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Smelly Soil


 
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paddy mac fisto
Rank attained: Hawthorn Tree
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Joined: 17 Jun 2008
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Location: Co. Kildare

PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 6:29 pm    Post subject: Smelly Soil Reply with quote

Just got some alleged topsoil off the builder in my estate. It looks like it came from a massive mound that was cleared a couple of years ago when they were preparing the site here so it was probably topsoil once, but now its fairly clay-y and grey looking with not much organic material in it and quite smelly. I know in the back of my mind that smelly soil is an indicator of the soil ph but for the life of me I can't remember. It smells quite manure-y which I thought might be great as I have seen cattle out on the hill the soil was taken from, but as it's dried out a little today its gone quite grey looking which can't be good methinks. Now it was free, so I'm not really complaining but I'm just wondering as well as adding lots of compost to it should I be adding lime or gypsum or potash or all three? It's for raised beds for fruit trees so I need it slightly alkaline anyway but just wondering if anyone has any tips on whether the smelliness is an indicator one way or the other?
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Bobwilliams
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Compacted soil often has a pong off it as rotting is taking place but without air. This stuff is bad news. Of course it could be just subsoil (grey usually) with a sprinkling of topsoil through it. Most builders have not got a clue how to strip soil from a site and end up mixing topsoil and subsoil.
Any photos of it before you add it. A pic of it loose then squeezed into a ball in your hand would help.
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Liparis
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I totally agree with bobwilliams. Builders come in three types, the ones who are clueless about stripping topsoil and mix i with subsoil, the others know exactly what to do and keep topsoil and subsoil seperate (tese are few and far between nowadays), the third type just don't give a rats a*s*, just get in the kudos. Now you know why it was free.
The smell strikes me as being sour and clay. You are going to have to work hard to sort it. As always with my advice, get lots of farmyard manure in, There won't be much nitrogen in it, so best if you can get some chicken manure, but carefull, it will burn the roots of what you plant if too fresh.
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verge
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:03 pm    Post subject: Re: Smelly Soil Reply with quote

To follow on from what the other members have been saying. paddy mac fisto have a look at the soil test hole pics in this thread Advice on lawn currently in bad, wet condition? . It shows poor grey clay over subsoil. Look anything like what you received.

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paddy mac fisto
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great tips guys thanks for that. I'm off to the garden centre today to get a pH kit and some manure. I was going to throw a load of mustard in as a green manure for next year (I bought a bag of it for the allotment and was very surprised to see that I got an incredible amount of seed, the biggest bag in the order. And the cheapest!). All I can do NOW is get some manure and some organic compost/soil improver and see how it goes. The texture of the soil seems good, crumbles OK in your hand, not overly greasy or as clay-y as I first thought, and still forms a little ball when I squish it. Hopefully it's just a matter of getting some decent humus going on in there.

I know you only get what you pay for but with the way things are right now money is seriously tight and I'm trying to do everything on a shoestring. The builder while not knowing his stuff with the topsoil, (obviously) has kindly donated a load of wood for my allotment too. All untreated joists and stuff that he can't really use I guess, but still... he didn't want any cash for it. And a giant roll of damp coursing which will be great to line the sides of the beds with. Obviously I'm obliged to be giving him a few spuds etc... in return but the ol' allotment seems to be striking a chord with a few people around here. Or maybe they just want some free veg... either way it's win win. I'll post any results I get with the test and maybe some photos later on.

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Liparis
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, you're not doing too bad really. Sounds like your topsoil mainly needs plenty of air and farmyard manure in it. A couple of cabbages and a few potatoes for that lot aren't too bad, sling him a carrot as well.
Bill.

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