Before we go deep into explaining how to compost limes and lime, let me explain to you the difference between the two terms: limes and lime. Limes is one of the citrus fruits while lime or sodium carbonate is a basic or an alkaline compound that is commonly used in correcting acidic soil. Both of them can be used in compost and soil amendment. However, the use of limes in compost is still debatable.
Some compost enthusiasts revealed that the rinds and peels of lime fruits do take some time to decompose and this delays the composting process. Additionally, they also complained about the acidic nature of limes, which also has an effect on the decomposition organisms and later on soil the finished compost is used on.
However, all these issues can happen when the limes fruits are not added to the compost properly.
Read on to learn how to compost limes effectively plus steps on how to use lime to amend compost and soil pH.
Adding Limes to Compost
Limes fruits are among the citrus fruits, which is about 1.2-2.4 inches in diameter and possess acidic juicy pulp or flesh. The limes fruits are parked with many minerals compounds and are very aromatic in nature.
Limes contain a high amount of potassium and calcium alongside some reasonable amounts of magnesium and phosphorus (source).
It was not a surprise that limes become one of the favorite compostable materials among some compost enthusiasts. As it was shown that the fragrant aroma of limes can be used to limit or eliminate the unpleasant smells that may be emitted from compost.
Additionally, the potassium and calcium that are present in limes are very important minerals, which plants require for healthy growth, flowering, and carrying out other vital physiological activities.
However, on the other hand, some gardeners usually avoid limes and other citrus fruits in compost because limes peels and rinds delay the composting process.
The rinds and peels of limes are tough, and this makes it hard for the decomposition microorganisms and other decomposers to break them down.
Additionally, if you are using vermicomposting to compost your household waste, adding limes fruits scraps to the worms compost may affect the decomposing activities of the worms. This is because compost worms such as redworms and the red wigglers do not like an acidic environment. And so when you added fresh limes to the compost, the limes may increase the acidic pH of the compost.
Despite, all these issues, there are ways to compost limes and other citrus fruits safely. Here is how to do it in a step by step guide.
How to Compost Limes Fruits
Cut the limes fruits peels and rinds into pieces and dry them up: the main or active ingredient responsible for the acidic nature of limes and other citrus fruits is D-limonene. It is a phytochemical compound, which is present in the very volatile essential oils of citrus fruits.
And so since this essential oil is volatile, when you dry the Peels and rinds up, you simply reduce the amount of D-limonene. While on the other hand, cutting the rinds and peels into smaller pieces helps increase the surface area for easy digestion or breakdown by the decomposers.
Add a moderate amount of limes waste: while adding limes scraps to your compost do not add a large quantity of the scraps. This way you avoid the risk of increasing the acidic condition of the compost. Additionally, this can also help speed up the composting process.
Bury the limes scraps in the center of your compost bin: the center of the compost bin or pile is very hot and so when you put limes scraps in this place, all the substances that are responsible for the acidic nature of limes will be broken down by heat.
Turn your limes compost timely: you need to be turning the limes compost from time to time at least two times a week. This can help combine the limes scraps with other compostable materials evenly. And this in turn speed up the composting process.
Read also: Composting Pine Needles: The Detailed Guide
How to use Hydrated Lime(Can(OH)3) and Lime (CaCO3) for Compost
Lime (CaCO3) is one of the common mineral compounds that is used frequently to amend the soil with high acidic pH. It is technically known as Calcium Carbonate and the compound is used for different variety of uses such as in water treatment and soap production.
Lime is utilized in the amendment of soil to lower the acidic nature of the soil. It also adds essential nutrients to the soil such as Calcium and Carbon.
The most widely used limes (Calcium carbonate) in soil amendment are Dolomite and agricultural lime. These are approved limes that were allowed to be used on agricultural soil that is acidic.
Limes during composting come in handy when the compost is lacking calcium or is very acidic. And so adding agricultural lime or dolomite can increase the pH in the compost, making the compost pile or bin a better environment for decomposers.
Your compost can be acidic when you added too many compostables such as grapefruits, tomatoes, oranges, lemons, pine needles, and limes.
Lime or calcium carbonate can also be added to the compost when the compost is going to use for amending acidic soil.
When your compost is lacking compostable materials that contain calcium compounds, lime can be added to this compost. The limes release calcium to the compost, and this calcium helps nitrifying bacteria to release nitrogen to the compost when all the organic matters are decayed.
It is important to note that not all limes you can see are added to the compost or use in soil amendment. Avoid limes such as quicklime and slaked in your compost or on your garden soil. These types of limes are normally utilized for building purposes.
They are very reactive and sensitive to heat. And so when added to the compost, they can affect the living decomposers in the compost and soil on which the compost is going to be used.
With this information in mind, here is how to add lime to your compost and soil:
Add limes only to finished compost: this is because when you add limes to fresh organic matter, the lime can reduce the value of nitrogen from the organic matter.
Ground the lime into powder: ground the agricultural lime into powder. Measure out one cup of powdered lime and keep it in a separate place. Take 4 buckets of ripe or finished compost and mix that one cup of powdered agricultural lime. Spread this lime-compost mixture on the top surface of acidic soil.
Note: do not concentrate the lime on the soil as this can increase soil pH beyond normal, which is also bad for other plants. Always use a reasonable amount of lime.
Alternatively, you can use hydrated lime. However, this type of lime is sometimes not recommended. This is because it can burn plants’ leaves if you have plants on the soil. It is best used on plain agricultural soil that is acidic.
While dealing with hydrated lime, you need to protect yourself by putting on a facemask, hand gloves, jungle boots, and protective cloth.
You need to put the hydrated lime in a drop spreader. After putting the hydrated lime in, set the right application level on the drop spreader. This is important to avoid putting excess hydrated lime on the soil. Set the level of drop spreader to a point where you will not spread more than 20 pounds of hydrated lime for every 1000 square feet of garden soil.
Note: hydrated lime is commonly known as calcium hydroxide. It is one of the very reactive and corrosive bases. So, handle with care. Make sure while handling hydrated lime, you put on your facemask, hand gloves, sunglasses, and jungle boot. Ensure also that you wear protective cloth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can hydrated lime be used in the garden?
Hydrated lime is not recommended to be put on a garden soil that is acidic. Make sure the soil is plain, which means there are no living plants in the garden.
What does hydrated lime do to the soil?
Calcium hydroxide or hydrated lime is mainly produced to be utilized by builders but you can use it to correct or raise the pH of acidic soil.
Will lime kill weeds?
The primary use of lime on agricultural soil is to raise the soil pH. However, if you want to kill weeds, you can increase the concentration of the lime.
What is the difference between lime and hydrated lime?
The main difference between lime and hydrated lime is in the chemical formula. The lime is a weak base containing calcium, carbon, and oxygen, which is represented with the CaCO3. While hydrated lime is a strong base containing calcium, hydrogen, and oxygen, which is represented with the formula Ca(OH)3.
Does lime help breakdown compost?
Adding lime to the compost during the composting process is not recommended because lime can deplete the compost of its nitrogen compound. So, if you want to add lime to compost, leave the compost to finish decomposing and then add to the lime the finished or decomposed compost.
Can you compost lemons and lime?
Lemon is one of the citrus fruits just like lime fruits. The lemon fruits are acidic too and they have hard rinds and peels just like another citrus. If you want to compost lemons just follow the steps I mentioned while discussing how to compost lime fruits.
I looked at how to compost lime fruits and how to use agricultural lime for soil amendment. Both of these substances are important in improving soil quality if used and added correctly.
In this article, I looked at how to compost limes fruits the right way. I also looked at how to use lime for soil amendment. I hope you will find this article helpful. Let me know if you have questions in the comments section below.