"We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot." - Leonardo Da Vinci, circa 1500's
Ew! Today I realized my barrel of soil has gotten too wet and developed an atrocious odor (like sewage). I am happy because I am excited that there are (or were) living organisms in my soil, but I need to know if they are helpful or harmful and if they are no good, how to make them go away.
First, I wanted to know: what is making this smell?
Observations: Dark black soil on top of grey soil. Very foul smelling - more like sewage than sulfurous (rotten eggs). Very wet- still visible standing water (a centimeter or so).
Decaying organic matter (there is a lot of peat moss mixed in the barrel)
1) Dry out soil to expose to oxygen
2) Adding more organic matter and keep aerated
3) Add pulverized limestone or other basic material (e.g. eggshells) to balance the pH
Can I use this soil again?
I will find out as I go.
"Your problem is poor drainage. Soil that stays wet for long periods of time get lots of anaerobic bacteria operating in them and those kinds of bacteria produce offensive odors, just what you are smelling. A simple mehtod to test a soils drainage capability is to dig a 1 foot square hole 1 foot deep and fill it with water. Once that water drains away refill the hole and time how long it takes for that water to drain away. If it takes longer than 6 hours for the 2nd pail of water to drain corrective action is required, adding lots of organic matter to the soil to open up the soils pores so water can flow through. One garden I did that test to once took 4 days for the first pail of water to drain away and the "gardener" did not understand why her plants kept dying on her."
"Types of Harmful Bacteria
Effects on Humans
Fixing Good Bacteriahttp://www.gardenguides.com/124669-harmful-bacteria-soil.html
What do Soil Bacteria Do?
Soil bacteria along with fungi are the primary decomposer in the soil. That means they breakdown virtually everything f®om your lunch to a Mac Truck. They, along with fungi, are the workhorses of the compost pile.
Nitrogen is essential for life. It is present in all amino acids which make up protein and the nucleic acids of RNA and DNA. While Nitrogen is very plentiful, about 79% of our air is made of nitrogen gas, plants can only use the nitrogen if it is fixed or combined making ammonia or NH4 or Nitrates NO3. All the nitrogen we need we get either directly or indirectly from plants. And almost all of the nitrogen plants need is provided by nitrogen fixing bacteria.
These bacteria seem almost like a hybrid of a bacteria and a fungi. They look more like fungi but their inner structure is bacterial.
These elegant microbes are responsible for decomposing tough to decompose material, fixing nitrogen in association with certain plants and for many of the most important antibiotics we use in medicine today.
Ever wonder how it all began. Some clues might be found by studying the blue-green algae or cyanobacteria. These bacteria are able to make food from air, sunshine and water and fix nitrogen. They along with other hardy bits of life - fungi, mosses and lichens - create very young soils called cryptobiotic soils.