All Things Gardening forum: Old Garden Soil Question

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Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
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ShadyGreenThumb
May 25, 2013 1:10 PM CST
I didn't plant my garden this year. With DH in the hospital I knew I wouldn't be able to give it the attention it needed. There is one wheelbarrow of soil that I didn't get into the above ground planter. I recently emptied it of water and mosquito larvae. Bad, I know! I just am not home as much and I missed this! There was a smell to the soil. Not a good smell but very organic. Should I toss the soil or let it dry out and use it in my little garden this fall?
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Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
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eclayne
May 25, 2013 1:29 PM CST

Plants Admin

ShadyGreenThumb said:Not a good smell but very organic.

A swampy smell like rotting vegetation? I've had that when I forget to use the compost in a gardening bucket and leave it out, so I'll watch for reply's.
Evan
Name: Arlene
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abhege
May 25, 2013 4:56 PM CST
Swampy smell means no air in soil. I think if you dry it out it will be okay. I could be wrong but that's what I usually do.
Name: Rick Corey
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RickCorey
Jun 4, 2013 8:27 PM CST
>> Swampy smell means no air in soil.

I agree. Plus, while there was no air, some aerobic microbes died, and other switched over from using oxygen (respiration) to their backup metabolism (fermentation). While fermenting, they produce organic acids and alcohols and other undesirable things. Hence the swamp-smell.

>> I think if you dry it out it will be okay.

I'd agree, as long as you turn it or 'fluff it up' and it has time to air out thoroughly and let the more desirable aerobic soil return.

It wouldn't hurt to mix it with a shovelful of healthy soil to "re-inoculate" it as it ventilates. But that's not crucial. The healthy soil microbes would come back as soon as you scratch it into healthy soil.

Also, nothing will kill 99.99% of any species of microbe, and 0.01% remaining is enough for them to come back and take over once they get their oxygen back.

I like to let rain or a sprayer flush THROUGH anaerobic soil or compost, so the organic fermentation toxins leach out, as well as evaporating. Alternatively, and probably best of all, just turn the swamp-mud under in your compost heap. The soil life in the heap will immediately put the populations back into a healthy balance, and digest the fermentation toxins just like any other carbon food source.

Compost cures all ills!

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