Agricultural lime is a cheap soil additive that is derived from limestone and crushed to form micro fine particles rich in calcium carbonate. It is routinely applied to soils to enhance crop growth, but how do you know if lime application is necessary?
The quantity and quality of a harvest will soon indicate liming is required. Stunted growth, disease and poor fruit development are sure signs something is seriously amiss with the condition and pH balance of the soil.
Striving for the Perfect pH Balance
Whether you are trying to propagate your own vegetables, maintain a lush, green manicured lawn or grow award winning blooms, the one major criteria for success is rich, fertile soil that is neither too acidic nor too alkaline.
The perfect soil type enhances plant growth significantly by releasing essential plant nutrients formerly locked-in to the soil by poor pH levels.
Ideally, most food crops and garden plants thrive in a soil that is virtually neutral, a condition indicated by between 6.5 and 7.2 on the pH scale, with 7 as the mid-way mark.
Why Soils are Acid
Acid rain, leaching, erosion and the application of nitrogen fertilisers, however, all collaborate on a regular basis to lower the pH level in soils, creating an unhappy, acidic bedding partner. Lime application is clearly not a one off process; it may be required every two to three years to maintain optimum conditions for healthy plant growth.
Popular Liming Materials
A soil analysis is the easiest way of determining pH and the amount of agricultural lime required to neutralise acidity levels. There are typically two popular liming materials distributed by agricultural lime suppliers:
• Calcitic lime - predominantly comprising calcium carbonate - an alkali and vital plant nutrient - which is the ideal additive for most acid soils
• Dolomitic lime - rich in both calcium carbonate and magnesium and is the ideal neutraliser and conditioner for soils deprived of magnesium, a deficiency indicated by crops turning from a healthy green chlorophyll-rich colour to yellow
When to Apply Agricultural Lime
Unlike fertilisers that react almost immediately, lime takes time to penetrate and interact with the soil strata. We recommend you apply lime after the harvest during the autumn months, allowing it to break down over the winter. The liming process itself requires very little effort. Simply spread it over the soil, gently rake it over and then leave it to the elements to disperse it through the various layers of the soil.