Improve the soil in your lawn or garden using lime and gypsum
Although lime and gypsum are both used to improve the soil in your lawn and garden, they serve very different purposes. Adding lime to soil raises the pH so it becomes less acidic. This can help increase vegetable production in the garden and enhance the appearance of your lawn. Gypsum is often used as part of a strategy to correct compacted soil or soil with large amounts of clay. It can also be used to counteract excessive saline levels in soil and has the added benefit of not affecting the pH of soil. Before you prep your soil with lime or gypsum, consider the following questions:
Lime, Gypsum and Application Tips
The best way to determine whether or not your soil needs liming is to test its pH. Since the most fertile gardens and lawns are those with a proper pH balance, having your soil tested every few years is highly beneficial. The target pH level of turf grass, for example, is between 6.2 and 6.5, so if your soil has a lower pH it will likely benefit from the addition of lime. Remember, though, too much lime can be as harmful to your lawn as too little, so always test the soil and read the instructions on the lime package before application. To determine if a soil can benefit from gypsum, you can test saline amounts or simply observe if you are working with soil that is heavy with clay or hard to break up. Although it may be tempting to apply your lime, gypsum and fertilizer at the same time, it's not a good idea to introduce too many chemicals at once.
Lime: Lime is a compound made up of calcium or calcium and magnesium and is used to reduce the damaging effects of acidic soil on lawns and gardens. Lime also reduces the toxicity of elements in the soil, such as aluminum, manganese and iron, which can adversely affect plant growth. Lime also adds desirable nutrients, such as calcium and phosphorus. In addition, lime increases bacterial activity, which helps improve soil structure. The two most common types of lime used in gardening are calcitic lime and dolomitic lime.
Gypsum: Gypsum is actually an element called calcium sulfate that is used to loosen up stubborn, compacted or clay soils. Gypsum works by pulling together clay particles in the soil to make bigger particles, creating porous spaces for air, water and plant roots. For saline-infused soil, gypsum removes sodium and replaces it with calcium. For all soil types, gypsum adds calcium and sulphur, which are necessary elements for plant growth. Gypsum also helps soil retain water and helps decrease soil erosion.
Application Tips: It is easy to apply lime and gypsum using a drop spreader or broadcast spreader. Since lime is insoluble, it tends to stay exactly where it is spread, so these devices ensure uniform coverage. Gypsum is neutral and does not change the pH of your soil so you can use it around acid-loving plants, such as rhododendrons and azaleas, to provide extra calcium. As with all fertilizers, apply lime and gypsum as directed on the label. Both substances are safe to use and are nontoxic to humans and plants.
Consult the chart below to learn more about how to apply these useful substances to your lawn and garden.
|Gypsum||Any time of year||
||Twice per year||
|Lime||Fall, winter or early spring||20 to 30 lbs dolomitic lime per 1,000 sq. ft.||Every 3 to 5 years||
Calcitic Lime: Mined from natural limestone, calcitic lime is then crushed up into finely ground powder granules. Pelletized lime is created from finely ground lime plus a cementing agent that is added to form pellets. Pellets are more expensive but easier to use and eliminate the dust problem of granular lime. Pellets dissolve in water so it's important to water thoroughly after application. Calcitic lime also contains calcium, a necessary element to encourage healthy plant growth. Calcitic lime is most often applied to lawns but may also benefit garden plants, shrubs and flowers.
Dolomitic Lime: Dolomitic lime is mined in the same manner as calcitic lime and is also crushed and sold in either finely ground powder form or pellets. Dolomitic lime provides both calcium and magnesium. Dolomitic lime is most often applied to lawns but may also benefit garden plants, shrubs and flowers.
Granular Gypsum: Gypsum is ground up into a fine, white powder and sold in the form of granular gypsum, which is applied using a lawn spreader. Granular gypsum may be applied to turf grasses, garden plants, shrubs and flowers. Finely ground formulas are rapidly available to plants and soils.
Spread lime and gypsum easily and quickly with a lawn spreader. The Home Depot has a full range of lawn spreaders to ensure even coverage of your lawn or garden.