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Soil pH For Lawns & Use of Lime Or Sulfur

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Soil pH is an important chemical property because it affects the availability of nutrients to plants and the activity of soil microorganisms. Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil with a scale of 0 to 14. The neutral point or balance for soil pH would be 7. As the number of the soil pH increases this indicates an increase in soil alkalinity. As the soil pH number decreases this indicates an increase in soil acidity. The ideal pH for most grass types is 6.5 to 7.0. This would be an optimum pH but different grass types can tolerate a range of pH levels -- see our grass species pH chart below. Note that some grass species such as centipede prefer a more acidic soil with pH levels around 5.0 - 5.5 considered optimum. Thus in most cases you may assume that your soil is not too acidic for centipede grass and you should NOT apply lime for centipede grass.

If your soil tests indicate too much acidity, then you would need to add lime to increase the alkalinity to reach your target pH. If your soil test indicates too much alkalinity, then you would add sulfur to increase soil acidity to reach your target pH. Please note that lime and sulfur can take up to 2 - 3 months (or longer) to react with soil. The soil pH should be tested again at this point in time and may require that the soil be treated again -- so be sure to allow for this extra time when planning your grass planting. You will also need to work the lime or sulfur at least 6 inches into the soil for the best and quickest results. It is highly recommended that a professional soil pH test be performed before you attempt to adjust your soil pH. This soil test can usually be obtained through your County Extension Agent.

Soil pH for Grass Types

Listed in the chart below are grass types with the lowest and highest pH level tolerated.

GRASS pH RANGES pH - LOW pH-HIGH
BAHIAGRASS
ARGENTINE  - PENSACOLA - TIFTON-9
6.0 7.5
BENTGRASS
COLONIAL &- CREEPING
5.6 7.0
BERMUDA HYBRIDS & COMMON 5.6 7.0
BLUEGRASS 5.7 7.4
BUFFALO 5.6 7.0
CARPETGRASS 6.0 8.0
CENTIPEDE 4.3 5.8
FESCUE RED & CREEPING 5.6 6.8
FESCUE TALL 5.6 7.0
RYE ANNUAL 5.8 7.4
PERENNIAL RYE 5.8 7.4
St. Augustine 6.3 7.8
ZOYSIA 5.5 7.0

Raising Soil pH

Lime is commonly sold as ground agricultural limestone. It is considered a natural soil amendment rather than a fertilizer and furnishes important plant nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. Lime also reduces soil toxicity while promoting the regulation of nutrients such as zinc, copper, and especially phosphorous. Do not over apply lime to your soil as this will cause big issues with any crops including grass.

There are some areas of the USA where lime is abundant in the soil naturally as calcium carbonate or free lime. To test for free lime, place a heaping tablespoon of crumbled dry soil in a cup. Moisten it with vinegar. If the soil-vinegar mix bubbles, the soil has free lime. On soils with free lime, a gardener will not effectively lower the pH. In areas of the USA where free lime is abundant (east of the Cascade Mountains) a single application of sulfur will not lower soil pH. Please see this document from Oregon State University to better understand soil pH and the problem of free lime soil.

Lowering Soil pH

The lowering (acidifying) of soil pH is much more difficult and expensive than raising (alkalinity) soil pH. The sulfur used to lower soil pH is different from the plant nutrient sulfur. Elemental sulfur can be added to soils that are too alkaline for plants that prefer a more acidic pH. This is a yellow powder sometimes referred to as "flowers of sulfur" and is not nutritionally available to plants until it is oxidized by soil bacteria into the sulfate form. Do not confuse elemental sulfur with the sulfur contained in sulfates such as ammonium sulfate.

Fertilizers as acidifying materials. Sulfate is also present in ammonium sulfate [(NH4)2SO4] fertilizer, a common nitrogen fertilizer that acidifies soil. However, the ammonium in fertilizers, not sulfate, is responsible for the soil acidification. Ammonium containing fertilizers can acidify soil. This process is slow compared to acidification by the natural elemental Sulfur.

Lime Sulphur

Adjust your soil pH to provide maximum utilization of soil nutrients and fertilizers - Required for all plants to grow healthy

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