7 Sure Signs to Tell if Your Lawn Needs Lime

Homeowners including me have been raving about the benefits of lime for years, and how this miraculous mineral can improve soil, fertilizer, and grass performance. 

Applications of limestone such as dolomitic limestone and calcitic limestone help reduce acidity in the soil and bring the pH to a more manageable level. Learn the differences between dolomitic and calcitic limestone.

But not all lawns require lime, and here are 7 sure signs your lime needs lime treatment.

  1. Fertilizer doesn’t yield results
  2. You have acidic soil
  3. Turf is sensitive to drought conditions
  4. Lawn plagued with moss
  5. Weed infestation
  6. Sand in your lawn
  7. Yellowing grass blades

The following guide will help you determine if your turf could benefit from a lime application.

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How to Tell if Your Lawn Needs Lime – 7 Ways

1. Fertilizer Doesn’t Yield Results 

If you’re watering and fertilizing your lawn with the right lawn fertilizers including nitrogen fertilizers or ammonium-based fertilizers and you aren’t noticing the effectiveness of fertilizer, then great chances are that your turf has low soil pH (acidic) and can benefit from a dose of lime. However, it’s important to perform a soil test first to determine the right fertilizer for your lawn.

One of the main causes of your lawn not responding to an application of fertilizer is the pH level of your soil is too low or high, therefore adding lime can help maintain the right pH balance.

For your soil to absorb essential nutrients from fertilizer, the pH level of your soil needs to be between 6.0 and 7.0. 

How to Fix Fertilizer Not Working? 

Soil testing is important to determine whether you have acidic soil or alkaline soil in your lawn, and what soil amendment is appropriate to fix the issue. 

You can either dig some soil samples and send them to the lab or buy a soil test kit and perform the lawn soil test at home. Here’s a guide on how to submit soil samples to a lab.

Soil pH level that’s less than 6 is regarded as acidic, and adding lime will improve acidic soil conditions.

However, if the soil test results are over 7.0, you have an alkaline type of soil in your lawn, and applying a sulfur-based product such as sulfate of ammonia can rectify the problem. 

Once the lime has neutralized the acidity level of the soil, apply fertilizer to your lawn. 

applying lime to fix fertilizer not working

2. Your Area that’s Prone to Acidic Soil 

Several regions in the U.S. have soils that are moderately naturally acidic. These areas are the Eastern, Southeastern, and Pacific Northeast of the country, which includes the western portions of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.

Rainfall is greater in these regions of the country, and over time rain leaches away at the alkaline elements in soil, resulting in acidic soil. 

Adding to this, these areas have more tree cover and the slow decay of fallen leaves and pine needles contributes to the acidic level in the soil. 

How to Fix Naturally Occurring Alkaline Soil? 

You can try to grow grass in alkaline soil but you probably won’t see the great results as you would with balanced soil (pH between 6.0 and 7.5).

Start by determining soil pH with a soil test kit, and if the results aren’t between 6.0 to 7.5 pH, modify the soil by adding hydrated lime to increase the pH level.

  • Sandy soil – 4 oz. of hydrated lime per square yard
  • Loamy soil – 8 oz. of hydrated lime per square yard
  • Clay dirt – 12 oz. of hydrated lime per square yard
  • Peaty soil – 25 oz. of hydrated lime per square yard
applying lime to areas prone to acidic soil

3. Lawn is Extra Sensitive to Drought Conditions 

Another great sign that your lawn could be sweetened with lime is the way it responds to drought.

A dormant turf will gradually change color from a rich green to brown. The grass may start to wilt under extreme drought

But lawn grasses growing in well-balanced soil pH remain green for longer periods before going dormant.

Furthermore, healthy lawns also recover a lot faster from drought stress because they still can live off the nutrients in the soil.

However, lawns with poor-quality soil will buckle under drought stress much faster and the lawn will go dormant faster than your neighbor’s.

This indicates that your soil may have low pH levels and could benefit from a lime treatment.

Grass growing in acidic soil may wilt faster than normal because the high pH acidity kills the nutrients that were reserved for the plants to withstand drought periods.

Acidic soil also makes it challenging for grass to recover from drought unless the soil is treated with lime.

You can either contact your local lawn care company for an application of lime or buy calcite lime or dolomite lime and spread lime using a spreader. 

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How to Fix Lawn that’s Sensitive to Drought Due to Acidic Soil? 

First things first – perform a soil test to gauge the pH level of the soil. If the pH is on the acidic scale, add lime in appropriate quantities to raise the pH to a more tolerable level.

  • Water the lawn generously after spreading lime to allow it to soak into the soil.
  • Adding to this, wear protective gear such as safety gloves and eyewear before spreading lime.
  • Never spread lime with hands even with gloves on (uneven coverage) and/or when heavy rainfall is in the forecast. 
applying lime to lawn that is extra sensitive to drought conditions 

4. Lawn Plagued with Moss 

There is a common myth that refuses to die – lime kills moss! This myth stems from the belief that moss only grows in acidic soil, so if there is moss in your lawn, your soil is probably acidic.

However, the fact is that mosses are highly adapted plants that will grow in most types of soil including acidic, neutral, and alkaline soils. 

The presence of moss does mean that the soil is of poor quality, and needs to be treated with lime or sulfur. 

There could be several reasons for moss on your lawn, most notably:

  • Soggy soil 
  • Poor quality soil (lacking in minerals)
  • Highly acidic soil (pH less than 5.5)
  • Densely compacted soil 

How to Fix Moss in Acidic Soil? 

There is no easy way to spot acidic soil at a glance, therefore, you’ll have to do a soil test to get accurate soil pH results.

Never apply lime before determining the lawn is indeed suffering from excessive acidity. Lime can be toxic to lawns if misused! 

Raising the pH to a normal level will not get rid of the current moss growing in your lawn, but can reduce future occurrences. 

applying lime to lawn plagued with moss

5. Weed Infestation

Weeds are a good sign of your soil’s health. For example, most kinds of moss indicate soggy, acidic soil that’s low in nutrients. Mullein, stinging nettle, and sheep sorrel thrive in acidic soil depleted of nutrients. 

If you notice an influx of weeds in your lawn, it’s time to perform a soil test to determine if your soil is acidic or alkaline. 

How to Fix Weed Infestation in Acidic Soil? 

After doing a soil test, fix the acidity or alkalinity in the soil by applying lime or sulfur and water thoroughly. 

applying lime to fix weed infestation in acidic soil

6. You Have Sand in Your Lawn 

Sandy soils are always on the acidic side of the pH scale. This type of soil tends to acidify quicker so a lime treatment complete with calcium and magnesium can rectify the issue. 

The good news is that sandy soils quickly recover from high acidity with the proper lime care regimen.

How to Fix Sandy Soil in Your Lawn? 

The amount of ground limestone to apply depends on the size of your yard but roughly 50 lbs per 1,000 square feet should work. 

You don’t want to add calcium carbonate in excess as doing so may have adverse effects on your lawn. 

applying lime to fix sandy soil in your lawn

7. Yellowish Grass Blades 

Yellowing and wilting grass blades can signal that the soil in the lawn is too acidic. But take note that adding garden lime in large quantities or adding lime amendment when not needed can also cause yellowing and wilting grass blades and stunted growth in worse cases. 

How to Fix Yellowish Grass Blades? 

Perform a soil pH test to determine if your soil is at the right pH level. If it is more on the acidic or alkaline scale, apply the necessary soil nutrients to transform it into healthy soil for a healthy lawn.

applying lime to fix yellowish grass blades


Q: What Does Grass That Needs Lime Look Like?

A: If your turfgrass growing in sandy or clay soil is turning yellow, dying in patches, and or showcasing stunted growth, soil acidity may be the cause and could benefit from a lime application.

Q: Will Lime Green-Up My Lawn?

A: If the soil in your lawn is acidic, adding lime can raise the pH and green up your lawn.

Q: Do You Lime Before or After Rain?

A: If heavy rains are in the forecast, hold off on the lime application for a couple of days to avoid adding lime to soggy soil.

Final Thoughts 

Lime is an excellent soil amendment if the soil in your lawn is acidic. There are 7 ways to tell if the soil structure could be improved with a lime application.

But if you still aren’t sure, it is recommended that you get in touch with a professional lawn care provider

A professional lawn care company has the expertise to determine if your lawn needs lime, the right way to spread lime, and can also provide you with awesome lawn care tips such as the lack of nutrients in your yard, and steps you can take to maintain a vibrant green lawn. 

 It is also a good idea to perform a soil test at least once a year to see if your lawn is lacking any essential nutrients.

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