Peffley: Don’t add hydrated lime to Lubbock’s already-alkaline soil | Lubbock Online

Posted May 16, 2017 11:01 am

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FOR A-J MEDIA

May is an active month for garden activities. Soil preparation is one of the primary tasks, whether in a container or the garden.

Today’s column has a warning for applying the soil amendment hydrated lime and then responds to two soil-related gardening questions from Lubbock AJ readers.

The product known as hydrated lime is among various products advertised and available now in garden centers. This is a caution to gardeners on the high plains: do not add lime to our soils.

Lime is calcium oxide, which when mixed with water becomes calcium hydroxide or hydrated lime. It is sold and marketed as a soil “sweetener” to raise the pH of a soil. Lubbock soils do not need additional calcium — consider the common terms used for many of our soils — calcareous and caliche. Caliche (ca-lee-chee) is a sedimentary rock that binds calcium carbonate with soil particles of sand, silt and clay.

Soil pH is a measure of the activity of hydrogen (H+) ions in solution. Basically, soils with high H activity are acidic and have pH less than neutral, 7.0, soils with pH greater than 7.0 are alkaline.

Lime is used in acidic soils to raise the pH closer to 7.0 but Lubbock soils are alkaline, with average pH ranges of 7.5 to 7.8. Adding lime to our soils will push the pH even higher.

Soil pH is critical to plant growth and development because nutrients become more or less available as pH varies. In alkaline soils micronutrients such as iron and zinc become tightly bound to soil particles and become unavailable for uptake, resulting in micronutrient deficiencies.

Caution: Hydrated lime is caustic. Reacts violently with acids. Wear rubber gloves and goggles when applying. Do not inhale. Corrosive to eyes and skin. (cdc.gov, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health)

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