By Heather Rhoades
Bone meal fertilizer is often used by organic gardeners to add phosphorus to garden soil. But many people who are unfamiliar with this organic soil amendment may wonder “what is bone meal?” and “how to use bone meal on flowers?” Keep reading below to learn about using bone meal for plants.
What is Bone Meal?
Bone meal fertilizer is essentially what it says it is. It is a meal or powder made from ground up animal bones, normally beef bones, but they can be the bones of any animal commonly slaughtered. The bone meal is steamed to increase its availability for plants.
Because bone meal is made from mostly beef bones, some people wonder if it is possible to get BSE (also known as Mad Cow Disease) from handling bone meal. This is not possible. First, the animals that are used for making bone meal for plants are tested for the disease and cannot be used for any purpose if the animal is found to be infected. Second, the process that is used to produce bone meal kills any kind of pathogens, like BSE, that the animal may have had.
How to Use Bone Meal on Plants
Bone meal fertilizer is used to increase phosphorus in the garden. Most bone meal has a NPK of 3-15-0. Phosphorus is essential for plants in order for them to flower. Bone meal phosphorus is easy for plants to take up. Using bone meal will help your flowering plants, like roses or bulbs, grow bigger and more plentiful flowers.
Before adding bone meal for plants to your garden, have your soil tested. The effectiveness of bone meal phosphorus drops significantly if the pH of the soil is above 7. If you find that your soil has a pH higher than 7, correct your soil’s pH first before adding bone meal, otherwise the bone meal will not work.
Once the soil has been tested, add bone meal fertilizer at the rate of 10 pounds for every 100 square feet of garden that you are amending. The bone meal will release phosphorus into the soil for up to 4 months.
Bone meal is also useful for balancing out other high nitrogen, organic soil amendments. For example, rotted manure is an excellent source of nitrogen but it tends to lack significant amounts of phosphorus. By mixing bone meal fertilizer in with rotted manure, you have a well balanced organic fertilizer.