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To lime or not to lime soil - that’s a question worth exploring

As the planting season nears each year and gardeners prepare for the spring season, a number of gardening novices as well as others are told to lime their soil.

But do you need to add lime to the soil?

According to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, some have the misconception that lime is a fertilizer; however, that’s not exactly true.

In fact, “we apply lime to the soil in order to change the soil from an acid to a near neutral condition,” writes Kenny Bailey, N.C. Cooperative Extension Service extension agent in the article “Lime Abuse and Neglect – A Serious Problem.” “Yes, it's true that various forms of liming materials will provide some minor nutrients; however, you should only use lime for this purpose if and only if the soil pH needs to be raised.”

So there’s the answer.

Fruits and vegetables require a certain pH level to grow successfully. By having the soil tested, gardeners can determine the pH level to find out if the soil is acidic, alkaline or neutral.

“Lime is an alkaline material and when alkaline and acidic materials come in contact with one another, each material tries to neutralize the other,” Bailey writes.

To find out if your soil needs lime, test it. Gardeners can find soil testing kits available at garden centers, or they can contact their local extension service about having a soil test performed. Some extension offices offer free tests while others charge a small fee.

A soil pH test can help gardeners determine if the soil is acidic and needs lime to raise the pH level.
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