic. Your objective should be to adjust the pH to 6.5.  With this chemical composition in soil the optimum nutrients can be ensured.

Many plants grow well with acidic soils and these include evergreens, rhododendrons, azaleas and blueberries. Apart from this a big majority of the plants growing in your vegetable patch need a pH of about 6.5 to maximize their yields.

improve-clay soil with limeA soil test will let you know if your soil’s pH needs to be adjusted and what should be the quantity of lime that should be added to the soil of your garden. Ideally you should go for a soil test every two years and adjust your soil’s pH value.

The soil test will help you understand which type of lime material you should use. Calcitic lime is mined from natural limestone deposits and crushed to a fine powder. It also is called aglime or agricultural lime and supplies calcium to your soil as it adjusts the pH. Dolomitic lime is derived in a similar manner but from limestone sources that contain both calcium and magnesium. If your soil test came back showing high levels of magnesium, use calcitic lime. If the test shows a magnesium deficiency, then use dolomitic limestone. Clay soils tend to hold onto magnesium so more often than not, calcitic lime is the more appropriate choice for gardeners.

Pelletized calcitic lime is created by taking the finely pulverized particles of lime and binding them together with a binder compound to form small pellets that are much easier to spread than powdered lime products and will keep you from getting covered with dust. Uniform coverage is very important as lime is insoluble and can’t move around within the soil. Skipped areas won’t have an effective pH change, and overlapped areas will undergo a more drastic pH change and wind up with potential trace element issues. To cover the area evenly, spread half the pelletized lime in one direction over the entire area, then apply the rest in a perpendicular fashion, creating a crisscross pattern.

Pelletized lime is little expensive but its use is more convenient. If your soil test recommends application of crushed agricultural lime, then application rate for pelletized lime is lower. A 1:10 ratio is the rule of thumb. Meaning you need 10 times less pelletized lime than agricultural lime to garner the same pH change. So if your soil test recommends adding 100 pounds of agricultural lime, add 10 pounds of pelletized.

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