The Q&A Archives: Tips on Fast-Acting Lime

Question: I recently received the results of my soil test conducted by my local extension office. The soil PH came back at 4.9. I know lime will correct the PH but I was wondering what method will improve the soil for this planting season, I know lime will notbe effective until next year. Do you have any quick fix solutions? Also the magnesium level came back extremely high, and it was suggested that I apply a high nitrogen fertilizer that is low in phosphorous and potassium.My soil is considered sandy loam and I grow mainly tomatoes and peppers. I would appreciate any suggestion that you have for adjusting the soil for this growing season. I will be planting in the next 30 days. Kim LaRosa Cherry Hill, NJ

Answer: Unfortunately, there's no quick and easy fix for your acidic soil. Soil is a complex environment -- full of microorganisms and other living things. You are correct that lime is the product to use to raise your pH. Note that the more finely ground the lime is, the quicker it is to react in the soil and begin to raise the pH. Many limestone products are rated by the size of the particles--try to find one that is rated such that 50% of the material will pass through a 100-mesh screen, or something close to that. You may be able to find "pelletized" lime at your garden center--this is very finely ground lime that has been incorporated into pellets to make it easier to spread. This will begin acting faster than regular lime. Stay away from slaked or hydrated lime--these are very fast-acting, but can raise pH too quickly and too high, damaging plant roots and soil microorganisms. Also, since your magnesium level is high, avoid dolomitic limestones which are high in magnesium. Spread the lime as soon as possible, working it into the soil.

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