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Not Just for Upset Tummies: Calcium Carbonate and Healthy Plants

By Shannon McKee | Last updated: April 23, 2018
Key Takeaways

Calcium carbonate is just as useful to your plants as it is for you. Here are a few of the ways you can integrate this natural product into your garden.

When you think of calcium carbonate, the first thing that probably comes to mind is an upset stomach. It is the active ingredient in Tums and similar products that help with tummy troubles such as heartburn. However, this naturally occurring chemical has uses outside of the medicine cabinet. In fact, you may be more familiar with it in the garden under another name: powdered lime.

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Say Goodbye to Blossom End Rot

One of the worst things to discover in your garden is blossom end rot. It can be so discouraging to see all those lovely tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables with a black spot on the bottom where the blossom once was. While you can still cut off the blackened areas of the fruit, you may find the quality is just not where it should be and the fruit may even seem gritty. Lack of calcium is typically the culprit of this nightmare. Calcium carbonate is an excellent fix for blossom end rot because it puts the necessary calcium back into your soil.

Get Help with Clubroot

If you love growing cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbages, you don’t want to deal with clubroot. It’s a common disease caused by Phytomyxea that makes the roots look like a club. Though calcium carbonate doesn’t cure this condition, it can help.

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Assist with a Lack of Nutrients

Depending on what you’re growing, having slightly acidic soil is a good thing (though some plants, such as blueberries, love acidic soil). However, if you find your plants can’t take up the nutrients available in the soil, even if you just fertilized, your dirt may be overly acidic. Much like calcium carbonate works as an antacid for your body, it also helps to change the pH of your soil.

Say No to Toxic Heavy Metals

As they grow, food crops can bring in heavy metals such as aluminum from the soil. However, you don’t want them to take up too much as these compounds can have a negative impact on your health. Research has shown calcium carbonate can prevent the transfer of heavy metals from soil into the plants. While researchers are still trying to figure out how exactly calcium carbonate inhibits this transfer, knowing it happens can help with peace of mind for food safety.

A Note on Buying Lime

There are two types of lime offered by your gardening center. First, there’s garden lime, or calcium carbonate lime, made of powdered limestone. Second, there’s dolomitic lime, which is made with powdered dolomite. Dolomitic lime is similar to calcium carbonate lime, but it also adds magnesium when applied. This may or may not be necessary, depending on your use of lime.

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Calcium carbonate is a helpful item to have around the house for you and your plants. (Sometimes you can even use the same product. Depending on the area of your garden that needs the extra calcium boost, you may be able to get away with dropping a few antacid tablets around your plants instead of using lime.) To determine if calcium carbonate is the right solution for your garden, soil testingis your friend. It will test the nutrients and the pH level of your soil to help you determine if calcium carbonate is right for your situation. It will also tell you how much to apply. If you find your soil pH is just right, but you need to add calcium, gypsum can be a good substitute as it adds calcium without changing the pH.

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Written by Shannon McKee | Freelance Writer, Gardener

Profile Picture of Shannon McKee

Shannon McKee lives in Ohio and has been a freelance writer for several years now, including on her blog, whyiwah.blogspot.com. Nicknamed by loved ones a garden hoarder over the past few years, she grows a wide variety of plants in her urban garden.

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