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Benefits of Bone Meal in the Garden!

When I was a kid, my grandmother and I would go out to the garden in late winter and tend to the newly emerging bulbs and plants awakening from their winter slumber.

As the days began to lengthen and warm, spring flowering plants like daffodils, snowdrops, and violas would really come to life. Back then my grandmother knew what would take me close to a decade to figure out all over again; that adding bone meal around them as they awaken would give those bulbs and flowers the boost they would need to perform during the spring, but also store up energy for the next season!

Bone meal, as I would later re-learn, is a valuable and natural fertilizer that can significantly enhance the health and vitality of your garden, and not just for spring flowering plants either. Derived from finely and coarsely ground animal bones, bone meal is rich in essential nutrients, primarily phosphorus and calcium. Its benefits extend to various aspects of plant growth and development, making it a popular choice among gardeners aiming for robust and flourishing gardens.

In our article on Organic vs Conventional synthetics we mentioned slow release fertility. Bone meal is one such option!

Let's talk about the benefits of its use, and why and how each is important for plant health.

Rich Source of Phosphorus and Calcium

Bone meal is prized for its high phosphorus content, a crucial nutrient for plants. Phosphorus plays a crucial role in energy transfer and storage, promoting robust root development, flower and fruit production, and overall plant vigor. Additionally, calcium in bone meal contributes to cell wall structure and strength, aiding in disease resistance and overall plant resilience and rigidity. Sturdy flowers for vases, and helps prevent flopping during storms!

Stimulates Root Development

The phosphorus in bone meal is particularly beneficial for root development. Strong and healthy roots are essential for nutrient absorption and overall plant stability. Incorporating bone meal into the soil can help create an environment for robust root systems, ensuring your plants are well-established and better equipped to withstand environmental stressors. In the South, we often have downpours and severe weather as the cold fronts of the North do battle with the warm Southernly winds coming from the gulf of Mexico. Ensuring a robust root system is key to prevent leaning on trees, or washouts from those spring deluges.

Flower and Fruit Production

The phosphorus content in bone meal is known to enhance flowering and fruiting in plants. When applied at the right stage of growth, it encourages the development of abundant and vibrant blooms, as well as the production of higher quality fruits. This makes bone meal a valuable addition to your gardening routine, especially if you're cultivating flowering plants or fruit-bearing trees. Tropicals like Heliconia, Elephant Ears, and Plumeria all benefit from the addition of a little extra phosphorus. This natural form slowly breaks down, and prevents burn like some "bloom-booster" fertilizers.

Organic and Slow-Release

One of the big advantages of using bone meal is its organic nature (of course). As a natural fertilizer, it aligns with organic gardening practices, promoting sustainability and environmental friendliness. Additionally, bone meal acts as a slow-release fertilizer, providing a steady supply of nutrients over time. This slow-release characteristic ensures that plants receive a continuous and balanced nutrient supply, reducing the risk of over-fertilization.

Soil Enrichment and pH Regulation

Beyond its nutrient content, bone meal contributes to soil enrichment. It improves the soil structure by adding organic matter, enhancing water retention, and promoting microbial activity. Earth worms LOVE the stuff, and with earth worms comes a ton of added benefits! Additionally, bone meal has a neutral pH, making it a versatile choice for a wide range of soil types. It can help regulate soil acidity, creating an optimal environment for plant growth.

So now that we know why it's so beneficial, here are a few ways to use bone meal in the garden.

How to Use Bone Meal in the Garden:

1. Application at Planting:

When establishing new plants, mix bone meal into the planting hole or trench. This ensures that young plants receive an immediate nutrient boost, setting the stage for healthy growth from the start. I like to do this especially in 3 specific circumstances: Fall plants of annuals like pansies and violas, bulb plantings, and summer plantings of fertilizer hungry tropicals. Adding bone meal in your planting holes for pansies and violas really helps then shine and seems to reduce transplant shock. For bulbs planted in the winter in the South this gives them a great source of energy as they root in and awaken in the spring. For hungry tropicals in summer like Heliconia, the addition of bone meal can help them build robust root systems and produce larger high quality flowers.

2. Top Dressing for Established Plants:

For existing plants, just like grandmother used to do, sprinkle bone meal around the base or drip-line of the plant, avoiding direct contact with stems or foliage. Scratch this into the top layer of soil, and water in. This top dressing can be done in spring and fall to support the plant's nutrient needs throughout the growing season.

3. Incorporate into Potting Mix:

When potting or repotting plants, blend bone meal into the potting mix. I like to use BioTone Starter and a tbs or so of bone meal in nearly every container I do year-round. This is especially beneficial for container gardening, where nutrient availability can be more challenging to maintain, especially on heavy feeding plants. Follow the manufacturers directions on how much is appropriate to add.

4. Vegetable Gardens and Flower Beds:

Broadcast bone meal evenly over vegetable gardens and flower beds. This is best done when beds are put to sleep for the winter. Over winter soil microbiology works to break down the bonemeal into a more readily available for for spring plantings. If you grow crops like onions or garlic over winter this is especially helpful! Work it into the soil surface to ensure proper incorporation. This application method is particularly effective for enhancing soil fertility and promoting overall plant health.

5. Follow Recommended Dosages:

While bone meal is beneficial, it's crucial to follow recommended dosages. Over-application can lead to nutrient imbalances and potential harm to plants. Not to mention invite unwanted guests into the garden like scavenging animals. Always refer to product instructions or seek guidance from local gardening experts.

Well, there you have it folks!

Bone meal stands out as a versatile and effective natural fertilizer, offering a plethora of benefits for plants. From promoting root development to enhancing flowering and fruiting, its nutrient-rich composition contributes to the overall health and vitality of the garden from the soil up! Whether you're an avid gardener or just starting, incorporating bone meal into your gardening routine can lead to a more flourishing and sustainable garden.

Remember to consider the specific needs of your plants, follow recommended application methods, and enjoy the rewards of a thriving garden nurtured by the power of bone meal.



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