Is it usual for potting soil to smell rotten?

General    PA

I have been out buying some gardening supplies today to get started growing some seeds and I bought a bag of Scott's potting soil. When I opened it up it smelled terrible, I don't even know how to describe it. It smelled rotten. There was definitely something like manure but it wasn't the pleasant earthy smell I was expecting. Is it normal for a potting mix to smell bad like that or did I get a bad batch?

Posted by: Karen Miller (2 points) Karen Miller
Posted: March 16, 2013


Karen, for seed starting, it may be better to get a seeds starting mix rather than potting soil. Seed starting mixes are a bit finer in grain and texture and they usually keep them indoors in the gardening center so they stay dryer. They are specially designed to be good for tiny delicate plants. The potting soil would be best used in a container that you would transplant your established seedlings into (a large pot on the patio) or, as others said, it can be good to work it into the garden bed since it will provide nutrients and organic matter.

Here is an example of a commercially available seed starting mix:

If you are adventurous, you can try your own seed starting mix:

Posted by: Kerry Mauck (58 points) Kerry Mauck
Posted: March 17, 2013

If the bags are opened and too much water/air gets inside it can promote the growth of bacteria/fungi that would lead to things becoming soiled. The soil will still have the nutrients so you could use the soil. I would mix it a bed you are preparing for veggies.

Posted by: David Hughes (55 points) David Hughes
Posted: March 17, 2013

You may be smelling chemical fertilizers. A lot of potting soils now contain various chemicals meant to feed the plants, store water, etc. Unlike the pleasant earthy smell of compost, it's got an acrid tang that's rather unpleasant.

Posted by: David Goodman (67 points) David Goodman
Posted: March 25, 2013

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