top of page
  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Unearthing the Benefits of Bone Meal in Growing Garlic.

Greetings, green-thumbed garlic growers. In this article, we will take a deep look at the mysterious world of bone meal and its magical effects on growing garlic.


Bone meal is an organic fertilizer derived, as the name suggests, from the bones of animals. These bones are typically processed from cows, pigs, or poultry byproducts after undergoing high temperatures to eliminate pathogens and create a stable product. The resulting bone meal is a coarse, light brown powder with a distinctive odor.

The Source of Power: Phosphorus

The primary reason gardeners reach for bone meal lies in its rich phosphorus content. Phosphorus is a crucial macronutrient for plant growth, playing a vital role in root development, bulb and clove production, and energy transfer within the plant. Adequate phosphorus levels contribute to a plant's overall health and resilience.


Role in Plant Growth


Root development, flower and seed production, energy transfer

The Art of Balance: Can Bone Meal Be Overused?

A soil test is really important before adding Bone Meal to your garden. A soil test is like a treasure map for your garden. It reveals exactly what nutrients your soil already has, so you can add bone meal only if phosphorus is missing. By skipping the test, you risk giving your plants a tummy ache, hindering their growth or even causing them to wither away. So, before you unleash the bone meal bonanza, a quick soil test can save your precious plants from a fertilizer frenzy. While bone meal offers significant benefits, overusing it can be detrimental. Excessive phosphorus levels in the soil can disrupt the delicate balance of nutrients, limiting the availability of other essential elements like iron and zinc. This imbalance can hinder plant growth and even lead to toxicity. Additionally, bone meal production can have environmental implications if not sourced sustainably.

A Potent Tool for Savvy Gardeners

Bone meal, when used judiciously, serves as a valuable tool for gardeners seeking to enhance plant growth, particularly for crops demanding high phosphorus levels. By understanding its composition and potential drawbacks, gardeners can leverage bone meal effectively for a flourishing and healthy garden.

Why Bone Meal? It's All About the Roots!

Imagine garlic as a tiny champion weightlifter. To grow big and strong, it needs a powerful foundation – its roots. Bone meal is a natural source of phosphorus, a key nutrient for root development. Strong roots mean better nutrient uptake, leading to a bumper crop of plump, delicious garlic.

Bone Meal: Does it Have an Odor?

Beware! critters with a keen sense of smell might be lured by the savory scent of bone meal. So, take heed and fortify your garden against potential invaders, whether they come on four legs or two.  Surprisingly, some critters, like raccoons, might fancy themselves as bone meal connoisseurs. But fear not! Our wise gardening community shares tips and tricks to outsmart these pesky intruders, from utilizing liquid alternatives to strategically deploying physical barriers.

Bone Meal vs Blood Meal: The Great Garden Debate

Our little internet gardening experiment ([source]) revealed a fun fact: blood meal, another common fertilizer, might attract some curious critters! While some gardeners swear by it for nitrogen, it seems our furry friends might have a different opinion. Bone meal, on the other hand, is a slow-release fertilizer, meaning the nutrients become available gradually. This keeps your garlic happy and growing throughout the season, without attracting unwanted guests.

How to Unleash the Bone Meal Power

Here's the exciting part: using bone meal is easy! When preparing your garlic bed, mix a tablespoon or two of bone meal per square foot of soil. Work it in a few inches deep, then plant your garlic cloves as usual. Remember, bone meal is a slow-release fertilizer, so you won't need to add more during the growing season. So, what's the garlic-growing secret sauce? Prep your garlic bed with a hearty mix of bone meal, blood meal, and organic material before planting. Come May, give your garlic a boost with a side-dressing of these nutrient-rich supplements. And remember, alliums like garlic thrive on a mineral-rich diet, so don't be shy with the amendments. In conclusion, bone meal isn't just garden folklore; it's the real deal for garlic greatness. Assuming your soil test reveals your soil is deficient in Phosphorus, arm yourself with this potent powder, embrace its earthy essence, and watch your garlic garden flourish like never before.

Are there some potential downsides to using bone meal in the garden, besides overuse:

Overall, bone meal can be a valuable tool for gardeners, but using it responsibly is key. By understanding its potential drawbacks and using it judiciously based on your soil needs, you can leverage its benefits for a healthy garden.

  • Disrupted Nutrient Balance: As mentioned before, the main concern is overdoing it. Too much bone meal can lead to high phosphorus levels in the soil, hindering the uptake of other vital nutrients like iron and zinc.

  • Animal Source Concerns:

  • Antibiotics and Medications:  There is some debate about whether antibiotics or medications fed to animals can remain in the bone meal and potentially harm plants or even humans through the food chain. However, most processing methods involve high heat which destroys most antibiotics and medications.

  • BSE (Mad Cow Disease):  In the past, there were concerns about bone meal potentially transmitting Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or "Mad Cow Disease" to humans. However, stricter regulations and processing methods have minimized this risk. Organic bone meal is often exempt from restrictions, but can be difficult to find.

Here are some additional points to consider:

  • Slow Release: Bone meal is a slow-release fertilizer, meaning the nutrients become available gradually. This minimizes the risk of immediate spikes in phosphorus levels.

  • Soil Testing:  The best way to determine if your soil needs bone meal is to conduct a soil test. This will give you a clear picture of your soil's nutrient profile and avoid unnecessary application.

  • Alternatives: If you're concerned about the source of bone meal or potential downsides, consider alternative organic fertilizers rich in phosphorus, like rock phosphate or bat guano.

Bone Meal: Our Verdict

Bone meal is a natural, affordable way to give your garlic a powerful boost. Strong roots lead to happy garlic plants, which in turn leads to you, the triumphant garlic gardener, enjoying the fruits (or should we say cloves?) of your labor. So, ditch the flashy fertilizers and embrace the power of bone meal. Your taste buds (and your garlic) will thank you. But here's the catch: to unleash its full potential, bone meal craves integration into the soil, not just a surface rendezvous. Dig it deep before planting your garlic bulbs, ensuring it mingles with the root zone for maximum impact.

6 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page