Why does the dirt stink?
July 28, 2006 4:31 PM   Subscribe

My backyard stinks like a stable. Not all the time, but when we have dry, hot weather (as we do this week). What to do?

The previous owners had two large dogs, and they just moved out a few months ago. I thought we cleaned up everything the dogs left behind, but maybe they buried something... or the smell just sunk in... or maybe it's not dog-related at all. The smelly area, by the kitchen door, is sparse grass, dandelions, and dusty dirt.

What can I do to get rid of the smell? The cheaper and easier, the better. I'm not interested in landscaping this area, just being able to leave the door open without gagging.
posted by The corpse in the library to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Maybe there's a corpse in the yard, too?

Seriously, could you throw a couple of bags of cheap mulch over the area? Cocoa bean mulch smells like chocolate, and even cedar mulch would smell better than what you've described.
posted by chippie at 4:35 PM on July 28, 2006

Do you have a septic tank? When ours started to work improperly it smelled like liquid death in the backyard, especially in the summer.
posted by shepd at 4:37 PM on July 28, 2006

All summer long I have smelled dog poop really strongly in a very specific part of the yard (we don't have a dog). My wife finally pointed out that the source is some kind of oozing rot coming out of the apple tree right there.

It is the exact smell of dogshit, yet it is coming from the tree. Any chance that's your situation?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:46 PM on July 28, 2006

Maybe this would help? I haven't used this exact product but I know the regular Simple Solution stuff works well on carpet and bedding. Simple Solution Yard Odor Remover
posted by Rubber Soul at 4:56 PM on July 28, 2006

Is it possible there is a water or waste treatment plant near you? We have one that I didn't know about until after I moved in, that only smells in certain conditions and wind patterns. If there is, there nothing you can do to eliminate it, but mulch would mask it for awhile.
posted by blackkar at 5:40 PM on July 28, 2006

My neighbor had a trash can full of water and rotting paper and leaves. When tipped over to drain, it smelled truly foul. If you know anybody with pine needles, they smell nice. Or call tree companies. Where I live htey mostly chip trees that are trimmed/downed, and the wood ship is free. Fresh wood chip smells great. Takes a while to compost, though.
posted by theora55 at 5:43 PM on July 28, 2006

Two things come to mind. First, you might try turning some nice loam into this area. Mix it all up and any organic matter which is giving off odors will quickly break down and stop smelling.

Another approach would be to soak the ground with bleach or better yet liquid pool shock. This will kill all the smelly bugs, but also all the good bugs. I would save this for last resort.
posted by caddis at 6:27 PM on July 28, 2006

Response by poster: Many good suggestions -- thanks! No, no septic tank, but there is a neglected apple tree a few feet away in the neighbor's yard.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:31 PM on July 28, 2006

spread quicklime, cover with some plastic sheet, wait a couple of days, remove plastic, spray water to react any leftover lime.
wear gloves and dust mask!
posted by hortense at 7:48 PM on July 28, 2006

If it's an old-piss kind of stink, it could be that the place it's coming from was the dogs' favourite whizzing spot. Cover it with two inches of grass clippings, let those dry out for a week so they don't turn into a slimy mess, then cover the whole thing with four inches of woody mulch.
posted by flabdablet at 9:48 PM on July 28, 2006

It's your feet. Summertime, yay.

OK, just kidding kinda, but I woke up several mornings last month determined to track down the smell of what I was sure was cat pee, (BAD Fluffy!) only to find my feet to be the apparent culprit.

Eww. I'm so ashamed.

(Desinex every day, too! WTF?)
posted by Marla Singer at 2:42 AM on July 29, 2006

Oh -- It might have been the sandals I guess -- it seems to me like the rubber ones smell more like pee and the leather ones more like poop.

Hope that helps!

(I wish I could blame it on the yard).
posted by Marla Singer at 2:54 AM on July 29, 2006

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