Pelletized lime, also known as pelletized dolomite or pelletized calcium carbonate, is made by compressing pulverized limestone into small pellets. It is an effective way to raise the pH level of soil and provide calcium and magnesium to plants. But how long do the pellets last before losing their effectiveness? Here are some quick answers to common questions about the longevity of pelletized lime:
How is pelletized lime made?
Pelletized lime is made by crushing natural limestone rock into a fine powder. The powdered limestone is then mixed with a binder, often lignosulfonate, which helps hold the pellets together. The mixture is then compressed into small pellets, usually between 1/8 to 1/4 inches in diameter. The pellets are round or cylindrical in shape.
Why use pelletized lime instead of powdered lime?
Pelletized lime offers several advantages over traditional powdered lime:
- Pellets are easier to spread and apply evenly
- Pellets are less dusty
- Pellets resist wind erosion and won’t blow away
- Pellets break down slowly over time, providing sustained release
The hardness of the pellets allows them to break down gradually in the soil, releasing calcium and magnesium over a longer period of time compared to powdered lime. This makes them ideal for lawns and gardens.
What factors affect pelletized lime’s longevity?
There are several factors that impact how quickly pelletized lime will break down in soil:
- Soil moisture – Wet soils cause pellets to dissolve and break down more rapidly.
- Acidity of soil – The more acidic the soil, the faster the pellets will dissolve to raise pH.
- Soil organisms – Earthworms, insects, bacteria, and fungi will speed decomposition of pellets.
- Soil composition – Sandy soils break down pellets quicker than clay soils.
- Temperature – Warm soils increase chemical reactions that dissolve pellets faster.
- Pellet composition – Some pellets are more resistant to breakdown.
How long do pelletized lime pellets last?
On average, pelletized lime will fully break down and dissolve into the soil within 6 months to 2 years. However, factors like soil moisture and acidity can make them dissolve in less than 3 months in some conditions. In ideal conditions, some pelletized lime can slowly release calcium and magnesium for 2-3 years.
Pellets that don’t fully dissolve and break down within the first year will continue releasing smaller amounts of calcium and magnesium in gradually declining amounts for 1-2 more years. After approximately 2-3 years, the vast majority of pellets will have fully dissolved and released their calcium content.
Does pellet size affect longevity?
Yes, the size of pellets does impact how quickly they dissolve. Smaller pellets have more surface area relative to their volume, so they tend to break down more rapidly. Larger pellets of 1/4 inch may take a year or longer to fully dissolve, while smaller 1/8 inch pellets may dissolve in just a few months.
When purchasing pelletized lime, you can often choose between different pellet sizes. Opt for larger pellets if you need the lime to last longer in the soil.
Should you reapply pelletized lime yearly?
You do not need to reapply pelletized lime to the soil every year. Since most pellets dissolve and release their calcium content within 1-3 years, reapplication every 2-3 years is typical. More frequent applications can lead to excessive soil calcium.
The ideal timing for reapplying depends on the soil pH. Test the soil pH yearly with a soil test kit. Reapply pellets if the pH drops below the desired level for your plants. For lawns and gardens, pH 6.0-7.0 is ideal for most plants. Reapply lime if the pH falls below 6.0.
Can too much pelletized lime harm soil?
Yes, it is possible to over-apply pelletized lime and make soil too alkaline. When soil pH rises above approximately 7.5, it can reach harmful levels for many plants by restricting their access to important micronutrients like iron, manganese, copper and zinc.
Therefore, it is important to regularly test your soil pH and only apply the recommended amount of lime needed to reach the target pH. Avoid excessive lime application that pushes pH too high.
Should you incorporate or water-in pelletized lime?
It is not strictly necessary to water-in or till-in pelletized lime, but doing so can help the pellets start working faster. Lightly watering after a lime application helps begin dissolving the pellets. Gentle incorporation or tilling also mixes the pellets into more soil to speed up dissolution.
Pelletized lime is an effective soil amendment for increasing pH and providing calcium and magnesium to plants. While individual pellets can take 1-3 years to fully dissolve, they release the majority of their beneficial contents within the first 6-12 months. Soil moisture, acidity, organisms, and pellet size all affect dissolution rates. Avoid excessive liming by testing soil pH yearly and only reapplying if pH drops too low for your plants.
Frequently Asked Questions
What exactly is pelletized lime?
Pelletized lime is made by crushing limestone into a fine powder, then mixing it with binders and compressing it into small pellets or granules. The pellets allow the lime to be easily spread on lawns, gardens, and agricultural fields to raise soil pH.
What are the advantages of pelletized lime?
Compared to powdered lime, pelletized lime is easier to apply evenly, is less prone to wind drift, and provides a gradual release of nutrients over time as the pellets slowly dissolve in soil moisture.
How quickly does pelletized lime raise pH?
Most pelletized lime will begin raising soil pH within 3-6 months. It will continue releasing calcium over 1-2 years. The increase in pH depends on soil buffering capacity. Highly acidic soils may see a full pH unit increase within the first year.
Is pelletized lime safe for pets?
Pelletized lime is non-toxic when used as directed. However, the alkaline dust produced when spreading can be irritating if inhaled. Avoid breathing the dust, and keep pets off lawns until watered in. If consumed in large amounts, it may cause gastrointestinal upset.
Can too much pelletized lime burn plants?
Excessive liming can damage plants by causing nutrient deficiencies. Use soil testing to determine how much lime is needed. For lawns, no more than 50 lbs per 1000 sq ft is recommended in a single application. Go lightly when liming gardens.
Should pelletized lime be watered in?
Watering after applying pelletized lime helps begin dissolving the pellets and incorporating the lime into soil. However, allowing rain and irrigation to naturally dissolve the pellets over time is also effective.
Will pelletized lime blow away?
Pelletized lime resists wind drift much better than powdered lime. However, spreading lime on extremely windy days can still result in some product loss. Avoid applying during windy conditions.
How is pelletized lime different from powdered lime?
Pelletized lime is made of compressed limestone granules, while powdered lime is a crushed fine limestone powder. The pellets break down over time, while powdered lime begins working immediately. Pellets are easier to apply evenly.
Is pelletized dolomite the same as pelletized lime?
Dolomitic lime contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. Calcitic lime contains mostly calcium carbonate. Both types are available as pellets. Dolomitic lime helps correct magnesium deficiencies.
Applying Pelletized Lime
Here are some tips for effectively using pelletized lime as a soil amendment:
Determine soil pH
Test your soil pH before applying lime so you know how much is needed. Target a pH of 6.5 for most plants.
Know your soil type
Sandy soils may need more frequent liming compared to clay soils which hold pellets longer.
Calibrate spreader settings
Set walk-behind spreaders accurately for proper application rate. Avoid overlapping spreads.
Time applications well
Apply lime during the growing season so plants can benefit. Fall is often an optimal time.
Water in lime
Gently water after spreading to wash lime off grass blades and incorporate into soil.
Reapply as needed
Test soil yearly and reapply lime if pH falls below optimum levels for your plants.
Using Pelletized Lime in Gardens
Pelletized garden lime can be worked into vegetable and flower gardens to provide a slow-release calcium source. Follow these tips:
- Test soil pH and only apply if needed to reach desired pH
- Spread pellets evenly over soil surface at recommended rates
- Mix pellets into top 2-4 inches of soil before planting
- For established gardens, mix lime into soil around plant roots
- Water newly limed areas to begin pellet breakdown
- Reapply every 1-2 years based on soil test results
Use care when liming gardens, as excessive amounts can lead to nutrient imbalances for plants. Target pH 6.2-6.8 for most gardens.
Using Pelletized Lime on Lawns
Pelletized dolomitic limestone is commonly used to raise soil pH in lawns. Proper application is key:
- Test lawn soil pH yearly and lime only if below 6.0
- Apply up to 50 lbs per 1000 sq ft as needed
- Spread pellets evenly using a drop or rotary spreader
- Water lawn after liming to wash particles off grass
- Let lime fully dissolve over weeks to months
- Reapply if pH drops again after 1-2 years
Applying too much lime to lawns can damage grass. Sweep excess pellets off sidewalks and driveways to avoid etching.
Pelletized Lime in Agriculture
Pelletized agricultural lime has become a popular liming material for farmers seeking to raise pH in cropped fields. Benefits include:
- Consistent spreading since pellets are uniform size
- Reduced dust and waste compared to powdered lime
- Less prone to runoff compared to liquid lime slurry
- Gradual nutrient release over 1-2 years
- Efficient spreading with bulk application equipment
Farmers can test pH of agricultural soils and apply 1-2 tons of pellets per acre as needed to reach target pH for their crops.
Storing Pelletized Lime
Proper storage is important to keep pelletized lime dry and effective. Follow these storage tips:
- Store bags or bulk lime in a dry enclosed area safe from moisture
- Avoid storing directly on concrete, which can wick moisture
- Reseal partly used bags tightly to preserve pellets
- Ensure stored bulk piles have drainage and cover to stay dry
- Use within 1 year for optimal freshness and performance
Wet pellets will dissolve prematurely. Discard any hardened pellets or powder before application.
|Pelletized Lime Type
|Longevity in Soil
|Standard calcitic pellets
|Large 1/4″ pellets
This table provides general estimates for how long different types of pelletized lime will last before fully dissolving into the soil. Factors like soil moisture and acidity can shorten or lengthen these estimates.
Pelletized lime is an effective soil amendment for boosting pH and providing calcium and magnesium. While individual pellets dissolve slowly over 1-3 years, most of the lime content is released in the first 6-12 months. Regular soil testing helps determine when repelling is needed. Apply pelletized lime carefully to avoid over-liming garden and lawn soils. Consider pelletized lime a long-lasting liming product with sustained release of nutrients.