How to Use Fertilizers-Bone Meal


What are you growing this year? All of your plants, and especially potatoes, onions, garlic, and flower bulbs, will appreciate a feeding of bone meal! Bone meal is exactly what it sounds like: pulverized bones. These usually are from cattle, as a byproduct of meat production. An alternative type is fish bone meal. Both kinds of bone meal provide equivalent benefits to your soil.

How Is Bone Meal Made

To make bone meal, the leftover bones (which have had all their meat cuts removed) are cleaned by boiling or steaming.  Then they are dried and ground into a powder.  The powder is sold as is, or may be pelletized or liquefied first.

What Does Bone Meal Give to the Garden?

  • The primary benefit of using bone meal in your garden is to provide your plants with an excellent source of phosphorus.
  • Bone meal contains 12 to 16% of phosphorus.
  • The phosphorus in bone meal is in a form that is especially easy for plants to use.
  • It is also a good source of calcium, which is an important nutrient for strong plant growth.
  • Some bone meals contain nitrogen as well, but never in a significant amount.

What to do Before Adding Bone Meal

Before applying bone meal to your garden, have your soil tested. Bone meal is a good choice if your soil is low in phosphorus, because unlike slow-acting Soft Rock Phosphate, it will provide a quick source for deficient soils.

What to do if My Soil pH is Higher than 7?
If your soil pH is higher than 7, the phosphorus will become bound up in the soil and not be available for your plants. If your test results show alkaline soil (above pH 7), bring the pH down first by adding Cottonseed Meal, Peat Moss, Soil Sulfur, or Acid-Loving fertilizers.

What if my Soil is Good in Calcium or Phosphorus?
If your soil test indicates that you have sufficient calcium or phosphorus but not the other, you might instead consider a more targeted solution such as a high-phosphorus guano, or Oyster Shell Flour for calcium.

Tips in Adding Bone Meal to Your Soil

  • When applying bone meal to your garden, be sure to mix it into the soil and not just top-dress it. The scent of bone meal can attract scavenging wildlife such as raccoons, coyotes, and feral dogs, which may wreck havoc in your garden beds as they look for the source of the odor.
  • Store away your fertilizer–wildlife and your own pets that may think it smells like a tasty snack. Although bone meal is not toxic, it can lead to life-threatening impactions in the gut if your pets get into the bag.
  • To use bone meal, apply 5 to 10 pounds per 100 square feet, or 1 to 2 Tablespoons per planting hole for bulbs and transplants.
  • You can also mix it into potting soil at 1/2 cup per cubic foot.
  • To apply to trees, use 1 pound per 2-inches of trunk diameter, and spread it evenly from the trunk to the drip line.

Bone meal is particularly good for helping your flowers bloom and garlic and onions grow big, but all your garden plants will appreciate the phosphorus and calcium it provides. Feed your plants the best, and grow organic for life!