How and When to Apply Lime | Lawn & Grass Health

April 12, 2010 | by Fred (email) |

We’re well into the Spring season here in central Maryland, and we’re getting focused on our lawns. In the past, we’ve told you about targeting lawn weeds and when to apply weed and feed, how to prevent crabgrass, and how to choose a garden spreader that’s right for your needs.

Up this week: lime, and specifically: why, how, and when to apply lime to your lawn.

If your lawn is yellow, has dead spots, or just lacks a uniform, green luster, lime may be right for you. Read on for details.

What is Lime?

Lime (a.k.a. Garden Lime or Yard Lime) is pulverized limestone. The primary active ingredient is calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Most liming agents will be at least 95% calcium carbonate, unless you are purchasing lime combined with another product, such as a fertilizer (this is unusual).

Why Apply Lime to a Yard?

limeYou should apply lime to a yard that has a low pH (a.k.a. acidic). Grass will struggle to grow in acidic soil, and lime raises the pH of the soil to a level more suited to grasses (and less suited to, say, mosses, which can thrive in more acidic soils). As a positive side effect, lime also provides calcium to plants, a key nutrient for growth.

What Causes Soil Acidity?

Acidity in lawns can be caused by many things. The soil in your area can be naturally acidic. Some fertilizers will lower the pH in a lawn. And, most notably in deciduous forests, decaying oak leaves will raise the acidity of the lawn each Fall.

In order to determine how much lime to apply to your lawn, you’ll need either a soil test kit, or you’ll need to call a professional. In some areas the local agricultural school will do a soil test for you (Todd @ Home Construction Improvement has an article on this one). We recommend not spreading lime unless you’re certain your lawn requires it, as highly alkaline soil is no better than an acidic soil for growing grass.

Once you know your lawn’s pH, you can consult the bag of lime for the proper amount that should be spread to bring up the pH to the recommend level (between 6.5 and 7.0).

When to Apply Lime?

Lime can be applied year round. We recommend applying it in the early spring, and then again mid-Summer if a test shows it is warranted. Moderation is key, as over-liming a yard will product negative results due to high alkalinity.

Most granule-type limes (called fast-acting limes) will be absorbed into the soil with the first 1/4 inch rain fall. Larger limes can talk longer to dissolve and seep into the lawn and may take several rainfalls or watering applications to fully absorb.

Lime can be applied along with a fertilizer or week killer and will not negatively impact the effectiveness of these products.

How to Apply Lime?

Any type of garden spreader works great for applying lime. We prefer a broadcast spreader to gain even coverage, but a side-effect of this type of spreader is that it’s harder to control next to flower beds.

When applying lime, this is less of a concern since most flowers will also thrive in a more balanced soil, but can be a concern for other products like weed and feed.

Where to Buy Lime?

Lime can be purchased at any local nursery, and is available at most of the big box stores, including Home Depot and Lowes. Expect to pay around $20-25 / bag at the big boxes, which will typically cover 5000 square feet for a moderately acidic lawn.  Lime will also be applied by professionals if you decide to choose a lawn service.  Our pal Amy over at GreenGardenista offers some excellent advice on lawn service pros and cons and advice on choosing one at that link.

15 Responses
  1. Alexis says:

    I sure am glad that this was posted because I have a hard time with my grass & our water where I live. Now I know when its best to do it! Thank you!

  2. BOB says:


  3. BOB says:


  4. Dav Bristol says:

    I just finished putting lime on my lawn and I would like to know if I need to wait a certain period of time before I seed?

  5. Lee Remington says:

    I fertilized my yard about 2 weeks ago and today used a pH meter to check it. The reading was just slightly above 7 which according to all the articles I’ve read is fine. My question is; could the recent fertilizing alert the actual reading of the pH meter? Should I lime?

  6. M Whitley says:

    Is it ok to add lime to new sod areas? Thanks

  7. HANDYMAN51 says:

    What can I expect to pay for a kit that measures the soil’s pH, and will the pH vary significantly in different parts of a ” uniform appearing” lawn? What thoughts do you and others have about using a drop spreader for this application?

  8. johnhall says:

    should i cut the grass first before applying lime?

  9. JMPyle says:

    Great article, I’m beginning my fall revitalization on our new home’s yard and this is one of those things I may need to do. I have a ton of pine straw to deal with that gets mulched by my mower.

  10. Lisa says:

    How about using this product only to rid animal waste odor? If not, what would you recommend? I’ve been researching this subject and came across many articles of people who use this product for this specific problem. Thank you so much for any help.

    • JT says:

      I use a product called Anti Icky Poo, applied with a sprayer. It is non-toxic, and biologically “eats” up all animal waste. Use it inside or out. It got rid of the horrible cat spray smell deposited by neighborhood cats around my foundation, and in my landscaping. Also got rid of animal pee inside my house from prior owner’s pets. Come in quarts and gallons. I got a 4-gallon case via Amazon.

  11. when our pets pass we dig the hole put them in and cover heavily with lime no smell or other animals digging

  12. Cannon W says:

    Doing a soil test is very important before applying any type of treatment to your lawn. It will tell you exactly what nutrients are present so you can determine exactly what needs to be applied. Great info in this article!

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