Bone meal fertilizer, an organic supplement, is derived from treated and finely ground animal bones. Renowned as a rich repository of crucial nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and nitrogen, it fosters robust plant growth and vitality. Bone meal fertilizer is most commonly made from beef bones, but alternatives like fish and chicken bones can also be utilized.
This fertilizer variant contains a good amount of nutrients and caters to an extensive array of plants. It’s ideal for anything from fruits, vegetables, flowers, shrubs, and trees. The usage of bone meal fertilizer is particularly effective for enhancing phosphorus levels in your garden, a nutrient integral to the flowering process.
It serves as a counterbalance when used with other organic soil amendments that are high in nitrogen. As a slow-release organic fertilizer, bone meal supplies phosphorus and calcium, along with a minimal nitrogen quantity to plants, making it a favorable choice for establishing lawns by aiding the maturation of young plants.
However, it’s worth mentioning that bone meal fertilizer doesn’t suit every garden or circumstance. A prior soil test is suggested to determine its appropriateness for your garden. Let’s learn the super simple process of making bone meal fertilizer at home from this blog post.
How to Make Bone Meal Fertilizer at Home
1. Collect animal bones leftover from meals or from a local butcher. These can be from any animal, chicken, beef, or fish, for example. You don’t need a ton of bones to get started, but the more you have, the more bone meal you can make.
2. Put the bones in a large pot and add enough water to cover them. Heat the water until it starts boiling, then let the bones boil for around 20 minutes. This will clean the bones, getting rid of any leftover meat, fat, and marrow.
3. Once the bones are clean, remove them from the pot and spread them out to dry. You can either place them under the sun for several days or in an oven. If using an oven, set it to its lowest temperature and bake the bones for about 2-4 hours until they are thoroughly dry.
4. Now that your bones are dry, it’s time to grind them into a powder. You can use a high-powered blender, a hammer, or a mortar and pestle. If using a blender, make sure it’s capable of handling the task to avoid any damage. Break the bones down into small pieces before placing them in the blender. Blend until you have a fine powder.
5. Transfer the bone meal into a storage container. Ensure the container is well-sealed to keep the bone meal dry and to prevent any unwanted pests.
How Often Should Bone Meal Fertilizer Be Applied to Plants
Bone meal fertilizer is a natural, slow-release food source for plants that provides key nutrients over time. But how often should you apply it? The simple answer is – it depends on your plants’ needs and the state of your soil.
As a rule of thumb, applying bone meal fertilizer to your plants once every 2-4 months is generally sufficient. This is because it takes time to break down and distribute its nutrients into the soil. Overuse can lead to excessive phosphorus levels, which may harm your plants and upset the soil balance.
For new plants or those being transplanted, incorporating bone meal into the soil at planting time can offer a helpful initial boost. Established plants often benefit from an application at the start of the growing season and perhaps one or two more times throughout, depending on their health and growth.
Always remember to test your soil before application. This ensures that your plants actually need the phosphorus and calcium that bone meal provides. Ultimately, moderation and observation of your plants’ health will guide your bone meal application schedule.
Risks of Using Bone Meal Fertilizer in Your Garden
Even the bone meal fertilizer is a popular choice among gardening enthusiasts. It’s important to be aware of potential drawbacks that may accompany its use.
Gradual Impact – Bone meal is a slow-release fertilizer. This means it won’t provide an immediate nutrient boost to your plants but will nourish them over time.
Imbalance – Bone meal is not a balanced fertilizer, which means if your plants require other nutrients, you may need to complement it with other types of fertilizers.
Attracts scavengers– If not properly incorporated into the soil, the scent of bone meal can attract unwelcome visitors, such as scavengers, to your garden.
pH Limitations – The effectiveness of bone meal fertilizer is pH-dependent, typically working best in soils with a pH level below 7.
May destroy beneficial fungi – It can eliminate essential mycorrhizal fungi and can also hinder the soil’s capacity to absorb critical nutrients like iron.
Possible Toxicity – Even it’s marketed as safe for humans and pets, bone meal does possess a certain level of potential toxicity that could pose a risk under certain circumstances.
Not Plant-based – Bone meal is a byproduct of the meat industry, it’s not suitable for those seeking vegan or vegetarian-friendly fertilizing options.
Why You Need to Add Beneficial Microbes
Now you’ve learned how to make bone meal fertilizer right in your backyard. As you already know, this particular product is a slow-release fertilizer, which means we need to find a method to fasten its decomposition process.
A multitude of decomposing microbes naturally inhabit soil. However, when their numbers in your garden is low, it’s advisable to supplement the soil with them. This step would accelerate the decomposition process, releasing nutrients to your plants at a faster rate.
You can purchase most types of commercially available decomposing microbes from gardening stores, or even grow them at home. When I bring new microbes into my garden, I typically feed them microbial foods, such as fish hydrolysate and molasses, in moderate amounts to make them multiply even faster.
If the beneficial microbial activity in your garden soil is strong enough, you can grow almost anything even without adding any type of fertilizer. But always remember, the microbes grow when they have sufficient food sources and favorable environment.