You Can't Beat Bone Meal
The planting season is upon us. Early in the season we can take advantage of any warm weekend weather by planting rose bushes, and all kinds of shrubs and trees that won't mind if we have another bout of cold. Those whose soil has already made the transition from mud to soil can even start popping in lily bulbs and other hardy bulbs and tuberous perennials.
The last few years I've noticed that perennials have become very popular. I suppose that this is due to the theory that, since perennials come up every year, folks can avoid “all that work” involved with planting annuals that need to be planted every year. I would prefer to think that our gardening tastes have become more sophisticated as the years go by. Perhaps we've learned to appreciate perennials during all stages of their development rather than demanding the “instant gratification” that annuals provide. I myself would never exclude either from my garden. “Variety is the spice of life” as they say. While it's true that perennials are a more permanent addition to the flowerbed, annuals, with their unending show of flowers will always have a place in my flowerbeds. How could I resist the feathery foliage and cheerful flowers of cosmos or the durable height of cleome? How can you top the color impatiens or coleus bring to the shady corners of your yard? The little effort involved in planting annuals is amply rewarded by the show annuals provide.
Anyway…with the planting season starting up, I am compelled to mention a product that I won't plant a perennial, shrub, tree, or hardy flowerbulb without.
What if you could buy a product that was high in phosphorus, lasted in the soil long enough to feed your plants for 4 or 5 years and was 100% organic? Sounds great doesn't it? What is this amazing new product? Just something that you great-grandmother or great grandfather probably used…BONE MEAL!
To appreciate bone meal, you have to understand the importance of phosphorus to your plants. Phosphorus is the middle of the three numbers on any fertilizer product (remember?). It stimulates root growth and flower and fruit production. There are many sources of phosphorus. Some are rapidly available as in soluble plant foods like Miracle-Gro. Others are slower as in 5-10-5, a popular vegetable food.
The steamed, sterilized phosphorus in bone meal is not a chemical fertilizer and is not soluble at all. Bone meal MUST be mixed into the soil at planting time so the roots of the plant will grow into and through the bone meal. This provides the plant with a source of phosphorus that the plant can use as it needs. New gardeners become aware of the importance of bone meal when they plant their first fall bulbs like daffodils and tulips. More experienced gardeners realize the value of adding bone meal to the soil whenever they are planting ANYTHING that they expect to return every year. I always add bone meal when I'm planting trees, rose bushes, evergreens, flowering shrubs, evergreens, fruit trees, and, especially, perennial plants. The only time I DON'T add bone meal is when I'm planting annuals or vegetables that will only grow for one season.
Adding bone meal to you peat moss/soil blend in the bottom of your planting hole below shrubs trees, bulbs and perennials insures 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 season I still use my other plant foods to provide nitrogen and potassium but, early and late in the season when substantial root growth is occurring, I know my bone meal is down there helping the plant take advantage of the cool weather.
Remember that bone meal can't burn like a chemical fertilizer, so it's very safe when placed near the roots. Anyone who's had the experience of planting fall bulbs without bone meal only to watch them get smaller and smaller each year can appreciate the value of adding bone meal. As I've been known to say, “You'd be crazy to overlook the benefit of adding bone meal in all permanent planting situations.”
Thanks for the read.