Bone Meal: Help or Hype?

One saying that stuck with me early on in my plant adventure was, “For every dollar you spend in the garden, .90 cents should be on the soil.”

I would add, soil and roots.  The size of the plant/root system matters almost as much as the soil you put it in, not to mention that the idea of spending a lot on soil amendments can be very misleading.

This week I put in a few fall annuals in a new bed in front of the house.  The owner at some point had put down plastic and then mulched on top of that.  So of course weeds were growing from the mulch that had broken down and the area was a mess.  After removing the weeds and what I could of the plastic, I needed some better soil to grow them in.

So I went to Lowes and picked up a few bags of cheap topsoil and pine bark mulch.  The topsoil they carry is basically composted mulch, my guess from whole trees.  It looks a little like chunky sawdust.  Whatever, it drains better than the clay it’s on top of.

The pansies and kale went right in that, with maybe an inch or two dug into the clay.  To finish I put pine bark mulch on top of that layer and around the plants.

One of these days I’ll water them with Miracle Grow or similar to give them a boost of nitrogen.

Total for soil and mulch:  $25.62.  Total for plants:  $54.  Guess the 90% theory is down the toilet.

Speaking of down the toilet, what about adding bonemeal to your new beds?

Up in these hills we rarely need calcium or phosphorus, and even if you do, there are much better sources than bonemeal.

Like almost all the stuff you buy in bags, it’s mostly good marketing.  There is a smidgen of usefulness for a tiny minority of growers, but just barely enough to justify its existence.

Don’t buy that crap.

If you get a soil test and for some strange reason you are low on phosphorus, superphosphate will address that deficiency much faster, or just use an all-purpose fertilizer like 10-10-10 that will give your plants nitrogen as well.