I know fairer spring days bring Florida homeowners outside to take a good look at their lawns and landscaping. This brought to mind an article Rhonda Gaster of the North Carolina State University's Lee County Center (http://lee.ces.ncsu.edu) which talks about soil testing and the application of lime to enhance the health and beauty of one's lawn.

Gaster says making a soil test before planting any landscape or garden can provide lots of important information. A typical soil report will present two recommendations: a lime recommendation and a fertilizer recommendation.

Lime is a soil additive usually made by pulverizing limestone (there are other materials that can be used to make lime). Lime's main function is to decrease soil acidity and provides some important plant nutrients.

For most plants the target pH is between 6.0 and 7.0. There are two types of lime: calcitic and dolomitic.

Calcitic lime is mainly calcium carbonate while dolomitic lime contains both calcium and magnesium carbonates. If you have sandy soils dolomitic lime will be the best choice because sandy soils do not hold onto calcium or magnesium well.

If you have a clay soil Gaster says you will need to base your lime choice on the amount of magnesium already in the soil (if the Mg% is greater than 20 apply calcitic lime).

Lime can be applied at any time during the year but it will take several months to fully benefit the soil. Try to apply lime before rainfall or plan to irrigate after application.

Gaster says consumers will find both powdered and pelletized lime available. The pelletized lime is easier to use and makes less of a mess.

The lime recommendation is based on the soil pH and will be expressed in the unit M on a soil report. This unit is the same as lbs per 1000 square feet.

Only apply 50 lbs of lime per 1000 square feet at a single application. If your recommendation is higher than 50 apply the initial 50 lbs then apply the remainder six months later.