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Should I Use Bone Meal When Planting Bulbs? [And How To]

Bone meal provides essential nutrients that a bulb plant might need. Some gardeners prefer to use bone meal to fertilize their plants, while others prefer different fertilizers. Wondering whether you should use bone meal when planting bulbs? We have researched this topic, and this is what we found out.

You should use bone meal when planting bulbs if you learn that your plants can benefit from supplemental calcium and phosphorus.

Before adding bone meal, make sure that your soil's pH level is below 7.0. Once the soil has reached the appropriate level of acidity, sprinkle the bone meal powder or granules evenly above the soil and water it down before sowing the seeds.

Bone meal provides essential nutrients that can aid a plant's proper growth. However, bone meal is not always necessary, especially if your soil already has enough nutrients for the plant. Continue reading as we discuss important information you might need to know if you are planning to use this method.

Gardener planting flowers in pot with dirt or soil at back yard, Should I Use Bone Meal When Planting Bulbs? [And How To]
Gardener planting flowers in pot with dirt or soil at back yard

Do Bulb Plants Need Bone Meal?

Ripe garlic bulb plants are hanging on old fence for aerate.

Traditionally, the bone meal was used by farmers during a time when the rapidly expanding business of agriculture led to a significant reduction in the essential nutrients required to yield healthy crops.

Since then, different types of fertilizers have been developed to provide the same content as bone meal, including additional nutrients that the fertilizer does not have.

However, lots of gardeners still use fertilizer to add nutrients to their garden's soil. In addition, bone meal is organic, unlike synthetic fertilizers that use inorganic compounds that are usually procured from the petroleum industry.

It is important to note that in terms of providing nutrients, there is not much difference between an organic and synthetic fertilizer because the plants absorb both just the same.

As we mentioned before, bulb plants can benefit from bone meal if their soil lacks the nutrients it can provide. Bone meal is made up of slaughterhouse byproducts and boiled, de-fatted animal bones ground to fine powder or granules.

The organic fertilizer is rich in calcium and phosphorus that can aid soil that has calcium or phosphorus deficiency.

How To Know If My Soil Needs Bone Meal?

There are several ways to determine if your soil needs these nutrients. Calcium is important in assisting a plant's growth because it supports the development of healthy cell walls that reinforce the plant's immunity against harmful pathogens.

However, too much calcium can negatively affect your bulbs by raising pH levels and decreasing the amount of acid in the soil.

Phosphorus is also essential in your plant's growth because it supports the bulb's ability to perform photosynthesis. However, too much of this will negatively affect the plant's ability to absorb micronutrients such as iron and zinc, which are both vital to any plant's health and growth.

You can run a couple of tests on your soil to determine its levels of calcium and phosphorus. You can also check if there are any obvious deficiency signs from other plants in the garden like stunted bud and root growth or underdeveloped leaves.

However, if the other plants grown in the same soil appear healthy enough, then there is no need to add bone meal before sowing bulbs, as doing so might cause the soil to become inhabitable.

How Do I Use Bone Meal For My Bulbs?

Man holding flower bulbs in his hands

As previously mentioned, bone meal works in soil with low pH levels. This is because bone meal is water-insoluble and needs high acidity for its components to break down into particles small enough for a plant's roots to absorb.

The soil's low pH level paired with the microbial activity present in healthy soil is important for a bone meal to perform its purpose.

Before using bone meal, make sure that your soil has sufficient levels of acidity that can process the fertilizer. After adjusting the pH level to at least below 7.0, evenly sprinkle the bone meal powder or granules above the soil before watering it down to help the soil absorb it.

Below are a couple of helpful tips you can follow if you plan to add bone meal to your garden's soil.

How To Use Bone Meal For Crop Bulbs

Flower bulbs in pots ready for planting in the flowerbed

For bulb crops, add the bone meal before you sow the seeds. Ensure that the powder or granule has been thoroughly incorporated into the soil to help the bulb's growing roots easily reach the nutrients. Use three cups of bone meal fertilizer for every 100 square feet of soil.

How To Use Bone Meal For Flowering Bulbs

Small offset bulbs growing on large tulip flower bulbs. Used for plant propagation

Add the bone meal after tucking the bulbs into the soil for flowering bulbs. A good measurement is at least six inches deep under healthy soil for flowering bulbs.

Since the substance is organic, it takes a large amount before it becomes toxic. However, sprinkling a handful of fertilizer per three flowering bulbs is a healthy dose.

Make sure to tuck the bulbs and bone meal properly under enough soil before watering it to prevent animals from locating the fertilizer and destroying the bulbs.

If your flowering bulb is already established in a container, you can add the fertilizer once at the end of winter and then twice around the growing season of spring to fall.

Since the plant's roots have limited space around the container, the bone meal should be worked into the soil with extra care and attention to avoid damaging the roots and exposing them to harmful bacteria. Water the soil well to allow the fertilizer to properly settle into the soil.

Are There Alternatives To Bone Meal?

Many fertilizers provide calcium and phosphorus as much as a bone meal can. As we mentioned earlier, lots of organic and inorganic fertilizers have been produced to deliver any supplemental nutrients to the soil that needs them.

Alternatives to bone meal are available for both home and industrial use. Just like bone meal, other animal byproducts from farms and slaughterhouses are processed and turned into organic fertilizers.

Many of these alternatives also provide essential nutrients to the soil. Below is a list of organic bone meal alternatives and the essential nutrients they contribute to promoting healthy soil.

Blood Meal

Blood meal is an organic fertilizer that is rich in nitrogen. While the majority of blood meal fertilizers only contain varying amounts of nitrogen, some also include phosphorus which can be useful for plants.

Unlike bone meal, which attracts pests and vermin, blood meal is great for repelling these animals and keeps your garden safe from unwanted trespassers.

Animal Manure

Often made up of chicken waste, animal manure is used to supply nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to soil that is deficient in these nutrients. All of these nutrients are essential to a plant's health and growth.

Livestock manure is usually used in large-scale crop production, although animal manure fertilizers are available with much less nutrient content for home gardeners.

Crab Shell

In addition to being rich in calcium and phosphorus, crab shells contain a cellulose-like biopolymer compound called chitin. Chitin encourages the growth of healthy plants by boosting a plant's resistance to harmful pathogens and bacteria.

Like many other organic fertilizers, crab shell fertilizers are also safe to use compared to synthetic fertilizers because they are not susceptible to burning the plant's roots.

Crab shells and other shellfish fertilizers are also rich in nitrogen and magnesium. The substance is great for repelling garden pests such as slugs, ants, and snails while influencing the increase of earthworms in the soil.

In review

Bone meal is an organic fertilizer traditionally used by farmers to increase the number of nutrients in soil. The fertilizer is safe to use in soil that lacks calcium and phosphorus, and it helps promote good plant growth. We discussed whether there is a need to use bone meal when planting bulbs.

We also discussed the possible outcomes of using bone meal when it is not needed and alternatives to the organic fertilizer. Make sure to identify the needs of your soil before using any fertilizers so that it can be habitable for your bulb plants.

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