A lush, healthy garden is the goal for most of us when the growing season begins, and there's plenty of fertilisers out there that can help your garden look its best throughout the year. Today we're taking a closer look at bone meal fertiliser; what it is, why it's popular and how to use it in your own garden.
What is bone meal fertiliser?
First, it’s useful to know exactly what bone meal fertiliser is.
It’s a fertiliser that comes in a meal (or powder) form and is made from animal bones. The bones are cleaned and then heated or steamed before being ground into a fine powder. It is a great source of essential nutrients.
It’s most commonly made from beef bones and, typically, if you are buying standard bone meal this will be the main component. Other types include a fish meal.
Fish, blood and bone meal fertiliser is another common variety of bone meal fertiliser and is made from fishbone and blood rather than beef bones. It can be used across a wide variety of plants and is ideal for fruit, vegetables, flowers, roses, shrubs and trees.
Note: Because the bone meal is typically made using beef bones, it is a common concern whether or not it's possible to transmit Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE - also known as Mad Cow Disease) but you needn't worry.
Animals are thoroughly tested for the disease and cannot be used for any purpose if they test positive for BSE. Furthermore, the molecules that cause BSE can't be absorbed by plants, so the chances of transmitting mad cow disease through your garden plants are slim to none.
Why use bone meal for plants?
Bone meal acts as a great fertiliser for a few key reasons.
- The first is that it’s a great source of Phosphorus which is used by new plants to produce strong roots and so is great for root vegetables such as onions, garlic, carrot and parsnip.
- It’s easy for plants to absorb and take up, and is slow-release to benefit plants for months at a time.
- It can be added to planting holes for most plants and is really useful when planting bulbs in the autumn as it encourages root growth, leading to better flowering the following spring
- It also contains nitrogen, which encourages plants to grow strong and promotes lush green foliage.
- Finally, bone meal’s organic matter naturally encourages the improvement of micro-organisms which can help improve the soil’s fertility and structure.
When to use
Bone meal for plants can be used from February to November and applied prior to sowing any seeds, or throughout the growing season as needed.
How to apply bone meal fertiliser
During soil preparation: Sprinkle bone meal fertiliser evenly over the soil or add to planting compost. Make sure it's mixed well. If the weather is dry, water in well.
In the growing season: If you're adding bone meal throughout the growing season, sprinkle evenly around established part of the soil and gently fork it into the surface. Be careful not to disturb plant roots as you do so. Water thoroughly.
Plants in containers: For established plants in containers, apply the bone meal fertiliser at the start of the season and then once or twice throughout the growing season to help strengthen plants. Again, sprinkle around the plants and work it into the soil being careful of any roots, then water well.
Vegetable plots: If you're using a bone meal for your vegetable plot, add fertiliser and fork it into the soil before planting any seeds.
New plants: Once you've made a planting hole fork a small amount of bone meal for plants into the hole. You can also add it to the compost and soil that will be used as the planting mixture. Water thoroughly.
Bone meal is a slow release feed so continue to ensure regular watering to help it absorb into the soil. For general plant care tips see our pages on: