Landscaping With Limestone: Tips For Gardening With Limestone


By: Liz Baessler

Known for its durability and attractive color, limestone isa popular choice for landscaping in the garden and the backyard. But how do youuse limestone, and when should you use it? Keep reading to learn more aboutlimestone garden design.

How to Use Limestone in the Garden

Limestone is a durable sedimentary rock with a pleasantwhite color that fits in well in many landscape designs. It is popular both ingravel and slab forms, and can be used for paths, walls, garden beds, accents,and more.

The most common application of limestone in the garden isprobably in making pathways. Crushed limestone gravel is relatively inexpensiveand makes for an attractive, natural looking but durable walking surface. Pathsmade of large limestone pavers are also popular, but with big slabs someconsiderations have to be taken into account.

Limestone can become slippery when wet, so any slabs thatare going to take foot traffic should be textured ahead of time, either withsand blasting or bush hammering. It’s also important to pick stones that canhold up to the elements and foot traffic.

Limestone is rated by ASTM International according tohardness – outdoor paths should be made of stones that are rated III. Limestonerated I and II will wear away over time.

More Limestone Garden Design Ideas

Gardening with limestone isn’t limited to paths. Limestoneis also a popular material for walls and raisedgarden beds. It can be bought as pre-shaped bricks or landscaping blocks.Just remember that limestone is heavy and may take professional equipment tomove.

If you’re looking for a more natural method of landscapingwith limestone, you might want to consider an accent rock or boulder. Uncutlimestone rocks can make for a commanding and intriguing presence in yourgarden.

If they’re small, they can be scattered throughout thelandscape for added interest. If you have an especially big piece, try placingit in the middle of your garden or yard for an eye-catching centerpiece you canbuild around.

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Does Your Lawn or Garden Need Lime?

Lime can harm acid loving plants like blueberries.

Does your lawn or garden need lime? If you live in southeastern North Carolina the answer to this question is a definite maybe. This is because our soils vary so much from one yard to the next. For some yards, lime needs to be added every few years to keep plants healthy. For others, especially those at the beach, adding lime can harm plants.

What is Lime?

Lime is a soil amendment made by grinding limestone, a naturally occurring type of rock that is very high in calcium. Two types of lime are commonly used in lawns and gardens, agricultural lime and dolomitic lime. Agricultural lime, also sold as garden lime, is made from calcium carbonate. This type of limestone can be found in our area and is mined in Pender County at the Shelter Creek Quarry near Maple Hill.

Dolomitic lime is made from dolomite, a type of rock very similar to limestone except it also contains magnesium. In North Carolina, dolomite is found only in the mountains. Both types of lime provide calcium for plants, but dolomitic lime also supplies magnesium, a nutrient often low in soils in our area. Other types of lime you may find for sell include hydrated or slaked lime and quick or burnt lime. These are not recommended for lawns and gardens.

What Does Lime Do?

In addition to supplying calcium, lime makes soils less acidic. Acidic soils, referred to by old timers as sour soils, have a low soil pH. Soil pH levels can range anywhere from 3.0, very acidic, to over 8.0, moderately basic, in our region. Most vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants grow best when the pH is slightly acidic, between 5.5 and 6.5. At levels lower than this many nutrients become unavailable to plants even if they are present in the soil, while elements like aluminum become too available and can burn roots.

When soil pH is too high plants may develop iron chlorosis or yellowing between the veins.

If your soil pH is too low (below 5.5), most plants will not grow well no matter how much fertilizer you add. If your soil pH is already 6.5 or higher adding lime can harm plants by raising the pH too high. This makes nutrients unavailable, resulting in nutrient deficiency symptoms like yellow leaves and stunted growth. This is especially true for acid loving plants like azaleas, camellias, loropetalum, blueberries, and centipede lawns which grow best when the pH is around 5.0-5.5.

How to Tell if Your Soil Needs Lime

The only accurate way to know if your lawn or garden needs lime is to have the soil tested. Soil test kits can be purchased at garden centers or online, but they do not provide accurate results or tell you how much lime you need to add. Fortunately in North Carolina there is an easy way to determine your soil pH and get recommendations for how to adjust it, through our state’s soil testing lab in Raleigh.

Operated by the NC Department of Agriculture, North Carolina’s soil testing lab is one of the largest and busiest in the country. To have your soil tested, collect samples from different areas of your yard. You will need to randomly collect three to five samples from each section of your yard where you grow something different, for example, 3 to 5 samples from your lawn, 3 to 5 samples from your vegetable garden, etc. Samples should be taken around 6” deep. For each sample you are going to submit (example – lawn, garden, flower bed), aim to collect a total of about a cup and a half of soil when the 3 to 5 random samples are mixed together.

Boxes and forms for samples are available from your local Extension office. Completed samples should be mailed to the soil testing lab at the address listed on the box. Samples can be submitted any time of the year and results are posted online at http://www.ncagr.gov/agronomi/pals/. Results are usually ready within a few weeks of submitting.

If your soil test results recommend that you add lime, do so the next time you plan to till the soil. Lime moves very slowly in soil naturally so needs to be mixed in to get the most benefit. In lawns or established landscape beds, pelleted lime can be applied using a fertilizer spreader.

Visit your local Cooperative Extension office to learn more about gardening and landscape care. Go to https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/local-county-center/ to find your county Extension center or call to get expert advice:

  • If you live in Pender County, call 910-259-1235
  • In New Hanover County, call 910-798-7660
  • In Brunswick County, call 910-253-2610
  • In Onslow County, call 910-455-5873
  • In Duplin County, call 910-296-2143


Wood retaining wall ideas

Gorgeous wood brick retaining walls with a stacked concept accented by lovely green plants. Its layered design with a cohesive look makes it pleasing to the eyes.

A wood retaining wall that’s topped with charming ornamental plants which make a good accent as well.

An expansive soil ground is lined with a wood paneled retaining wall that goes on a higher level as you got closer.

A paneled retaining wall on a courtyard wrapping the lush green yard that’s filled with abundant plants and trees.


Landscape Paving 101: How to Use Limestone for Your Patio

The basics: Limestone is a sedimentary rock with a typically grainy appearance. It’s quarried all over the world, and it comes in many colors, including blue, gray, tan and pinkish white. Limestone is a durable old-world stone with contemporary uses for high-end landscape projects.

Shown: Coeur d’Alene limestone paving

Size and color: Limestone comes in all sizes and shapes: slabs, pavers, edging, wall veneer, capstone, stair treads and sizes for fountains and fire pits. Dimensioned stone and irregular flagstones are also available.

Most people associate limestone with creamy white tones, but the material has beautiful grays and blues that rival those of bluestone.

Finishes: Limestone can be honed to a smooth and consistent finish or have a thermal finish, which is a little more rough or uneven.

Sealing the stone is up you. Some homeowners like the look of unsealed stone, which works fine outside and will have a patina over time. If you do choose to seal the stone, check with your stone supplier for a sealer recommendation.

Shown
: A pool deck paving of Eramosa limestone in Connecticut

Maintenance: Limestone is sensitive to acidic materials, so think twice before planting a fruit tree next to limestone paving fallen fruit can decay and easily stain the limestone.

“ Limestone should be cleaned gently using a mild cleanser that has been diluted with water ,” says Hal McCullough of Maiden Stone Inc. in Houston, Texas. “Use a stiff bristled brush to scrub the surface. After scrubbing, simply rinse the limestone. Intense pressure washing is not recommended because it will damage the stone surface. Also, if you decide to use a sealant, you must continue to use the same product or sealer type for all future reapplications.”

Shown: Coeur d’Alene limestone paving

Sustainability: Limestone comes in colors lighter than brick and concrete, which gives it a better solar reflectance index, or SRI. A high SRI means that the stones stay cool by reflecting sun and releasing thermal radiation, rather than absorbing it and heating up, reducing the heat-island effect around your home. Limestone is popular as a building material in warm climates because it stays cool to the touch.


Increasing the good bacteria in your soil will improve the composition of the soil. The decomposition of organic material causes the soil to become acidic over time, but limestone will help to disintegrate any organic matter, producing a porous soil. This new soil mixture allows for better water absorption and air circulation. As the root system continues to grow deeper and stronger, the plants will absorb more nutrients and water.

Applying Limestone to Crop Fields

Sending a sample of your soil for soil analysis to a laboratory will produce accurate results of the pH. Unlike using a home-based pH test kit, the analysis will also identify the type of soil in your field or garden.

The lab may provide suggestions for the amount of limestone you should use in order to shift the pH into the recommended range. If not, several states publish agriculture lime recommendations based on lime quality and other factors. The University of Kentucky published a report clarifying the bulk lime determination using two application rates as well as the estimated cost of using the amount of lime needed.

North American farmers tend to underutilize the amount of lime required to neutralize the acidity in the soil. This can result in poor quality crops and a lower yield. Consider using limestone and fertilizer to help your crops flourish and raise the efficiency of your fertilizer up to 50 percent.

Applying Limestone to Lawns

Experts recommend adding limestone to the soil while preparing for planting to ensure that it is properly distributed and maintains the appropriate depth to produce thick and colorful grass. Some gardeners lime their lawns before the first frost during fall season they can see the results in the spring, after the absorption during the winter season.

Agricultural and dolomite limestone come in several forms, including huge blocks, pellets, and pulverized. According to the National Lime Association, the physical specifications of the different forms vary — the pelletized lime comes in one-inch pieces, for example. Pulverized lime is much smaller and passes through a No. 20 sieve. The size of crushed or pebble lime ranges from one-fourth inch to two and one-half inches.

Whichever size limestone you choose for your field or garden, use the correct amount combined with fertilizer to take your results to the next level.


Photo by Fotolia/greentellect


Watch the video: How to lay limestone blocks


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