If you care about having a healthy and thriving green lawn, then you’re probably paying attention to what it needs (or doesn’t need) to perform its best. With that in mind, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to have questions about lime for lawns.
Lime, which is short for limestone, is not always well understood and homeowners want to make sure they’re not paying for something their lawn doesn’t really need.
Whether you’re wondering how to tell if your lawn needs lime or are just looking to understand why it may need it, we’re here to answer all of your questions. After all, we want to help guide you on the path to having a great-looking lawn and that means understanding what’s needed to get there!
Do I Need Lime on My Lawn?
The answer to whether or not your lawn needs lime is, “most likely.” Since every lawn is different, we cannot speak specifically to your lawn’s conditions, but we do find that most lawns in Northern Virginia require lime applications—exactly how much is another point we’ll talk about.
Adding lime to a lawn is all about creating a proper pH balance in the soil, which is a measure of the acidity and the alkalinity of it. This is measured in pH units on a scale from 0 to 14. Soil at the midpoint is a 7 and would be considered “neutral.” High acidity is at the low end of the scale while high alkalinity is on the top end.
The soil in Northern Virginia is naturally acidic and it is quite common for pH to be low, often around a 5 or a 6.
That might not sound like a big deal but even a minor deficit can have a significant impact on your lawn’s overall health. As the pH falls too far from neutral, it can alter soil chemistry and actually prevent the grass from taking in nutrients that it needs to perform its best.
How to Tell if my Lawn Needs Lime?
Finding out whether your lawn needs lime can be achieved with a soil test, which is a valuable tool that will tell you what’s happening beneath the surface of your grass. A soil test is a high-level analysis of your soil’s makeup, performed by using a soil probe to pull cores of soil from various areas of the lawn. These cores are then analyzed in a laboratory.
Soil pH is one of the measurements that will be taken during a soil test. It will also measure the amount of phosphorus, potassium, and other nutrients in the lawn’s soil.
A soil test is critical enough that we include it in all of our lawn care packages at Rock Water Farm. When lawn care companies operate without those specific numbers, they’re only taking guesses at what a lawn really needs.
While we believe a soil test is imperative to get specific information, you might notice that your lawn has a soil pH problem from symptoms that might arise.
For one, soil pH also has an influence on the microorganisms that should be thriving in your soil. Healthy soil has a diverse array of microscopic life that helps create the optimal growing conditions for your turf. But these microorganisms can suffer in acidic soil. Unfortunately, if your soil is suffering, your grass is not going to look its best. That may mean your grass looks thinner or even less green than it ought to.
Acidic soil can also cause increased weed pressure. Unfortunately, there are a number of opportunistic weeds that prefer to grow in soil with low pH. Without paying attention to your soil pH, you could ultimately end up with an environment that is more favorable for weed growth than it is for healthy grass.
How Much Lime Does my Lawn Need?
The exact answer to this question also comes back to taking that soil test because exactly how much lime your lawn needs depends upon its exact pH. Companies that do not perform a soil test are only guessing.
The general rule of thumb for applying limestone is 50 lbs per thousand square feet but we’ve gotten results back which have indicated differently.
When to Apply Lime to the Lawn?
For homeowners that are already signed on with one of our lawn care programs, we perform our maintenance applications of limestone in the fall. Adding lime in the fall gives your lawn the entire winter season to absorb it and will help adjust the pH accordingly for the spring.
However, when we acquire a new account, we sometimes have to perform “corrective applications” to correct a major soil pH problem. Corrective applications can be performed at any time of the year. It’s often one of the first steps we’ll take in getting an unhealthy lawn back in shape.
A corrective application could mean hundreds of pounds of limestone if the soil pH is incredibly low and this would be an add-on service for that year. Going forward, as we get the soil pH in line, regular fall limestone maintenance applications would be included in your ongoing lawn care program.
Can I Apply Limestone Myself?
While they do sell limestone in bags at big box stores, there are a few reasons why this is a service best left to the professionals.
For one, it’s more arduous than you might realize.
If your lawn needs a corrective application of 500 pounds of limestone, do you really want to go buy and haul all of that limestone home from the store? Then you have to spend your limited free time using a spreader to apply it all. That’s honestly quite a bit of work.
It’s also important to mention that although this service is not rocket science, if you make a mistake and overapply, you can harm your lawn. But in reality, we usually find that most DIY homeowners don’t apply enough limestone for it to be effective. So, they may just end up wasting their time and money on something that didn’t have the effect they wanted.
Of course, another reason for subpar DIY results is the fact that the quality of the limestone sold in bags is usually lower quality than the product used by a professional. In fact, a lot of times it even has filler in it (usually clay) that does nothing to benefit your lawn.
At Rock Water Farm, we’re using a high-quality limestone product that also includes calcium and gypsum, making it faster acting. We have also found that calcium helps to reduce soil compaction which is another common problem here in Northern Virginia.
Unfortunately, not all pros are necessarily using a high-quality product. In fact, some companies will utilize the cheapest limestone they can buy in order to save some money and pad their bottom line. That will have a direct negative impact on your lawn. If soil pH is not properly corrected, you’re simply not going to get the top-notch results that you’re after. It’s one of many reasons why we sometimes cost a little bit more than the competition but why homeowners ultimately find it’s worth the investment. Better quality products equate to better results.
Can I Call about a Limestone Application if I’m not a Regular Client?
At Rock Water Farm, we do not perform limestone applications as a stand-alone service. There’s a reason why we have a complete program and all aspects of it are important. Homeowners will never get the results they’re after if they only try to cherry-pick certain services that they want to use.
Choosing a Company that Cares about Your Lawn
Lime for lawns is one of those services that can be easy to overlook or for companies to skimp on. But if you don’t fix your soil pH with a high-quality product, your grass is not going to be as healthy as it could be. Grass plants will eventually start to lose their color and vigor, leaving you with an off-color, subpar lawn. You might even start to see weeds creep in and spread.
This is what makes it important to find a company that cares about getting you the best results that are customized to your exact needs. That means a company that also offers soil testing so that they can know exactly what your lawn needs in order to perform its best.
Companies that “guesstimate” or that don’t customize their program in any way simply aren’t providing you with the best possible service. And that means your lawn care results may fall short.
We believe you deserve better.
At Rock Water Farm, we use soil testing to diagnose and fix soil problems (including low pH) so that we can set our customers up for success. Of course, pH is only one of many potential issues that your lawn may be struggling with. That’s why it’s so important to find a well-rounded lawn care professional that can diagnose and solve any of your lawn care problems.
At the end of the day, you deserve peace of mind that your lawn care company is doing everything it can to get you the healthy green lawn that you desire.
If you’re ready to start getting the lawn care results you desire at your Ashburn, Aldie, or Leesburg, VA home, talk to an expert, choose a solution that rocks (all of which include soil testing), and get ready to reap the rewards.