My garden smells like crap!
May 14, 2007 7:52 PM   Subscribe

I put cow manure in my garden. Now our backyard smells like crap. Is it going to smell like this all summer? Is there anything I can do to make the smell go away faster?

It's my first real garden in our lovely house. Cow manure seemed like a good idea at the time. Actually to be honest it's possible that the smell is coming from the "potting soil" that I put in this weekend -- I really smelled the exact same smell as I was lugging that soil from the gardening store (plus I did not use that much cow manure anyway).

In any case, it's an awful smell. It may even be a smell that is wafting over to the neighbors. The neighbors have beautiful gardens that do not smell like crap. Is this going to go away? I've only prepared the soil at this point, not planted anything -- will planting help the smell dissipate? Help!
posted by onlyconnect to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Is the manure exposed to the air, or did you mix it in with the other soil? If a significant portion of it is exposed, you should turn over the soil with a spading fork, mix as much of the manure in as you can. (It should have been mixed in to begin with, not used as a top-dressing.)

Planting won't help. Watering might (though if it's warm, that could just make it worse). The smell will dissipate within a week.

One thing you might try is to spread several inches of redwood or cedar mulch over the area in question. When you plant, you can dig small holes in the mulch for the plants. The mulch smells a hell of a lot better than the cow poop.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:06 PM on May 14, 2007

(To clarify, I mean the smell will dissipate within a week -- or sooner -- regardless. I didn't mean it would go away if you watered constantly for a week.)
posted by mudpuppie at 8:06 PM on May 14, 2007

Yeah, 4-7 days should do it, if the manure/fertilizer stench on the NCSU campus last month is any indication. Just relax and enjoy the earthiness of it for a couple of days; it'll be gone soon.
posted by mediareport at 8:08 PM on May 14, 2007

Response by poster: I didn't leave the manure exposed to the air -- it's covered by a few inches of soil. So it sounds like this is temporary and just the price that we pay for happy vegetables. I think it's supposed to rain in another day so maybe that will help move things along, too.

posted by onlyconnect at 8:20 PM on May 14, 2007

Best answer: A tip for the future - get composted cow manure as opposed to "green" manure. It's less likely to burn your plants, and it doesn't smell so bad.
posted by clarkstonian at 8:22 PM on May 14, 2007

The smell of manure == the smell of happy, happy plants. You may learn to love it. I take it you used pretty fresh manure; older, dried out manure tends to smell less nasty, and more organic.
posted by Jimbob at 8:24 PM on May 14, 2007

Like mudpuppie said, you could mulch over it. Cow manure can sometimes contain a lot of salt and sometimes weed seeds, so I wouldn't use it very often. It's great to mix in your compost pile though. It may take up to two or three weeks for the smell to go away, but the mulch would cover it up almost instantly (and mulch is essential, IMO).
posted by oneirodynia at 8:25 PM on May 14, 2007

What Clarksonian said. Now you know how it smells.
posted by longsleeves at 8:26 PM on May 14, 2007

Response by poster: Is composted cow manure normally labeled as such, or is it called something else? Thanks!
posted by onlyconnect at 8:39 PM on May 14, 2007

Mix it in, it won't smell for long, my parents did this all the time, and it lasted about two days.
posted by Packy_1962 at 8:46 PM on May 14, 2007

Yes, composted cattle manure is labelled as such. I typically see the term "composted steer manure." They also have chicken and mushroom. (Yum?)
posted by Listener at 9:20 PM on May 14, 2007

Always get composted manure. It's better for your plants anyways, and it doesn't smell.
posted by chundo at 10:35 PM on May 14, 2007

Response by poster: Thread update: the smell of crap actually did dissipate after about 3 or 4 days. By the time the next weekend rolled around (now!), there was no signs of the smell anymore, even after doing a bunch of planting and watering back there. So yay for everyone who said it would go away quickly -- they were quite right.

Also saw composted manure on this weekend's visit to the garden store, and will definitely keep that in mind for future use. Thanks, all!

(Now if I could just find a remedy for the squirrels that keep digging everything up!)
posted by onlyconnect at 8:54 PM on May 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

Now if I could just find a remedy for the squirrels that keep digging everything up!

I suggest a BB gun.
posted by terrapin at 12:09 PM on May 24, 2007

Now if I could just find a remedy for the squirrels that keep digging everything up!
I believe you and I had an off-line conversation about this, yes? We liberally apply cayenne pepper, on the ground, on the plants, everywhere, and it does a great job. You can buy it in bulk at Indian groceries--lemme know, and I'll recommend a few!
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2007

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