One of TMG’s readers wrote to me the other day to give me a progress report on what she had accomplished in her gardens on her day off.
During the course of the day she went to Southern States to get a few packs of seed and some seed starting medium. The man who was helping her figured out she was starting to garden organically either by her various questions about the seed starting mix – or maybe she just told him.
Anyway – he kept telling her how important it was to lime her garden each year “since” she was planting organically. She writes, “I just listened but didn’t buy lime. You’ve never mentioned lime in all your posts or emails to me so I figured it wasn’t important.”
In my opinion, she made the right decision. And frankly, I never had any intentions of EVER writing a post on lime. But after her experience with the man at Southern States I thought it might be helpful to others to address the topic of “liming soil” in a bit more detail.
Adding Lime is “In” with the Majority
Allow me to lay the ground work for the remainder of this post by saying that I live in an area where it seems everyone uses lime on their soil. Farmers here use it on their fields in great quantities and home gardeners use it on their gardens.
I have been gardening and organic gardening for 33 years and I have NEVER used lime EVER on my soil. I’m in the minority.
Thought Behind the Use of Lime
The thought behind the use of lime (at least in this area) is: the soil is clay and/or acidic therefore it needs to be “sweetened” — which is another way of saying the ph needs to be raised. Some see it (falsely) as a panacea for raising the alkalinity of an acidic soil.
What They Don’t Consider
What they don’t take into consideration is how complex the soil is. Every time you add anything foreign (which is anything other than compost or organic matter) you run the risk of upsetting the delicate balance that has been created in your garden.
The vast majority do not garden organically. In most of these gardens – no organic matter has been added. Thus, most of the beneficial microbes that make nutrients available to plants have been destroyed. In turn, these folks add all kinds of foreign things to the soil just to get it to produce crops – (lime being a favorite here).
If one follows the advice of the Southern States salesman and adds lime, a soil test should be done at the very least, to show what kind and how much lime should be added to minimize the chances of it having harmful effects on the soil.
What Organic Matter Will Do
It’s a fact that the best way to make your soil better is to add organic matter. Nature will do the rest. Not only will organic matter change the ph towards neutral, but over time it will add all nutrients needed to grow plants including nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, sulfur, copper, manganese, boron, etc.
If you like easy — (I do) — you can’t get much easier than that.
I’d strongly recommend staying away from using lime. Adding “foreign stuff” to your soil is pretty much a waste of time, money, and effort. Why add things like lime and possibly disrupt the balance of nutrients already there waiting to grow your plants strong and healthy. Why take a chance on ruining your soil when you can just add organic matter and let nature solve all the problems.
In spite of all the brainwashing that goes on by sellers and makers of synthetic amendments, the fact is: Organic matter is the answer to all your ph, soil building and conditioning problems. If your soil is rich in organic matter —- everything else will fall into place.