What to know about Bone Meal Fertilizer
Being a gardener involves constantly looking for the best way to improve the growth of your plants.
What better way to do that than to use the best fertilizer to ensure your plants continuously have good health?
One fertilizer gardeners are familiar with is bone meal. There is no doubt that bone meal has a lot of benefits which add to the growth of plants; however, could there be some downsides to this popular fertilizer?
In this article, we will look at what bone meal is, when and how to apply it as well as the different pros and cons of bone meal.
Let’s dive in!
So, what is Bone Meal?
Bone meal is produced from animal bones that have been crushed into a smooth powder. It is typically a by-product of the slaughterhouse; however, one can make bone meal from the bones of meat consumed at home.
The bones are heated for sterilization purposes, and the flesh parts on the bones are removed before grinding.
Bone meal is a form of organic fertilizer packed full of various nutrients.
The three primary nutrients this fertilizer comprises are phosphorus, an essential nutrient for plant growth, nitrogen, and calcium.
Bone meal is environmentally friendly as it is free from chemicals; it is also easily accessible and can be made by oneself.
It is vital to remember that bone meal is not interchangeable with blood meal. They are similar, yet there are two important variations between them.
Bone meal is produced from bones, while dried animal blood is used for blood meal. Blood meal, on the other hand, mostly gives nitrogen, and bone meal primarily supplies phosphorus.
Does My Garden Need Bone Meal?
Although bone meal benefits the soil in many ways, the question remains: should bone meal be added to all gardens?
It is not advisable to add bone meal to your plants without knowing if it is required or not. This is because there is a risk of overfertilizing the soil, which will cause more damage to your plant.
Another disadvantage is too much phosphorus will lead to reduced chlorophyll production resulting in yellow leaves in plants.
To determine if your garden needs bone meal, first carry out a soil test. A soil test will let you know the phosphorus level of your garden.
You can then compare your results to the phosphorus level recommended for your desired vegetables.
With this information, you can determine if your soil needs more phosphorus.
How is Bone Meal Used?
After determining if you need bone meal or not, the next step is to incorporate the fertilizer properly.
There are different ways to incorporate bone meal into your plants, depending on the time or place you are planting.
Applying during soil preparation
Before planting, incorporate the bone meal into the soil by sprinkling evenly and mixing well. Add water during dry weather.
During growing season
If you plan on incorporating bone meal fertilizer throughout the growing season, distribute the bone meal around the soil and ensure to fork it into the soil without disturbing the roots of the plants. Do not forget to water the plant.
For plants in Containers
Apply bone meal at the beginning of the planting season and once or twice during the growing season.
Incorporate the bone meal into the soil by sprinkling it around the soil while being careful not to disturb the roots.
The amount of bone meal used will differ depending on the brand of bone meal used. It is advisable to check the instructions on the package of the bone meal.
Another good rule of thumb is to use 3 cups every 100 square feet of soil. Remember to adequately water your plants after adding bone meal, as this helps activate the fertilizer.
Benefits of Bone Meal
As earlier stated, bone meal is a good source of phosphorous, an essential component needed for the growth of plants.
Given that bone meal is very easy for plants to utilize, it is no coincidence that gardeners love this fertilizer.
With the abundant phosphorus available in bone meal, the plants gain many benefits, such as better root and seed growth and prevention of stunted growth.
Phosphorous also ensure the transfer of plant energy and the development of flowers and fruit. Sometimes, plants might suffer from phosphorus deficiency.
Some signs to look at include stunted growth, weak stems, dark leaf veins, and faded colour on leaves ranging from purple, yellow and blue-green.
Other signs include flowers appearing late, underdeveloped or no sign of flowers.
As we all know, calcium is a component of healthy bones, and it is no surprise that bone meal also contains this nutrient; after all, it is made from bones.
Plants can develop healthy cells and seeds with the calcium in bone meal. The plant’s stems become more substantial due to the calcium, which promotes new shoot’s growth.
Just like plants suffer from phosphorus deficiency, they can also suffer from calcium deficiency.
Calcium insufficiency can be detected by a variety of symptoms, including the emergence of malformed leaves, the loss of growth tips, and the absence of leaf production. There are also small, stunted roots visible.
A calcium deficit in fruits can manifest as blossom end root. This is a condition in which the blossom end of the fruit darkens, takes on a brittle appearance, and subsequently rots.
No regular application is needed
Due to the ability of bone meal to break down slowly, it does not need to be applied to plants regularly.
How convenient is that! When added to the soil, the fertilizer slowly breaks down throughout the season and feeds the plants consistently.
An outstanding Balance for plants
Adding bone meal to plants helps balance out the components other fertilizers may lack. An example is a manure or compost.
Although these options are high in nitrogen, they are low in nutrients like phosphorus which is needed for plant growth.
What better way to balance this inequality than to incorporate a bone meal?
It is Organic
As stated earlier, bone meal is an organic fertilizer free from chemicals. It serves as a feeding source for the soil’s microbes, promoting plants’ growth.
The improvement of the microbes in the soil leads to easier accessibility to nutrients by plant roots. With easier accessibility to nutrients, faster growth is promoted.
Promote the health of flowering plants
Bone meal provides an abundant supply of phosphorus. Thus, adding bone meal to the base of flowing plants at the beginning of the planting season will result in enhanced flowering plant growth.
Does bone meal have any disadvantages?
Unfortunately, just like anything good in life, bone meal also has some disadvantages.
Not for all Soil
Bone meal is not suitable for all soil types. Due to the level of phosphorus present in bone meal, it is most suitable for plants that thrive at a pH level that is below 7.0. Therefore, it is essential first to test your soil to see if bone meal is needed or not.
Another disadvantage of this fertilizer is the safety issue for pets and children when ingested.
According to ASPCA reports, one of the top ten emergency reports to Pet Poison Control about sick pets is the ingestion of garden products.
The fragrance of bone meal attracts pets such as dogs. Bone meal is formed from bones, so it is no surprise that bone meal will attract dogs.
This aroma compels the animals to enter the garden and consume the bone meal. This not only ruins your garden by disturbing the roots of your plants, but it also endangers your pets.
This is because eating too much bone meal causes a ball-like structure to grow in their stomach, hindering digestion.
In other to ensure the safety of everyone, it is advisable to blend the bone meal entirely into the soil. This way, the bone meal does not form clumps and results in no harm.
Another question some people might have is if one can contact Mad Cow Disease from touching the powder of bone meal.
The chance of this happening is low due to the extensive testing commercial bone meal go through before it is processed. Hence, animals affected by the disease will not be used to produce bone meals.
Bone meal is also a health hazard when it is not used correctly. When the bone meal is not appropriately mixed into the soil, heavy rainfall can cause the fertilizer to run into water systems.
As we know, bone meal is high in nutrients such as phosphorus and calcium. When this fertilizer runs into the water systems, it leads to an algae blossom which is an increase in the algae population in marine systems.
However, this risk is low when natural bone meal is used.
Bone meal is an excellent fertilizer to improve your garden soil. However, it is also essential that one carry out some research to determine if their soil needs fertilizer or not.