The Q&A Archives: Using Lime

Question: I received my soil test results but my county agent is gone for a week or so. This is my last weekend for a month I can work in the yards. Would you please help with some clarification? My pH is very low 5.1 and 5.6 (2 tests). I understand to add lime and wait for the new beds. I can even calculate how much to use for those. What do I do about established plants? I will not be liming the entire areas (too many open areas that will not be planted) where the shrubs and trees are. I was planning to just go around the plants. About how much do I use around a shrub, tree or anuual? Do I just work it in a little around the plant and how far out do I need to lime around the shrubs? Also, I will be using the 5.6 dirt to start perennial seedlings for next year. How long should I wait before planting the seeds after liming? I am ready to start planting if I can. Do I need to lime around my tomatos or not bother?

Answer: Limestone does take a while to work - most often, we recommend that people apply lime in the fall so it'll have acheived its work by the following spring. Since soils are warmer there, it may not take as long to act. You can really hurry things along if you use a liquid lime product (sold by Gardener's Supply Co.,; ph# 800/863-1700) which works even more quickly.

Some shrubs and trees prefer soil on the low side of neutral, so check references (like us!) to find out what different species need. Most annual flowers and vegetables deal best with a pH near neutral. Your tomatoes will perform best if the pH moves up to 6.5. As for perennials, some like neutral pH and others do well in slightly acidic conditions. Do you usually start your perennial seeds outside, or inside? If you start them inside under lights, I suggest that you use a seed-starting soil mix rather than soil from the garden for best results. I hope this answers some of your questions - looks like I created more for you, though! Good luck and visit again if you need to.

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