Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Adding Ag Lime to Soil - How and Why

Yesterday one of my pals asked about adding lime to my bad soil. So here are some quick facts about how and why to add agricultural lime to your soil.

My eye is fixed on summer.

1. How did I know I needed to add lime to my soil?
Because nothing would grow. Not even. The first year I barely got seeds to sprout - and they barely made it out of the soil. I was stunned. Back at the old farm seeds would fly out of the ground and grow without any effort at all. All around us - at this property - we have farm fields bursting with crops. So what was the problem? Our very very bad soil. It was never improved at all.  You know how you always end up hating the people who had your house before you? Yep. This is one of the many reasons.

2. How did I know for SURE?
I had the soil tested. Some where around you is the county Extension office. What's that? The Cooperative Extension System is a non-formal educational program implemented in the United States designed to help people use research-based knowledge to improve their lives. The service is provided by the state's designated land-grant universities.  How do you find one? Check out this list here.

I looked at our local site and found the instructions for the soil sample. Pretty much I just marched out there, dug a hole, got some dirt, drove on down to the office, and paid them $11. They emailed me the results but unfortunately were a little lacking in details. When I asked the guy harrumphed at me to just keep adding lime. 

Fortunately tho, I talked to an old timer about my results and he had more good info. My bad clay soil needs to be improved by adding lime, tilth, and nutrients. So I've been adding ag lime, busting up the clay, and adding as much barn litter as I can come up with. The process takes a long long time but it's coming along.

3. How do you add lime?
Ag lime comes as a fine powder in 50lbs sacks. I can get it at the feed store for a little over $2 a bag. It's a total pain to work with. The bags are heavy, the powder blows everywhere, and it's hard to scoop. Or I can get the pelleted version at another feed store in 40lbs sacks for about $4. It's less of a pain to work with but twice as expensive. So you know.. I'm cheap so I just stop complaining and get out there with the cheap stuff.

I just use a scoop and a trolley and go around spreading it out on the soil. Then I go along and till it all into the soil. You have to dig it in about 6 inches for best results. And then you just have to wait for it to do its thing. It's best if you can add lime just before it rains. Yesterday I worked really fast and got a lot tilled in....and then rain... glorious rain has been beating down working that lime into the soil. 

3. How do you know for sure that it's working?
I was very skeptical because these things have a very long "tail" - it takes a couple years for the full benefit to be realized. But a couple years ago I was out there skeptically scooping out the lime and I had a little bit left in the bag. So I just dumped it out where I was walking back thru the gate. Then it rained. Then I went out there. Exactly in the wavy pattern where I had dumped the extra the grass was remarkably greener than the rest.... like... much greener. So I ran right down and bought more lime the next day and dumped that all over the garden. Slowly but surely it's been working. 

4. How do you know if you should add lime? 
Go on down and ask your local garden center or feed store. If you are in an area with high ph then they will know. Or better yet - just contact your local Extension office and ask them. It's easy peasy and way less intimidating then you think. Why don't you get a bucket of soil - just a couple shovels full in a bucket - and drive on down to get your soil tested today?

If you'd like to know more here is a very very boring article on adding lime to your soil - from an extension office in Pennsylvania. Here is a much less boring article that is in bullet points so it's easier to read. 

If you drive around farm country in January for February you'll see huge heaps of light colored powdered stuff in the fields.... or you see hand panted signs saying "Lime" out in the fields. This is how big operations add their lime. They get it by the truck load and then work it in with tractors. I don't have a tractor and my ground is too muddy to do that during the winter so this is the best that I can do. But it works so good is good.

So that's the scoop on adding lime. 

Happy Tuesday everyone! Have you gotten you soil tested? Do you need lime? 


David said...

boy that top shot has me longing for warmer weather. Daffodils still yet to bloom here....

Ohiofarmgirl said...

you said it, Dave, our daffs are starting to bloom. but i'm excited about summertime!

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