When Should You Lime The Garden?

You want to lime your garden but wonder at what time of year or at what time and weather you should lime the soil?

In this article you will get answers to all these questions and learn when to lime the garden!

Wann sollte man den Garten kalken?

If there is a lack of lime in the garden, i.e. too low a soil pH, it is best to lime the garden before or after a growing season, i.e. in spring or autumn. It is generally too dry in summer and too cold in winter for liming. This is because the soil must not be frozen when liming, as the lime only reacts and takes effect in the soil. In addition, it should be dry, preferably cloudy but windless weather to liming the garden.

When should you lime the garden?

First of all, you should only lime your garden if there is also a lime deficiency or if there is no longer an optimal pH value in the soil.

If this is the case, then it is important to use the right time to lime the garden. Not all months or seasons are suitable for liming the soil.

In the following sections, I will explain how to find out if there is a lime deficiency in your garden and when is the best time to counteract it with a lime application.

Liming the garden when there is a lime deficiency

Whether and how much you should lime your garden depends on the pH of the soil. Depending on the soil type, there are different target pH values that should ideally be reached. If this target pH value is undershot, then you should lime your garden to return it to the normal range.

pH is measured on a scale of 0 to 14 and tells you how acidic (pH of 0 = strongly acidic) or alkaline/basic (pH of 14 = strongly alkaline) a liquid or soil is. The middle, i.e. a pH value of approx. 7, indicates a neutral soil.

For light soils, the ideal pH is in the slightly acidic range between 5.0 and 6.0:

Sandy soils: target pH of about 5.
Loamy sandy soils: target pH of approx. 5.5
For heavy soils, the ideal pH is in the neutral range between 5.5 and 7.0:

Sandy loamy soils: target pH of about 6.0
Loamy soils: target pH of approx. 7.0
The ideal pH of turf is approximately between 5.5 and 6.5.

So to find out if you should lime your garden, you need to know the pH and compare it to the target value.

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If the pH of your soil is below the target value, then you should lime the soil.

How do I find out the pH value of my garden?

You can find out the pH value of your soil either classically by a test or a soil analysis.

Since a soil analysis is usually quite expensive, I would recommend using either a pH soil quick test (like this one from Neudorff) or a digital soil tester (like this one).

Alternatively, you can pay attention to what’s growing in your garden. More specifically, there are so-called pointer plants (often weeds) that like either primarily acidic or alkaline soils, and thus grow more vigorously on those substrates:

Pointer plants for acidic soils (pH less than 7): field horsetail, chickweed, sorrel, mosses, sand pansies, or field chamomile/spurge, among others.
Indicator plants for alkaline soils (pH greater than 7): including stinging nettle, deadnettle, clover, or shepherd’s purse.
In addition to the indicator plants, certain characteristics on the plants themselves can also indicate that a lime deficiency is present.

Above all, yellowed leaves, withered shoot tips or brown spots can indicate a lime deficiency.

Caution! However, all these indications are also present in blossom end rot in tomatoes, which can be caused by waterlogging, among other things. In addition, the indications can also occasionally point to calcium excess or deficiency (so-called chlorosis) at a pH above or below 8.

So first make sure that there is no waterlogging and if you want to be on the safe side, I would still recommend you to determine the pH of your soil with the help of a test.

The best time to lime the garden

If it is necessary to lime your garden because of a low soil pH, you should do it either in spring or in autumn. At these times, conditions are ideal, allowing the lime to work its best.

However, you should not lime your garden in winter as well as in summer, because the heat or cold will either cause the effect of the lime to fizzle out or the lime will react incorrectly or dangerously.

In the following chapters I will explain in more detail…

Why spring and autumn are the best time to lime the garden.
Why you should not lime the soil in winter and summer

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the different periods for liming?

Spring liming garden
One of the two best times to lime the garden is in the spring. More specifically, in early spring between February and April at the latest, but at least 14 days before seeding.

Spring is so good for liming the soil for two reasons:

1 Liming in the spring ideally prepares the soil for the next seeding.

A higher soil pH achieved with lime improves soil structures, increases biological activity, improves root growth and, among other things, heat and water retention in the soil.

This can lead to faster and better growth of seedlings after sowing, as well as more robust and higher yield.

Can you lime and fertilize at the same time
If you lime your garden in the spring, make sure it doesn’t happen at the same time you’re issuing a nitrogen fertilizer.

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Keep a two to three week gap between liming and nitrogen fertilization.

Otherwise, if lime and nitrogen fertilizer are applied together, nitrogen may be lost because magnesium and calcium carbonates in the lime react with ammonium in the nitrogen fertilizer.

This reaction is unintended, however, because it causes the nitrogen fertilizer to react too early with lime rather than with water (in the course of hydrolysis) in the soil as desired. This premature reaction weakens the effect of the nitrogen fertilizer.

2 Spring offers ideal weather conditions for liming.

Contrary to various statements that one sometimes hears and reads, the soil for liming should be free of snow and ice, i.e. in no case frozen!

Also, the soil should ideally be dry when you spread lime.

Afterwards, however, it is advantageous if it rains. This is because calcium carbonate (carbonic acid lime), which should mainly be used in home gardens, is not water-soluble. This means that the lime is washed directly into the soil as a whole, where it can then develop its effect.

That is why the soil should not be frozen when lime is applied
For home gardens, a type of lime with high levels of calcium carbonate, also known as carbonic acid lime, should be used. This could be lime marl or algal lime, for example.

As described in more detail in this article, carbonic acid lime reacts with and neutralizes acid, causing the soil pH to rise.

However, the acid with which the lime reacts is not on the surface of the soil. On the contrary, the acid is formed in the soil during a process called nitrification as part of the nitrogen cycle.

So if you lime your soil in spring or fall while it is still frozen, the lime is just lying on top of the soil and cannot act at all because it lacks the acid. However, since the acid is in the soil, the garden should only be limed in the spring if the soil is no longer frozen, at least on the surface.

Liming the garden in autumn

In addition to spring, autumn is an ideal time for liming the garden. More precisely, October is suitable, but at the latest you should lime the garden before the winter with snow and ice.

If you are liming your garden in the fall, then the beds should be completely harvested and ready for hibernation.

You should also make sure the ground is not frozen when liming in the fall. Also, a dry day followed by rain, which washes the lime into the soil, provides ideal conditions to lime the soil.

Liming in the fall, at the end of a growing season, serves to best prepare the garden for the next gardening year.

This is because the lime enhances the soil, improving aeration, water storage and conductivity, and thus providing better conditions for plant growth in the next growing season.

Liming garden in winter

As long as in winter the soil is frozen, the garden should not be limed. This is because the lime can only have its beneficial effect by reacting with acid that is in the soil.

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I would always recommend liming the garden in the fall or spring. But if you forget to do it at these times and want to do it in winter, then you should do it at milder temperatures so that the soil is not frozen.

More specifically, for winter liming, the top layer of soil, at least 10-20 inches, should not be frozen.

This way you can make sure that the lime gets into the soil and reacts with acid.

Liming the garden in summer

The garden should not be limed in the summer because it is already very stressed by sunlight, heat and possibly little rainfall. As a result, it might not utilize the lime as well as it would in the spring or fall.

Also, in the summer most beds are covered with vegetables, flowers or other plants, so liming would be very difficult and also makes little sense.

When do I lime the garden for vegetables?

Vegetable beds should be limed just like the rest of the garden in the spring or fall, either before or after the growing season.

Overall, it doesn’t make much difference whether you liming your vegetable garden in the spring or fall, because the effect in the soil is the same at either time.

However, if you lime your vegetable garden in the spring, you should leave at least 2 to 3 weeks between fertilizing the beds. Otherwise, there will be an interaction between nitrogen fertilizer and lime, which will reduce the effect of both substances.

What should the weather be like for garden liming?

To lime the garden should be dry, consistent weather. Ideally, the sky is somewhat overcast, without direct sunshine and it is windless, so that the lime is not blown away during application.

In any case, the ground should not be frozen, otherwise the lime will not work.

It is best if it rains after liming, so that the lime is washed directly into the soil and can develop its effect there.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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