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Soil and Composting: Soil smells a little skunky, but not exactly skunky

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Forum: Soil and CompostingReplies: 8, Views: 63
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Diana66
Santa Rosa, CA

February 1, 2011
4:39 PM

Post #8343821

Hi all. I've been pulling out ivy and doing other efforts in the front yard of my house for a few months now. Not every day, depends on weather and my schedule. I moved in here not too long ago and the house had been uninhabited for a few years, no landscaping done. It's like a forest here.

The soil I'm encountering as I work in the front yard has an odd smell. The best I can compare it to is a skunk.

The back yard is not the same. Smells just like dirt smells.

Anyway, I get feeling dizzy, some kind of vague pressure in my head. I can't really explain it. Today, I "think" I made the connection between that feeling and the soil because I started feeling it after I had been working on the ivy for 10 minutes, or less. So, I stopped. I didn't feel well enough to work. At that point, I didn't make the connection.

Then I started working on it again just about an hour ago, several hours after I had stopped, and this same sensation came back in my head. I'm wondering if it's whatever I'm smelling in the soil. I tried to Google different combos of words on the Internet, but didn't come across anything.

And it's not just the ivy, it's the whole front yard. There's a large area that has that black paper you lay down before you lay down bark or whatever, and it's exposed. Whenever I cut away the unsightly pieces, it's the same smell.

Has anyone heard of anything like this? My "connection" may be completely invalid. Thanks.

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

February 2, 2011
8:18 AM

Post #8344894

The only thing that comes to mind is "sewer sludge". If you Google "sewer sludge ferlizer" without the quotes, you will come up with many references.
Diana66
Santa Rosa, CA

February 2, 2011
9:56 AM

Post #8345068

Thanks Honeybee. I'm ready to go outside again this morning and tackle that yard!

I think I found out what it is- "sour mulch." I read about it on Wikipedia, a natural occurring process that causes mulch smell to like vinegar, ammonia, sulfur or silage.

"This happens when material with ample nitrogen content is not rotated often enough and it forms pockets of increased decomposition. When this occurs, the process may become anaerobic and produce these phytotoxic materials in small quantities."

Doesn't say that it kills humans :-) I'm just sensitive to chemical smells. That's all. Even perfume gives me a headache. So, I'll go finish the front yard today without fear of death.

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

February 2, 2011
11:17 AM

Post #8345217

Diana66 - thankfully you have found out what it is!

How deep is that mulch? It must be rather deep to give off odors that you describe. When I moved here, the first thing I did was remove about six inchesof mulch from around the three trees in our front yard, and pull the rest back to expose the base of the trees "feet" - I think I heard them give a sigh of relief.

I know what you mean about perfume giving you a headache - it does the same to me. When I visit the supermarket I try to avoid the aisle that displays detergent. In the Mall I hurry past all those places that sell scented items and candles. And don't get me started on household cleaners!

When we went on vacation last October, we left the dog with a neighbor. On return she said she had washed the dog's sleeping bed. That night I woke up sneezing and had a sore throat. My dog's bed is always next to my bed. The residue from the detergent my neighbor had used was the cause of my discomfort.

Thank goodness there is perfume free shampoo and deodorant!
Diana66
Santa Rosa, CA

February 3, 2011
10:48 AM

Post #8346832

Hi Honeybee,

I'm not sure how deep the mulch is. There are six trees in the front, two pine, two maple and two oak and they all drop leaves/needles. Plus the dead ivy leaves. And then there was the bark that placed there. Couldn't see it under all the leaves. Made some kind of concoction over the years.

Three of the trees were being attacked by ivy and I think I made them happier by removing the ivy and giving them some breathing room around their bases. I thought of just leaving it. I'm getting tired of the front yard. Want to get to the back -- but in the end, I felt for the trees and, yes, a sigh of relief!

I'm not as sensitive to the detergent, but yes, I try to avoid the perfume section at Macy's. Just rushing through, I can later taste it in my mouth.

Speaking of dogs, we got skunked in our house a week or so before Christmas. Skunk came in the dog door, met the dog in my son's bedroom and sprayed. This is the most horrific smell you can imagine. The deskunking process was lengthy and expensive. Dog still has a faint odor of skunk despite numerous baths.

Anyway, last week, my husband said my hair smelled like Chip (the dog). I said, "No, it's dirt you're smelling from me working outside in the ivy." It has just occurred to me, as I'm typing this to you, he was smelling that sour mulch, which has a skunky smell. So, I guess I did smell like my dog. :)
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

February 3, 2011
1:45 PM

Post #8347126

Did the ivy stay dead?
Diana66
Santa Rosa, CA

February 3, 2011
4:50 PM

Post #8352036

Probaby not. It will be an ongoing effort. We havent' lived here that long. The ivy has been here much longer.

I think THIS ivy will stay dead. Because I covered it with rocks (hauled them all myself from the back yard). Not a pretty sight, a lazy man's way to do it, I suppose, but better than the juniper and ivy that were there. Covered three-quarters of the walkway. And that side of my car is scratched from the juniper.

Thumbnail by Diana66
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Diana66
Santa Rosa, CA

February 3, 2011
4:56 PM

Post #8352054

Now, THIS ivy, I'll need to keep an eye on. Tee rocks you see were already there, but when we moved in, you would have no idea there were rocks there. The ivy was all over them and beyond. Also, up the trees. I left some ivy, as you can see. It's too big a job for me. I got a worse ivy scenario in the backyard. I deal with that later. Anyway, I guess this isn't the right forum, but since you asked...

Thumbnail by Diana66
Click the image for an enlarged view.

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

February 4, 2011
9:08 AM

Post #8353142

Now THAT'S a rock garden! We don't have many rocks/stones in our garden.

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