There doesn't seem to be a landscaping group, and this is the closest
I could find to one. We buried a pet a few days ago in our backyard.
I noticed today that the soil around the hole that I dug is cracking
(probably 1/16 - 1/8 inch wide cracks). The hole was probably about 2
feet by 2 feet by 2.5 - 3 feet deep. I'm guessing that the
surrounding soil, which is well compacted, is moving, pushing against
the loser soil that I filled the hole with. My worry is that the hole
I dug is within a few feet of both the foundation of my house and my
cement patio. Cracks on the soil surface already extend to the patio
although not (yet) to the foundation. My question: is this a cause
for concern? I live in the midwest and am concerned that, once winter
comes, water in the cracks in the soil will freeze and expand, causing
damaage to the patio if the cracks extend beneath it. Related to
this, how long will the cracks remain and is it likely that there are
other cracks beneath the surface which may also persist that I need to
worry about? If the cracks, if they persist, might be a hazard to my
patio and possibly my foundation by allowing water to stand in them
and freeze eventually, what can I do to mitigate this situation before
any damage occurs?
The cracks are from an effect called "Protomorphis ejaculata". It is a
reaction of some soil types to the addition of excess organic matter.
In this case the excess organic matter is probably from the carcass of
the pet that you buried in the soil.
The decomposition of the carcass is resulting in a build up of heat in
the area which results in soil moisture being expelled into the
atmosphere. As you know, when soil dries its volume decreases,
resulting in separation of matter, or cracks in the soil.
This is generally harmless, and the cracks will fill in with the next
general rainfall of 1 inch or more, unless you do not receive rain for
more than 3-4 weeks. In this case the heat in the soil will build up to
excessive levels causing immense pressure in the area of the pet's
carcass. If the soil temperature in this area exceeds 97 degrees there
will be a mild eruption and the soil will expell the animal carcass into
the air, hence the name, Protomorphis ejaculata.
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