Lying about lime

Do you apply lime to your lawn every year or have your lawn care company do it for you? If so, do you know why you’re applying it (and paying for it)? What does it do for your lawn? Here’s a hint: it won’t get rid of moss. I hear that misconception all the time.

Lime is a name for any number of chemicals used to raise the pH of the soil. pH, a measure of acidity or alkalinity, is expressed on a scale that runs from 0 (extremely acidic) to 14 (extremely alkaline). A pH of 7 is neutral, and most common garden plants prefer a soil pH of around 6.5, or slightly acid. If the soil is either too acidic or too alkaline, plants cannot use the essential nutrients in the soil. However, the soil in our region, in general, is slightly acidic—the pH is just fine.

So in most cases there’s no need to add lime. If you suspect that the pH of your soil needs correcting, the only way to find out for sure is with a soil test. And if you have been using nonorganic lawn care products for many years, your soil is much more likely to be too alkaline than too acidic. Hold off on the lime.

And what do you do if moss is growing instead of lawn? The presence of moss indicates a shady site, a site on which lawn grasses, which are adapted to sunny sites, will not grow. So you can get rid of the source of the shade, plant shade-loving plants instead of moss, or live with the moss, which is really quite beautiful.

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