Here’s a simple garden chemistry lesson that can predict how well your garden grows: A soil pH level of 7 is considered neutral; above 7 is alkaline and under 7 is acidic. If you don’t know your yard’s pH, a simple soil test will enlighten you and is an important factor to take into account to ensure a successful crop or bountiful blooms.
In Rockland County, soils are generally acidic. Azaleas, rhododendrons and Japanese maples love acidic soil as do blueberry bushes, strawberries and raspberries, so no lime is needed. But vegetable gardens are most productive in neutral soil, so you will need to “sweeten” the soil if the pH is below 7. Lime is the magic ingredient to raise the pH level, making it neutral or alkaline, and Down to Earth Living has a full stock of lime to choose from.
Why are we talking about this now? Because now is the time to add lime to your soil to get it prepped for the winter and ready in the spring.
There are other benefits to lime as well: A low soil pH can keep plants from absorbing the available nutrients in the soil, so when lime raises the pH level, it allows the plants to better absorb them. Lime also improves the water penetration capabilities of the soil so plants don’t dry out as fast.
Adding lime now allows as much time as possible for those nutrients to work into the soil before you sow seeds or transplant seedlings in the spring. You can spread the lime evenly over the top of your soil with a shovel, or you can use a fertilizer spreader machine. Do take care to wear protective gear, including gloves, a mask, and goggles because lime can irritate the skin and eyes. Once you’ve spread the lime, make sure it has mixed well with the soil by digging down as deeply as your plants’ root systems will eventually grow. Then water the soil to activate the lime–soaker hoses are ideal to completely drench the area.
It is important note that even though lime includes calcium and magnesium, which are essential nutrients for healthy plant growth, it’s not a substitute for fertilizer. Lime’s primary role is to alter soil pH and offset soil acidity. Fertilizer will be your next step towards a healthy, happy garden.