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Avonnow
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The proper way to replace soil in raised bed?

I have three raised beds, been using for three years. Last year I added some horse manure, I actually used it all over my garden, but this one bed has developed a funky moldy type smell, it even grew these red mushrooms, it has made the soil nasty. I know something is wrong. I would take pics, but I doubt you can see what I smell. Anyhow I think it caused the plants in it to not fair so well, they just seemed to be destine for failure. To get to point, I am digging the dirt out and the frame is 6 inches high, should I dig down below the frame alittle or do you think if I empty the entire frame and replace that soil I will be alright. :lol:
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applestar
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Was the horse manure fresh and not "aged"? That's what it sounds like to me -- too much nitrogen gone anaerobic. All that SMELL could be nitrogen source that can be neutralized, bound to the aggregate of the soil and utilized.

How quickly do you need this bed?

I rather think the worst might be over at this point and you could have great soil if you just adjust the mixture a bit. Use the garden fork to fracture the soil underneath (stand on the fork to get it in as far as it goes, then pull on the handle to tilt so tht the soil is lifted up slightly, then let it back down -- do this all over). Treat the whole bed like a compost pile and rake in more relatively fast breaking down -- i.e. chopped up smaller "browns" with smaller amount of fresh greens -- all mixed up and fluffed up so there are plenty of air initially.

Try things like used coffee grounds, rice hulls, wheat/oat bran, chopped up fall dry leaves, chopped straw, etc. also shredded coir. Maybe add chicken grits/ground oyster shells for better drainage (but maybe not if pH is already alkaline). I would inoculate the mixture with some good compost.
Adjust the moisture level, then cover the whole bed with mulch and let it settle.

I would treat this as an extra rich bed and grow things that will need rich soil.

IF you need the bed quicker and you don't mind heavy labor, my recommendation is to double dig the bed with the amendments. This will quickly introduce air deep down and fluff up the soil.

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Avonnow
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Cow manure

They told me it was aged, I got it at a organic farmers market, it was all bagged by a local farmer, maybe this wasn't aged liked it should have been. Most of my beds did great from the addition, maybe just maybe that was the problem, this was too fresh. I do need it soon, but tis helps,I was going to throw all the soil away, maybe I will just put it in the compost if I can't get it
Tilled up likely said. Thanks !
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bnoles
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It sounds like this bed may not be getting as much sun as your other beds and has possibly turned boggy. Applestar has provided excellent advice which will help greatly. If there is too much shade on this particular bed, is it possible to trim or change the cause of the shade? Another thought is that the bed may be receiving too much water which can also cause the bog like conditions.
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Avonnow
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Smelly soil

It gets sun, a lot in spring and summer not as much in winter, but it is not soggy, I truly have no idea what caused this funk all of a sudden, it was used repeatedly for two and half years and then this. The only thing different was the manure from spring 2012. It smells musty, the soil got kinda chunky in places and had a gray white appearance. The tomato plant in their now is huge and I am waiting till all the tomatoes on it ripen (happening now) to dig it up, the plants in it started out well and produced, then the funk came and they all seemed to get disease ridden, started looking bad, and just did poorly after that. I am going to try his advice - I need to learn these things to get better at this.
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rainbowgardener
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her advice.

And I agree there's no reason to throw all that soil out, just amend it and aerate it, like applestar said.
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klevelyn
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It sounds like the normal decomposition of the compost. My garden is mulched and I get the gray moldy cast to my compost as well. The manure may still be breaking down.

Adds some more matter or soil and mix in. I think you'll be fine.
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rainbowgardener
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Looking through this thread, it sounds like for some reason the drainage wasn't good enough in that bed, as witness the mushrooms popping up. Staying too wet, de-oxygenates it, leading to anaerobic decomposition, which is stinky.

Solution is still aerating and mixing with more dry material, but you may need to investigate why it was not draining well.
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jal_ut
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Hmmmm, well from where I stand it looks like you have a little too much organic matter already. I would not add more. A couple of buckets of sand and turn the soil with a fork to get some air into it and it should be just fine. Throw in some earthworms too.

Just a word about soils. Natural soil consists of clay, silt, sand, organic matter, water, air, chemicals, and a host of small living things. The clay silt and sand vary in percentages depending on where the soil is found and what formations it was derived from. These three things make most of the bulk of the soil. The finer particles hold water well. Clay has really fine particles. silt a little larger particles and sand even larger particles. A good soil is 10% clay, 30% silt, 30% sand, 10% organic matter, and the remainder made up of the other things found in soil. The things most often lacking in soil is nitrogen and water. You know where water comes from. The nitrogen comes from decaying organic matter and from the air. The air is rich in nitrogen, but it is not useable in that form. When there is lightning nitrogen is fixed (converted to a form the plants can use) and comes down with the rain.

OK, anytime any of these things in the soil gets out of balance, like too much or too little of it, then you have problems. In this case it looks like too much organic matter and too little air.

Manure is to be used as a soil amendment. A little goes a long way. An inch deep on an area is plenty.

..........................

Artificial soils are usually made from peat, perlite, and vermiculite which are all devoid of plant nutrients. They serve as root anchors. Then usually some organic matter is added like a bit of compost or sawdust then some chemical fertilizers. These fake soils are light weight and have been used a lot for pots and do ok as long as you keep adding fertilizer. The big problem is that they often are way lacking in some of the trace minerals that are found in clay and silt.
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DoubleDogFarm
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Re: Smelly soil

Avonnow wrote:It gets sun, a lot in spring and summer not as much in winter, but it is not soggy, I truly have no idea what caused this funk all of a sudden, it was used repeatedly for two and half years and then this. The only thing different was the manure from spring 2012. It smells musty, the soil got kinda chunky in places and had a gray white appearance. The tomato plant in their now is huge and I am waiting till all the tomatoes on it ripen (happening now) to dig it up, the plants in it started out well and produced, then the funk came and they all seemed to get disease ridden, started looking bad, and just did poorly after that. I am going to try his advice - I need to learn these things to get better at this.
How much wood chip in the manure mix. Could the chunky grey white just be mycorrhizal fungi, a good thing for plants.

"The tomato plants are huge" This tells me that you don't have a problem, unless it is mostly foliage and not much fruit.

Do you have tomatoes in any of the other beds. Are they diseased. I'm thinking the disease is a separate issue. Not manure related.

Is this bed lower than the others, at the bottom of a slope. Drainage maybe.

Eric

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