How to Reduce Acid in Soil for Plants

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Plants grow best in neutral soil--soil with a pH balance of 6.5 to 7.5. Lower numbers indicate acidic soil and higher numbers indicate basic, or alkaline, soil. To optimize growing conditions, farmers and gardeners can add amendments which improve the quality and structure of soil. Lime is the best amendment for acidic soil and can be purchased in three forms. Quicklime works swiftly but is highly caustic and damaging to soil and plants. Slaked, or hydrated, lime works less effectively but is least caustic. Ordinary lime, calcium carbonate, is considered by the American Horticultural Society to be the most effective and least damaging form.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden spade
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Lime (calcium carbonate)
  • Rake
  • Prepare the soil. Using the garden spade, break up and turn the top 6 inches of soil.

  • Put on gloves and goggles to protect yourself from the caustic attributes of lime.

  • Sprinkle the lime over the surface of the prepared area.

  • Rake the soil so the lime is evenly distributed.

  • Wait one to two months before planting in the soil.

Tips & Warnings

  • Sprinkle lime as a top dressing on soil near mature plants.
  • Dolomite mixes and mushroom compost can be used as lime alternatives.
  • Vegetable gardens benefit most from lime amendment. Flower gardens do not need this treatment. Some flowers, such as rhododendrons, thrive in acidic conditions. Choose plants suitable for your soil.
  • Over liming damages soil structure. The effects can be long lasting. Test your soil prior to adding any amendments so you can apply appropriate types and amounts.
  • Do not lime when composting. Nitrogen in compost combines with chemicals in lime. The chemical reaction wastes nitrogen and creates ammonia which is toxic to plants.
  • Lime once a year and test between treatments. Do not plant anything in the soil for at least two months, as plants will not be able to thrive in freshly treated soil.

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