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Bone Meal Organic Fertilizer

* For pre-seeding and turfing new lawns
* Rose and shrub fertilizer...
* To establish new plants after division or planting,
* Long lasting P and calcium keeps soil sweet

Traditional Bone Meal is a valuable shrub fertilizer used in plant establishment - for roses, bulbs, pre-seeding new lawns, and annual renewal of herbaceous plants. Bone meal is a long lasting 'organic fertilizer' too.

You'll notice from the N:P:K analysis below that traditional bone meal isn't a complete fertilizer. Therefore some branded Bone Meal products are supplemented or semi-organic fertilizers - more below.

You'll find details here of where to obtain bone meal and where, when, and how to make use of it in your garden, and what to avoid - also what makes bone meal a good organic new lawn and shrub fertilizer? Is it a myth? Do you want to know more?

More than a shrub fertilizer - bone meal is also:

  • Kind to emerging seedlings,
  • An amendment for acid soils,
  • Benefits bulbs and root crops,
  • Sterilized and widely used by gardeners,
  Bone meal supplies for gardeners are here.

What's In Bone Meal?

Traditional sterilized bone meal varies typically around - Nitrogen 4; Phosphorus 15; Potassium 0.  
Phosphorus (P) - an important plant nutrient credited with supporting root development so that your plant will be more able to look after itself - more below.

Calcium (Ca) - also supports root growth. Calcium is especially important in plant cell walls and is lost every time leaves are shed. Find more on plant nutrients

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Bone meal is frequently used to add the major plant nutrient phosphorus to well-known organic fertilizer blends. And it contains calcium in plenty to support plant renewal every new season.

Supplemented Semi-Organic Bone Meal

Traditional bone meal contains N:P:K of around 4:15:0. But the analysis on some U.K. packs has been 7:7:7 which means an amendment, possibly potassium chloride, has been added. This travesty is to make up for slow release of nutrients and to satisfy expectations of gardeners who are looking for an all-purpose fertilizer - you can check how to use the traditional stuff below. Regulators appear to have been persuaded that a minimum K amendment is acceptable. In the U.K. you may find same brand different pack sizes vary in this way.  Check out the products.

Where to use Bone Meal in your garden:

  • When planting shrubs and trees - ensures strong root growth so your plants are well-established. See quantities below for bone meal mixed into the back fill and sprinkled around the planting hole. It is often recommended for use with roses.
  • Rake in before seeding/planting/turfing new lawns. Supports strong root growth for healthy drought resistant lawns. Best applied well before the growing season and before grass cutting.
  • My choice of fertilizer when planting new perennials or after dividing them. Mixed into soil and watered in with new plants in late summer it helps them make strong roots then leaves come spring. A nitrogen fertilizer in The Fall would be no good.
  • Proprietary composts used for seed sowing often seem low in nutrients. Try mixing bone meal into homemade or bought in seed composts a few weeks before sowing seed. It's kind on new seedling roots.
    When it comes to planting out greens and flowers fish, blood and bone is probably better.

Find more ways to use bone meal below...

More than a shrub fertilizer -
Here's 3 more ways to use your bone meal for organic gardening.

  • Before sowing Runner Beans, French Beans, Peas, Broad Beans and Sweet Peas I work in a small amount of bone meal. This helps the soil bacteria Rhyzobium to form root nodules, which in turn feed nitrogen. Phosphorus is good for seed producers too. My plants get a strong and healthy start when I do this.
  • When planting bulbs, large corms, and root tubers - Dahlias, Gladiola, Peony - Onions, Carrots - I mix a sprinkling of bone Meal into the bottom of the planting holes.
  • Use bone meal with lime loving flowers Clematis, Hydrangea... and especially lime loving plants grown in containers.

Use These Quantities

  • Work in 140 grams (~3 handfuls) per square metre (4oz/SqYd) before sowing seed - esp. lawns* - apply at least 2 weeks before,
  • Add 45 grams (~1 handful or 1½oz) per 1 square foot planting hole or
    450grams (~ 10 handfuls or 16oz) per square yard planting hole
    into back fill and around root zone for shrubs and trees,
  • As a top dressing work in 140 grams (~3 handfuls) per square metre (4oz/SqYd) for fruit in autumn to be ready for spring.
  • Find Bone Meal here.

How to use Bone Meal in your garden:

It's one of those organic wonders that challenged chemists, yet your plants really can extract insoluble P out of soil - see plant nutrients.

But you need to remember that bone meal is most effective when well-mixed with the garden soil so it's close to plant roots.

Because bone meal is slow acting it should be applied and watered in a few weeks before your plants will need it.

Where I don't use Bone Meal in the garden:

  • Not on acid loving plants like Rhododendrons, Azalea, Camellia, Heathers, Cranberry, and potatoes. The calcium in bone meal may increase soil ph.
  • Take care if using bone meal where soil ph is already high.
  • Care needed in gardens with pet dogs. Your pet may lick and scratch where it has been used as a top dressing. Timing the application, watering in, raking over, fencing off the area, are among possible solutions.

    One gardener posted a complaint about Miracle Grow causing this behaviour. This was probably due to bone meal included in an organic blend - but I don't suppose it's especially harmful. Do keep the container sealed and out of reach.


Where does bone meal come from?

It is made from the sterilized bones of animals that went to slaughterhouses - an age-old example of waste minimization and recycling. Sterilized bone meal is a traditional lawn and shrub fertilizer.

How does bone meal really work

Bone meal is very long lasting and slow acting. It can last for a year perhaps longer. Course grade bone meal should be slower and last longest.

But use of Bone meals as a shrub fertilizer has been questioned by findings that it reduces the formation of micorrhyzal friendly fungi. However, some soils and shrubs are not amenable to this anyway, especially following modern soil cultivation.

With small shrubs a sufficient supply of garden compost may be available but larger trees will benefit from bone meal supplement - and I know this works.

Fine grade bone meal can be mixed into compost.


You can find more about Nitrogen, Phosphate and Calcium on my page about plant nutrients and what they really do to your plants.



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