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Limestone has been used for many great things: the Egyptians carved the Sphinx out of it and the pyramids were made from it. But limestone is a common gardening ingredient and has many everyday applications including enriching plants and crops. This article explains the benefits of limestone and details why your garden may need it.
When used as a soil amendment, limestone (also referred to as lime) neutralizes soil acidity, making fertilizer more accessible to plants and is a natural source of calcium and magnesium.
Calcium is necessary for cell division and healthy plant growth. Often, when soil is depleted of calcium, plant leaves may curl, yellow or fade. When magnesium is deficient in your soil, leaves yellow, vegetables lack flavor and crops yield less. And even worse, when your garden is missing both calcium and magnesium, other nutrients are quickly depleted as well.
To neutralize your soil, you need to first understand why it has become acidic. However, it’s important to note that most native soils in the Eastern US are naturally acidic. Other reasons your soil may be acidic include:
Acidic soil isn’t good for your lawn. In fact, when soil becomes acidic, it increases thatch, toxic materials and weeds. It also reduces the effectiveness of your fertilizer or herbicide. And when this happens, you can expect a smaller than normal yield on your crops and a heightened environment for diseases.
Testing your soil is crucial to understanding exactly what it needs. And there are many options when it comes to testing. You can do it yourself by purchasing an inexpensive pH test kit or a pH meter. Or you can hire an expert to test your soil or send samples to a laboratory. Once you have the results, you’ll be able to determine how to amend your soil. Correction of an overly-acidic soil is a long-term project that takes time to complete.
Fall is the best time to apply limestone. Before adding limestone, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, the maintenance rate for Eastern US lawns and gardens is 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet. But since each region is different, speaking to a gardening professional is recommended. Wear protective gear like a dust mask and a pair of gloves. And be sure to spread the limestone out evenly. Applying too much can damage your plants. When you are finished, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly. Your lawn or garden should show improvements within a couple of weeks.