All plants need phosphorus in order to survive, and liquid bone meal is a great source of it. How is liquid bone meal different to balanced fertilizers, and should you be using it in your garden?
Liquid bone meal for plants does not provide all the nutrition your plant needs, but is great for phosphorus-deficient soils. It’s also a go-to choice for organic growers, as it’s a cheap and effective fertilizer option. Learning how to make liquid bone meal is a beneficial skill for gardeners to have, as it saves money and gives a great boost to your plants.
Below, I’ll discuss what liquid bone meal is and how to use it, why phosphorus is so important for plants, and how to make your own liquid bone meal.
Table of Contents
Liquid Bone Meal for Plants
What is liquid bone meal?
Liquid bone meal for plants is used as a fertilizer. In essence, liquid bone meal is sterilized and ground up bone (usually from cows) that’s been made into liquid for the convenience of gardeners.
Breaking up the bone in this way speeds up the decomposition process, which is what gives garden soil nutrients to transfer to plants.
Bone meal contains a high amount of phosphorus, which aids photosynthesis and helps to transfer energy and move nutrients within a plant’s system.
Phosphorus also aids in crop development.
Bone meal can also be mixed into commercial fertilizers or purchased dry as a powder. However, many gardeners prefer liquid bone meal as it’s easier to use in the garden and plants can access its nutrients faster than powdered bone meal.
How to Use Liquid Bone Meal
Whether you’re making your own liquid bone meal or using a store-bought fertilizer, its best to know how much phosphorus your plants need before you begin.
This knowledge can come from a soil test, plant symptoms, or common sense. For example, a potted plant that hasn’t been fertilized for a year is likely in desperate need of nutrients!
The biggest symptom of phosphorus deficiency in plants is purple coloration on the leaves. You may also notice slow growth or poor quality fruits or vegetables.
You can keep up with your plants’ phosphorus needs by knowing how often they need to be fertilized, so that you avoid deficiency altogether.
Once you know your plant is in need of fertilizing, here’s how to use liquid bone meal:
- Mix your liquid bone meal with other desired fertilizers if applicable
- Add the desired amount of fertilizer mix to your watering can
- Water your plants
It really is very simple to use! Once applied, all that’s left to do is wait for it to break down into your soil. Since bone meal is a slow-release fertilizer, this can take time.
How to Make Liquid Bone Meal
Liquid bone meal is popular as an organic, yet cheap, garden fertilizer. It’s even cheaper when you can make it yourself.
Below, I’ll take you step by step through the process of how to make liquid bone meal.
What You’ll Need
- Baking tray
- Hard work surface
- Safety glasses
How to Make Bone Meal
- Save animal bones from meals or purchase them from a butcher
- Use a knife to clean skin, meat, and fat from the bones
- Preheat oven to at least 300 degrees Fahrenheit
- Lay the bones on an oven tray and cook for 3 hours to sterilize them
- Prepare and sterilize a hard work surface
- Move bones to work surface, equip safety glasses, and use a mallet to break them into smaller pieces—don’t worry about crushing the bones completely during this step
- Use a grinder of your choice to grind the bones into a fine powder
How to Make Liquid Bone Meal
Once you have your powdered bone meal, creating a liquid bone meal with it is very simple.
- Fill a pot with water
- Heat water on the stove until warm, then add the desired amount of powdered bone meal
- Stir over medium heat until all powdered bone meal has been mixed into the liquid
- Allow the solution to cool before storing
Storing Liquid Bone Meal
Once you’ve created your liquid bone meal, you’ll need a bottle or container to hold it in. Choose something clean and sealable.
Liquid fertilizers, such as liquid bone meal, should be stored in dry environments at room temperature.
They shouldn’t be allowed to freeze, so keeping them in your unheated garage is a no-go if you live in a cold climate like me.
You’ll also want to protect your fertilizer from any pests or critters.
Holding onto liquid bone meal for a long time can decrease its efficiency in the garden as the bone meal decomposes. To avoid this problem, try creating smaller batches or prepare just enough bone meal to last through the upcoming growing season.
What plants benefit from bone meal?
All plants need phosphorus to thrive, so in theory every plant can benefit from bone meal. However, if your plant already has enough phosphorus in its soil, adding more can cause fertilizer burn. I recommend a soil test if you’re unsure about your plant’s phosphorus levels.
Can too much bone meal kill plants?
While all plants need phosphorus to survive, they only need it in certain dosages. Too much phosphorus can cause fertilizer burn, which can ultimately kill your plants.
Liquid bone meal can greatly benefit your plants’ entire systems when used correctly. Like any fertilizer, it can also be misused and cause fertilizer burn.
If you have phosphorus-deficient soil or potted plants, making your own liquid bone meal is a great way to practice organic gardening and also repurpose bones from dinner that might otherwise end up in a landfill.