Posts Tagged ‘calcium lime’

Use high calcium lime on your lawn to reduce rock salt damage!

Published by JKeefe on February 28th, 2011 - in Ice Melt, Lawn Care Companies, Lime

Salt damage along a sidewalk

If you have been wondering what sort of impact so much snow will have on the average lawn come spring, switch gears and think of salt and plowing.  Unfortunately, where there is smoke there is often fire- where we have lots of snow- there has been plowing and salt use.  A winter like the one we are currently experiencing means rock salt is going down everywhere- especially on roads, parking lots, and sideways.  With so much rock salt use, the pure tonnage used during the winter means your soil will have problems this spring.  In large quantities, salt causes soil to harden and upsets the normal flow of liquid into surrounding plant roots like your lawn, tree, and shrubs.  Generally, a decent snow cover protects your lawn from the drying winds and low temperatures common to winter weather.  However, if large amounts of rock salt are used, foliage and plants are likely to suffer damage.  Visible damage will become apparent in April as the snow recedes to expose a seemingly lifeless landscape of brown.

The likelihood of a salt spray coming into contact with tree or shrub foliage increases dramatically with each passing snow or ice storm.  This fact is especially true if you live on a main road or one which has town services such as salting.   The resulting contact with a salt solution lifted up by passing cars can cause a reduction in cold hardiness of tree buds, especially evergreen needles like those on an Arborvitae.  In the world of grass, salt upsets the balance of water and the ability of it to pass into the root system.  The resulting affect of too much rock salt on a lawn is a drought like condition where ample water simply cannot be used- despite wet soil conditions or standing water.

The later in the season salt is used, the greater the damage.  Using ice melts low in chlorides, especially calcium or sodium chloride should be avoided due to their enhanced plant killing abilities.  CMA’s or blends of plant friendly ice melts are much less harmful and while they may not avoid all damage, greatly reduce the amount likely to occur.

To help offset sodium chloride (rock salt) in a lawn or soil area, use high calcium lime to displace the sodium by leaching with adequate amounts of spring rain/snow melt.  Although not a miracle cure, the chemistry works out pretty good versus using gypsum which only further acidifies the soil environment.  If you plan on liming this year or have used too much rock salt, have your lawn limed with a high calcium lime- not a standard pelletized lime.  Turf loves calcium, a slightly acidic pH, and a softer soil improved by using only calcium based lime.  I only offer a high calcium lime for not only the aforementioned reasons but for other benefits to a lawn system.

With March on our doorstep, spring is more than just a thought, its reality.  Prepare for the plow and salt damage now before the opportunity passes as early spring fades into Memorial Day weekend!

Plow damage can be most upsetting

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Review your lawn contract before renewing

If it seems to good to be true- you may be right

Did your doctor ever tell you to get a second opinion?  Hundreds of commercial lawn care contracts will be mailed out shortly to residential homes in remote parts of NH and VT.  Even more lawn contracts will be mailed out to commercial customers in the hopes that those in the appropriate position will sign, mail, or simply fax it back with no questions asked.  I propose that each contract deserves not only a second opinion, but a thorough examination line by line item.  The national and larger regional lawn care companies typically roll your program over from year to year.

Most lawns are not being examined to determine true needs but rather recycled in archives from prior years like a CD player on repeat.  While this automated process may approach adequate at best, I sincerely doubt you are receiving a turf care program worthy of your hard-earned dollars.  Furthermore, I doubt most existing clients even understand what they are receiving and why versus what is available in their market area.  Let me expand on this theme.

Many remote lawn accounts are labeled and classified as ”commercial”, with most customers unaware of this practice.  These kinds of accounts are processed at a high volume utilizing heavy machines called Turf-Trackers or even tractors.  These machines do a decent job on large properties or fields but are anything but light and are not ideally suited to home lawns or smaller settings.  An inexperienced operator can easily cause damage while running the machine over frost covered lawns, shaded locations, and especially slopes.  Turf can be easily torn, compacted, and ripped up without careful attention from the driver.  These machines make it easy to operate at an aggressive speed as they work to achieve the goals set for them by the larger corporate office.  If these facts don’t cause you to raise an eyebrow, please read on.

Unfortunately, many of these “commercial” contracts are recycled revenue without any fresh investigation data to support the renewal.  In fact, I would wager that most if not the majority of these accounts are seldom looked at beyond the production dollars they represent each year.  Simply put, the large national chains are usually too far away and their attempts to service remote regions often severely stress their limited staff and outsourced customer service centers.  Most national lawn care companies utilize lawn programs like McDonald’s “Happy meals” except without the toy because you get a few fertilizer visits, grub control, and a lime treatment.  Who would question that?

Does your phone call get forwarded to a call center or does a real person answer your call?  Are you able to reach your lawn care office or do you even know where it is?  Are you supporting your local economy or something much larger?

How can these large lawn care services claim and advertise to be local when they drive nearly 2 hrs to service lawns in remote areas of NH beyond their primary service market?  Is that local service?  Again, any company that pre-mixes fertilizer in a liquid medium and then applies it to every lawn in a single day is doing their clients a basic injustice as outlined in my blog post (http://mrgrassblog.net/2010/04/22/price-and-the-…awn-treatments/ ‎).  Mixing concentrated fertilizer into a liquid is an easy and inexpensive way to administer a lawn program.  As I said before, yes it works well for some lawns but not all lawns.  You get exactly what you pay for with this type of treatment, a quick buzz of green.  There are lots of natural and organic alternatives to this kind of turf care.

Before you sign on the dotted line, before you pre-pay for your entire year upfront- get a second opinion from a local lawn care company.  I welcome the questions and the challenge to take your property to the next level.  If you are not in our service area, I have companies I can recommend to you- just leave a comment to this post.  Even if you decide not to make a change, doesn’t it just make sense to get another opinion like a car or house repair?  Don’t just sign without thinking about what things could be like in 2011.  I know it’s easy to just send the lawn contract back, but a free second opinion from any other turf health care company is time well spent.  Make this winter the time where you decide to explore what has been going down on your lawn in the past and why!  Support your local economy and research who services your town for lawn treatments.  Exploring new options can be educational, fun, and you might even receive better results!

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Lime is the key to any successful lawn care program in VT or NH

Published by JKeefe on June 27th, 2010 - in Lawn Care Companies, Lime, Misc.

Lime in NH or VT is a vital part to any lawn care program for multiple reasons.  The most common reason to lime your turf annually is to improve the soil pH.   The soils found in NH & VT are acidic in nature with a common pH ranging from 5 to 6, with 7 being neutral.  Lime improves this situation by raising the pH since turf grass appreciates a slightly acidic figure- right around 6.7 to 6.8.  Another reason to lime relates to how nutrients (N-P-K) react in a soil system.  Most are locked up and not available at lower pH figures, especially those found in the 5 range.  Therefore, applying lime on a regular basis is not only good for the crop you are trying to grow- in this case turf grass due to preference, but the process actually frees up what would otherwise be locked up nutrients.  No wonder farmers often call lime “a poor man’s fertilizer”; it frees those essential nutrients found in fertilizer already in the soil.

There are many types of lime in terms of how quickly they change soil pH, ease of application such as powdered/crushed forms to pelletized.  Pelletized lime is usually lime coated with clay in order to help improve the application process.  These types of lime usually deal with refined limestone and often function faster versus a crushed rock type of lime.  The difference in the pH change can be as much as months to weeks depending upon what type of lime is used.  While farmers can afford to wait and may apply lime in the spring or fall in preparation for the following years crop- your lawn could use that change faster since our growing seasons are so short.  Pelletized lime also comes in different versions- Magnesium based and Calcium based.

While most lime will have a combination of these two elements since limestone is based upon calcium and magnesium carbonates, the percentage of each dictates whether you have a high calcium lime or a dolomitic lime.  You can purchase lime with higher amounts of either calcium or magnesium.  Standard pelletized dolomitic lime usually has a higher magnesium content while pelletized high calcium lime is very high in calcium and low in magnesium.  Using one or the other is a matter of cost and what you are trying to achieve.  Typically, a high calcium lime improves soil structure therefore it helps reduce compaction- this is a generalization but it still applies on the whole.  Turf needs large amounts of calcium so this type of lime satisfies that demand over a magnesium based lime.  Another benefit of calcium lime is you need less to achieve the same result as other types of lime and the reaction time is greatly improved to weeks versus months.  It is for these reasons that I exclusively use high calcium lime in my turf care program.

High calcium lime has increased in popularity over the past few years as growers and lawn care companies recognize the multiple benefits and are switching over from standard limestone formulations.  High calcium lime also comes coated with an organic acid which improves seed germination- another fabulous benefit.

Soil tests are helpful if your lawn is really messed up and either you or your lawn care company suspects deficiencies or abnormal levels of nutrients which is possible- especially through irrigation systems.  However, as a general rule- you should lime annually to condition your soil for maximum results as pH tends to drop over time due to the environment and surrounding vegetation.

Old fashioned powdered lime

Using powdered limestone is slow and messy

For the cost of lime, it is well worth the expense and effort due to the benefits your lawn will receive with an annual application.  On a closing note- you can apply lime at any time of year regardless of what else is being applied.  In some cases two lime treatments may be warranted.

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