Warning about Lowes Topsoil

kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)May 1, 2009

I purchased a few bags of "OrganicValley" topsoil from Lowes just a couple of days ago. I was going to use it just to fill in a couple of ruts in the ground around my rose garden (the ruts left from edging out the bed). The soil SMELLS Foul! It smells like fresh stinky manure and something else I'm not sure of.

I am afraid to use it anywhere. I have NEVER gotten any soil topsoil, potting soil or such that smells like this.

I guess I will be sticking to the more expensive topsoil if I need any. I don't like to use it unless I have to. And then I always incorporate organics with it.

Just FYI


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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Many times plastic bagged soils/mixes are stored outside in garden centers where they get wet from the rain and then bake in the sun. They can turn anaerobic in the bag and so smell "off". This isn't a situation that is unique to Lowes or to any other company or brand name and happens far more often than you might think.

Once opened, spread out and allowed to dry they are fine and safe to use. So if it bothers you just split the bag open someplace out of the way and let it dry well before using it.

Not familiar with the brand name but given the "organic" designation it is likely that is has some sort of composted manure in it - thus the odor. Check the ingredients label. This, as opposed to the many plain soil-less mixes that contain no manure or compost but are just peat, vermiculite/perlite, lime, and some bark fines.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 5:38PM
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Dan Staley

Agreed with digdirt. Happens all the time.


    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 7:58PM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

OK, thanks. I will open the bag and allow it to dry off, after we get rid of this rain! lol :)


    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 8:55PM
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I am still not sure why anyone would pay money for something called "topsoil" when what their soil needs is organic matter, compost, etc., not more "soil".

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 8:02AM
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Dan Staley

Perhaps 'Topsoil' is shorthand for the product the OP purchased.

But rereading the comment, if the bed is adjacent to a lawn, you want the ruts to prevent the grass from moving into the bed. This is a trick that has been used for centuries to prevent the spread of turf into beds.


    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 10:01AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I buy topsoil all the time because my soil is rocks.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 1:30AM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

I used the topsoil because of the ruts. I had installed that red brick edging in a circular pattern around my rose Maria Stern. I was just filling around the "outside" of the circle where I had large ruts from the edger tool.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 6:15AM
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Since any "topsoil" is 95 percent mineral, something you already have plenty of even if you have really bad soil, and maybe 5 percent organic matter, which is most likely what your really bad soil needs badly, why spend your money on what you already have and not on what your soil needs, organic matter?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 7:13AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Organic matter rots and he is filling in holes around the edging.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2009 at 11:54PM
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val_s(z5 central IL)

Kentstar - Go ahead and buy topsoil to fill in ruts. Some people don't read well.

Personally, I would think you'd need "soil" to "fill in" ruts. No matter how much compost you make it won't turn in to "dirt".


    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 7:36AM
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Where does that good "topsoil" in the forest come from? How is that made? What happens in the forest that would be different from what happens in your garden? What happens when you add compost to your soil? What is compost? What is organic matter? What makes a good loam better?
The answer to every question here is organic matter. Garden writers from Keith Baldwin to Masanoba Fukuoka have told us that what our soils need is organic matter.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 7:49AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Kimmsr, you're right of course, but he's not trying to build up soil fertility, he's trying to fill in a hole to make his lawn flat.

I've griped about hardware store soil and compost products for years. I agree with what digdirt said above and others echoed about manure getting wet abd anaerobic. My other pet peeve is "compost" products that turn out to be nothing but silt with maybe 5-10% organic matter. I've run into this a lot around here and the store managers just blow it off. You gotta poke the bag and check the product, especially at the lower end of the price range.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 11:17AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

If you need fill, you need to buy dirt. No getting around it.

If you are making raised beds, filling hole, raising the grade, you need soil not compost.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 12:08PM
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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

Right, compost is something great to be "added" to the soil for raised beds, garden beds,etc. Here I am only filling in ruts. Why would I spend the extra money on compost (I can't compost where I live anyway) when I can spend less on topsoil? Yes, you should add OM to the garden, but here it is not in the garden, but outside the garden.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 4:39PM
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tedln(7 Texas)

Note to the purists, your right. If your planting a garden, compost is best. If your filling in holes and ruts, topsoil or soil or small rock is best.

This year, I added two raised beds to my vegetable garden. In the past, I purchased the bagged topsoil and used it as a starting point to which I then added composted material to make good gardening soil. It may not sound good, but it works. The purchased topsoil in bags was of very good quality in the past, but for the last two years; Walmart, Lowes, and Home Depot had the same topsoil from the same supplier. If you read the small print on the bags, it is bagged and marketed by Scotts. The material for the last two years looks like junk they scrape up around construction sites. It has white soil that looks like caliche with about 50% sand and a few broken twigs they call "organic material". I understand when companies attempt to increase profits by reducing the quantity or quality of a product they market for a given price. I just never thought they would lower the quality of dirt to increase profits.

I'm starting a new compost pile this year to add too the "topsoil", but when you reach a certain age; you possibly can't wait long for the compost to mature.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 5:25PM
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I used the same method with my rasied beds. We built the beds and used the Sta-Green Veggie mix the first year. Veggies were massive!

That winter, I shredded leaves and composted directly into the beds. In the spring added more soil and mixed everything well. Same results!

This past winter same thing, except for composting directly (we now have a small bin for that), I added the shredded leaves. So now I will add a couple bags of the veggie soil mix to freshen everything up and add a bag or two of store bought compost (mine is not ready yet!) and I should be good to go.

Soil is the foundation to grow things. It is what you add to the soil that gives you varied results. Add nothing, get minnmal results. Add organic matter, get much better results! Pretty simple concept.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 1:30PM
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I bought a couple bales of potting soil from Costco and don't like the smell of it either. Sort of a cross between wood chips and manure which is probably what it is - and not completely composted. Since I'm not driving 2+ hours each way to return it I'll use it somehow but I'm not thrilled and they'll hear from me.

Several years ago I bot (from Costco) potting soil that was good. Wish one could depend on these companies for quality products. I know if enough of us complain it will make a difference.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 7:58PM
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I got some top soil from Orchard, I like it find. Sure it does smell but just add it, and you will see it will decompose more then no more smell. It will work find.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 9:09AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Organic material will help your lawn. It will increase the life span of your lawn. I had a sod lawn for like 8 years, then it just died out. The soil was very depleted underneath, but the one part I had added lots of organic matter lived longer and stayed greener over all. It was a patch that had been dead before I reseeded and added organics. I know it's kind of expensive, but organic matter is worth it. You mix the organics with the top soil.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 3:59PM
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SmokyMist(7 East TN)

I'm so glad to find this topic. I bought two bags of The organic Valley Potting Soil from Lowes to mix with other soils to use in a small raised bed I was going to grow greens in. We first noticed the smell, like gasoline, on the way home. The kids thought maybe we'd spilled gasoline in the car from a gas can for mowing. When I opened one bag today it smelled HORRIBLE. Like gasoline or burnt rubber. I went ahead, against my better judgement and poured a bag into the raised bed, thinking the smell would get better as I mixed it with other components . I also potted some seedlings up and used this soil and noticed I can't get that gasoline smell off my hands ! I called Lowes, and they said if I would dig all of that potting soil back out of the bed I put it in, and brought the bags back in, they would swap them out. They didn't seem at all concerned about the smell. I buy at least two bags of potting soil a week to use as I set up at markets with my plants and am always needing it and have never smelled anything so horrible. I'm going to take it out of the bed I put it in, and Put it somewhere, but nowhere near anything I'm going to grow something in that is to eat.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 6:23PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Gasoline? That's disturbing.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2009 at 2:36PM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

I agree. If I fill a hole with organic matter, it rots and the hole is back within 6 months or a year. Only soil will permanently fill it in and not disappear.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 8:35AM
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Hi, I'm new here, (and accepting any critiques on how to use forums! :) But I read your post, and wanted to add 2 things: For one, I did also end up with some utterly lousy bags of store bought topsoil which seemed to be half clay, half scary sewage smell. I had not poked the bags, and never thought of doing so, so will take this advice next time! Cannot recall bag name, but was purchase at either HD r Lowe's. However! I also purchased "Composted Peat" from Lowe's last yr, and it was most excellent. My elephant ears, rex & rhizomatous begonias & subtropicals did outstandingly well, awesome, even with last summer's drought and heat. The jungle curve was fabulous, just beautiful! (all survived the winter indoors, so will be planting out again soon:)

As for not purchasing bagged topsoil, there are times you just need to, especially in a smaller urban yard..such as under a tree with yrs of graveled driveway and clay.. The organic matters take time, and still need real dirt to set with. I find it a ruesome task to try to mix sand in myself, and get it evenly distributed without globs and pockets, amidst the clay clods. It might be impatient of me, but when I wanted to put in my subtropicals curving bed, I pitched boxes of gravel ridden clay clods, and replaced with topsoils, and this great composted peat, which i hope to obtain more of this yr. for enriching other areas :) cheers!

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 10:09AM
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People buy topsoil because they don't have years to amend the clay they are dealing with. Composting takes a few months and while it's cooking, it shrinks to nothing. I'm all for composting and I do it, but some gardeners can get a little too anal about it.

Buy the topsoil if you need a quick fix!!

    Bookmark   May 18, 2013 at 4:06PM
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I noticed that Wal-marts topsoil that is $1.24 a bag makes me think of sewer sludge mixed with sand. I had to fill in a raised bed with 3-4 ft of soil. Some (most) brand name stuff is mostly OM. If I could've found regular soil and mixed with OM that would've been perfect but I didn't have access to clean mineral soil. I am not using the stinky stuff for food, so I'm not worried about pathogens.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 10:27PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Most of this bad smelling stuff will correct itself when it's out of the plastic bag and allowed to get some air. After a few days it will become more aerobic and the smell will dissipate. Next year you won't remember what it was like coming out of the bag. Not that I'm a great fan of this stuff, it's crappy that they sell it in that condition.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2013 at 11:30AM
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I can't smell any stench now after a few days anyway. There was some green mossy stuff in it so I would agree with anaerobic conditions definitely.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 12:29AM
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