Bone Meal Organic Fertilizer

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Robert Pavlis

Bone meal, also spelled bonemeal, is a recommended organic fertilizer that is a good source of phosphorous. Unless your soil test shows a deficiency of phosphorus don’t add it to the garden.

Bone meal organic fertilizer
Bone meal organic fertilizer

Bone Meal Myth

– Most garden soils do not have a phosphorus deficiency.

– Bone meal attracts animals to your bulbs making it more likely that the bulbs will be dug up. Bone meal is usually not needed for bulbs – that’s a myth.

Excess phosphorus inhibits mycorrhizal fungi (ref 1) – which are an important part of the soil ecosystem.

– The phosphorus in bone meal is mostly non-soluble making it inaccessible to plants in the short term. It also moves through soil very slowly; mostly just siting there adding little value. Compost and organic matter are much better sources of phosphorus and if levels are very low use super phosphate as a fertilizer.

References:

1) Bone meal Myths: http://puyallup.wsu.edu/~linda%20chalker-scott/Horticultural%20Myths_files/Myths/Bonemeal.pdf

2) Photo Source: Phil Jackson

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

17 thoughts on “Bone Meal Organic Fertilizer”

  1. At the gardening store, I saw different versions of bone meal, one of them being “precipitated bonemeal (dicalcium phosphate)”. It comes in a very fine white powder, and when I used it I was under the impression of a fast absorbtion (noticeable change) on the plants… Not sure if this is real or just distorted perception… Is precipitated bonemeal (dicalcium phosphate) a different concept than regular bonemeal ?

    Reply
    • The one product I found says it is dicalcium phosphate so it should be more readily available to plants.

      Do you have a calcium or phosphate deficiency? If not – it won’t do anything for you.

      Reply
  2. Is it true that bonemeal must be broken down by microorganisms to be taken up by plants and for that reason, you should not use it in containers filled with mostly sterile potting soil?

    Reply
  3. Interesting. I know this articles is old but Iv been planting some new things lately and looking at nutrients levels of ingredients in fertilizers. I garden in pots as I only have a small patio/backyard thatb is cement so reuse the soil and add a little new soil every few years or so. I have found over the years the most economical thing that seems to work is adding miracle gro shake and feed and compost. I noticed the phosphate used in most common fertilizers and soils such as miracle gro is bone meal and kelp. Maybe bone meal alone is not enough nutrients bc the nitrate needed early in planting releases slowly and it’s lacking in other nutrients such as potassium? I guess that is why miracle gro also adds a fast release nitrogen to get plants started as they need to grow foliage to start with?

    Reply
  4. Several of my potted plants were looking very unhealthy, with older leaves turning red and purple. I gave them bone meal and they got much greener within a couple of weeks. I’m convinced that they were deficient in phosphorus, and that the bone meal helped.

    I’d generally expect potted plants to be more likely to get some deficiency or other, since watering can wash out nutrients through the bottom of the pot and they’re unlikely to be replaced without human intervention.

    Since I tend to be forgetful, I see the low solubility as a plus: it hangs around slowly leaching nutrients for a long time, so I don’t have to remember it as often as I would with a more bio-available fertilizer.

    In conclusion: semi-neglectful owners of potted plants may be an exception to the rule.

    Reply
    • Potted plants are ususally the exception to the rule – but it would be better to feed a more balanced fertilizer than bonemeal.

      Reply
  5. “Bone meal attracts animals to your bulbs making it more likely that the bulbs will be dug up. ”
    When there’s too much food you don’t need, you get something else that will eat it. Nothing goes to waste but why waste in the first place?

    Reply
  6. I just applied bonemeal to my blueberries under the impression that the plants “needed” it while fruit is developing. Should I scrape it off?

    Reply
      • Thanks. I have only 3 plants and so far they’re fruiting well and have a healthy look, mid greed color, no discoloration. Great site. Thank you for your information.

        Reply
  7. does this apply to tropical soils as well? as I observed deficiencies in my vegetable plant that i thought were due to phosphorus.

    i live in malaysia with mostly acidic laterite soils and high rainfall.

    Reply
  8. Has anyone else noticed that the gardening shows that promote ‘Bone Meal Organic Fertilizer’ and sponsored by the manufacturers of ‘Bone Meal Organic Fertilizer’?

    Reply
  9. I once added bonemeal to every bulb I planted, especially my lily bulbs. I always thought they looked especially good. but I have no proof,and I have given up on it because I plant so many bulbs it is not practical. This soil was very sandy so that might have been the reason

    Reply

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