What if you could buy a plant food that was high in phosphorous, lasted in the soil for 4 to 5 years, and was 100% organic? Sounds pretty great, doesn't it? What is this amazing new product? Just something your great grandfather or great grandmother probably used...BONE MEAL.
To appreciate bone meal, you need to understand the value of phosphorous to your plants. Phosphorous is the middle of the three numbers you will find on any package of fertilizer. It stimulates root growth and flower and fruit production.
There are many sources of phosphorous, some fast release, as in a soluble food like Miracle-Gro. Some are slower as in 5-10-5, a very popular vegetable food. The steamed, sterilized phosphorous in bone meal is not a chemical fertilizer, and it is not soluble at all. It must be mixed into the soil at the time of planting so that the roots of the plant will grow into and through the bone meal, utilizing the phosphorous as needed. Many beginning gardeners are aware of the importance of using bone meal when planting fall bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. I will use bone meal whenever I am planting anything that I expect to return year after year. This includes trees, roses, evergreens, flowering shrubs, fruit trees, and especially perennials. The only time I DON'T use bone meal is when I am planting annuals or vegetables that I know are a one shot deal. Adding bone meal to your soil/peat moss blend below shrubs, trees, and perennials ensures that the root system will establish itself in the shortest possible time. If the root system is strong and vigorous, the rest of the plant will follow suit. During the active part of the growing season, I still use my other plant foods to be sure there is enough nitrogen and potassium, but early and late in the season when substantial root growth is occurring, I know my bone meal is there, doing its job, helping the roots take advantage of the cool weather. In areas where plants may have been accidentally planted without bone meal, the situation can be remedied by pounding several holes around the plant a little deeper than the root system and pouring a 50-50 blend of bone meal/peat moss into them. Anyone who has had the experience of planting fall bulbs without bone meal only to watch them get smaller and smaller each year can appreciate how important bone meal is. You'd be crazy to overlook the benefit of using it in ALL PERMANENT PLANTING SITUATIONS.