Other Lawn Feeding Issues

Use Lime to Reduce Soil Acidity

Since grass plants prefer to grow in soil that is only mildly acidic, homeowners whose property has very acidic soil spread lime on their lawns to reduce the acidity, or “sweeten” the soil. However, if the soil quality is good, it has 3 to 5% organic material added every year, then its acidity or alkalinity does not really matter. The active soil microbes--special bacteria on grass roots--adjust the soil chemistry to please the grass. Spread some lime on your turf every few years, anyway, to provide calcium, which is not available in most fertilizers.

If your soil is poor, lacking microbial activity because it lacks organic material, it cannot regulate its own chemistry. You will have to spread lime on very acidic soil as found in the eastern US. Lime will sweeten the soil and provide essential calcium to your grass plants too. 


Spreading Lime on the Lawn

Because lime products are mostly granular or powdered limestone, they take at least 3 to 6 months to dissolve in soil moisture and affect soil chemistry. One shortcut is to use a liquiid lime product first and a few weeks later put down the granular lime.  That gets you a quick fix.  

Late fall is the ideal time to spread granular lime on your turf. If you use slow-acting granular fertilizer lime only every other year or so. If you use quick-acting fertilizer you will probably need to lime every year, because that type of fertilizer tends to boost soil acidity. There are now liquid lime products on the market that work more quickly because they are already dissolved in water. Use them in the spring if you missed the fall application of granular lime. Follow the directions on the product label.

Use your fertilizer spreader to spread lime uniformly. If you have difficulty determining how to set the dispersal mechanism, use the “sight test” to determine if it is dispensing the right amount. Try the spreader on a paved surface or bare soil so you can see how it flows. Whether you use granular lime or powered lime, you want a thin powdering. Expect to see more ground than lime. Warning - Never apply lime and fertilizer to a lawn at the same time. They react chemically, causing the nitrogen in the fertilizer to dissipate as a gas. Do these two jobs at least two weeks apart.


More Discussions About Using Lime in Yardener.com

Dealing With Acidic Soil

Is pH A Problem?


Snacks for the Lawn

Spreading a granular slow-acting lawn fertilizer provides adequate nutrition for lawns. However, additional fertilizer in the form of snacks is an option you may want to consider. There is evidence that a dilute dose of a quick-acting liquid lawn fertilizer sprayed on the lawn late June or early July before heat and/or drought set in boosts the ability of northern grasses to deal with the stress of summer. If you routinely collect your grass clippings, then a snack or two will help compensate for the nitrogen lost from this source.

A snack of quick-acting fertilizer may also be in order if you are having a major outdoor event at your home such as a wedding or a party or if you are about to try to sell your house. It will temporarily green up the grass intensely to improve its appearance. While either granular or liquid quick-acting nitrogen fertilizer is appropriate for snacks, liquid products are definitely more convenient to use with a hose end sprayer. However, they are quite a bit more expensive.


Giving the Lawn Vitamins

In food or as supplements, vitamins improve people’s ability to benefit from the nutrition in food. Liquid bioactivators or plant tonics work the same way for grass and other plants. These products contain seaweed, kelp and/or various natural and synthetic hormones and enzymes, that improve the grass plant’s ability to absorb major and micro-nutrients from the soil. Acting as a tonic, they also increase a lawn’s drought, insect, and disease resistance. A lawn dosed once or twice a season with these “vitamins” will be healthier than one that gets none. However, you can have a fine lawn and not use any liquid bioactivators; they are definitely optional.

Bioactivators typically packaged as dry powder to be diluted in water and sprayed on turf. Apply them with a hose end sprayer or a compression sprayer. Use them just once in early summer or time three applications over the season--just before the grass greens up in the spring; in early July to improve drought resistance; and in late August to help the grass prepare for winter dormancy.


Feeding Brand New Lawns

When starting a lawn from scratch, sowing seed in bare soil, use a fertilizer designed precisely for that situation. The product label will indicate if it is for newly seeded lawns. Its proportion of phosphorus and potassium will be greater than usual.

While "starter" fertilizers come in both slow and quick-acting forms, those with slow-acting nitrogen deliver nutrients more gently and consistently over a longer time. Phosphorus and potassium are almost more important than nitrogen to developing strong root systems in new grass plants.

see all questions...

Do you have a gardening question? Ask Nancy