Lying about lime

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If your garden is too shady for lawn grass, lime won’t help. Plant some lovely shade-loving perennials instead. Shown here are Virginia waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum) and native Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum).

Do you add lime to your lawn each year? If so, why? I’ve asked this question of many homeowners and landscapers who swear by liming, and I get a variety of answers:

Lime kills the moss so the grass can grow. No, sorry. This is quite incorrect. Moss grows in the shade. Lawn grasses need sun. If you have a part of your garden where moss grows, either enjoy the moss (which is quite lovely), or plant shade-loving perennials and ferns.

Lime makes everything grow better. Wrong again. In some conditions,, lime might possibly make some plants grow better (see below), but in general it’s quite unnecessary in our area.

Lime corrects the pH of the soil. This response actually has some relationship with the truth. But let’s back up a bit. pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a substance: on a scale of 0 to 14, low numbers indicate acidity, high numbers indicate alkalinity, and 7 is neutral. Most garden plants, including lawn grasses, grow best when the soil is mildly acidic, with a pH of approximately 6.5 to 6.8. Lime, which is alkaline, raises the pH of soil. However, in our area, the pH of most soil is around 6.5 to 6.8. So unless a soil test tells you that your soil is extremely acidic, there’s no need to add lime.

Not adding lime is one way you can cut down on the cost and time involved in maintaining a lawn (getting rid of lawn by planting shrubs and perennials is another). You’ll find more about fall lawn care in this post from last year.

 

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