Whether planning a new lot or updating an old one, there are a few things you'll need to know about your lawn, gardens and flower beds.

Know your sun and shade areas for planning shade gardens, vegetable beds, flower beds, roses, herbs, etc., and plan your lawn from seed or sod.

The pH Factor

Where do you begin? The secret is in the soil. Soil acidity is the major growth limiting factor for plants - that is why a tomato may grow well in your yard, but fails in the garden next door. Acidity has many names, such as "acid soil," "sour soil," "moss soil" or just "no good soil" and nothing will grow in it.This spring, let's wake-up the soil and use it to its full potential. Begin with a soil test. Acidity is measured on a chart called a "pH Test". Most gar- den crops and lawns will grow suitablably in a range of 5.5 to 7.0. Soils tested to have a pH below 7.0 indicate acidity - above 7.0 indicate alkalinity. In New England, our soil will be below 7.0 and this means we will need to use lime to adjust it.

Lime - The Secret to a Green Thumb

How much lime do you need and what type of lime is best to use? Unlike your grandfather, we have 4 types from which to choose. Grandpa just had one "pulverized lime;" a natural, mined limestone that is ground to a fine pow- der. The finer the lime is pulverized, the faster it will work in the ground. It is also called "powdered lime" and to help your soil it will take 6 months or more to work.

To do the job properly you will have to add 50 pounds per 500 square feet of garden or lawn.

Powdered lime is very messy so a new lime product was developed called granular lime." This is an oversized particle so it is less messy, but remem- ber, the particle size will determine the speed in which it will work. It will take 9 to 12 months to do the job properly.

As gardeners, we must see results fast because the season is short, so for quick results, use the new "pelletized" lime. This is a natural limestone that is finely ground 60% or more than pow- dered and put into a pellet form to eliminate mess. Pelletized lime will cover 1000 to 4000 square feet of soil, depending on your soil's acidity. You can expect to see changes in the soil in about 6 weeks.

For best results, all three of these products should be applied several weeks in advance of planting and fertilizing.

In the garden, we have a 4th choice - "hydrated" lime (sometimes called "quick" lime). This product works fast and is ideal for a vegetable or flower garden. Working in just 2 weeks, it cannot be applied with fertilizers or manure. Apply 2 weeks before using fertilizers for best results. Hydrated lime is perfect for compost piles and highly acid soils in gardens near pine or oak trees.

This product works fast on the lawn and may cause burning, so use in garden only

Lime eliminates the ill effects of soil acidity. When your soil is less acid, the chemistry of your soil changes and trace elements that your plants need in small amounts are freed up so the plants can use them to grow unrestricted.

Plants - like animals - need calcium. Plants do not have bones, but the cellwalls,which are principally calcium, protect them and hold them erect against gravity. Limestone naturally provides calcium and neutralizes acid in the soil. This change in the soil also allows the plant to better use newly freed potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and other micro-nutrients. Lime provides soil structure, lowers acidity, and favors soil organism activity that hastens general soil formation in the compost and directly in the garden.

The addition of lime to the garden makes heavy metals such as aluminum, iron and maganese less soluable, preventing them from being toxic to plants. Liming the soil will allow earth worms to live better and speed up the composting of the soil they live in. Earth worms open up the soil for better drainage, aeration and eliminate soil compaction. Worm castings also make a rich form of fertilizer.

A sweet soil encourages soil structure to better support an environment which is beneficial to microorganisms. Proper soil pH also increases root activity which helps plants to a better start. Lime is inexpensive, convenient and easy to use. Better soil equals better results.

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