Edible Garden

How To Grow a Thriving Vegetable Garden Using Bone Meal

Bone meal fertilizer is a natural slow-release fertilizer that comes in a powder form. It's made from animal bones that have been steamed or boiled and then ground into a fine powder. Bone meal is an excellent fertilizer because it's rich in phosphorus and calcium. Both of these nutrients are essential to growing a healthy and robust vegetable garden.

An average NPK rating for bone meal is 4-12-0. The fertilizer is especially useful for healthy roots. Vegetables such as root crops including onions, garlic, carrot, and parsnip will benefit the most; however, bone meal is suitable for all plants.

Nutrients To Energy

The bone meal powder helps plants grow strong roots and flowers, and it provides the plants with the energy they need to thrive. Phosphorus and the breakdown of carbohydrates feed the plants with all the energy they need to grow strong and store for future use.

Bone meal is not directly taken up by the plants but is first used by the soil's microorganisms and, in turn, taken up by the plant. That is the reason that compost and other organic matter are so important in vegetable gardening.

How To Use Bone Meal In Vegetable Gardens


To ensure the best garden possible, it's always a good idea to test the soil's pH levels before adding the bone meal. If pH levels are higher than 7, the bone meal will not get absorbed by the heavy alkaline soil. Alkaline heavy soils won't see any benefits from the bone meal.

If the pH level is over 7, there are other nutrients you can add to the soil, first to bring the levels down before adding the bone meal.

You can find the materials you will need, including aluminum sulfate, sometimes called flowers of sulfur and sulfur, to lower pH levels at your local garden store or online.

Or try natural soil acidifiers such as peat moss, well-rotted manure, pine needles or leaf mold. All these additives to lower the pH level will take several applications over a few months.

Watch Out For The Critters

Bone meal has a scent that can be picked up by animals. A garden fabric or shade netting should be used to cover the garden when using bone meal to ensure critters don't ruin the garden by digging to look for the scent source.

It would help if you also remembered to keep the bone meal stored safely away for the same reasons.

If you have problems with critters or your dogs digging up your garden, change to superphosphate, which has a similar phosphate amount.

How Much Bone Meal To Use

To use bone meal correctly when starting a vegetable garden, you should use roughly 5 to 10 pounds (2-4kg) per 100 square feet (9 square meters) of the vegetable garden.

You can also mix the soil using 1/2 cup of bone meal for each foot (30cm) of the garden area. The bone meal will continue to feed your vegetable garden with phosphorus and calcium for about four months.

When planting individual plants, I use a small handful of bone meal in each hole and make sure to mix it into the soil. As I have dogs who are extremely interested in my gardening, I have to make sure that the bone meal is buried deep near the roots. I have to be honest and say that sometimes I haven't fooled them.

Be careful to use the correct amount of meal needed for your garden and not use it too often. Any extra bone meal that's not absorbed will run off during showers and may cause algae to grow in nearby water sources.

Adding Bone Meal To Potted Vegetables


Depending on the pot's size, add one tablespoon to the soil and dig it in gently.

Water thoroughly.

Pros And Cons Of Using Bone Meal In The Vegetable Garden


  • Bone meal is an inexpensive natural fertilizer.
  • A great source of phosphorus and calcium and traces of nitrogen.
  • It gives the plants a stronger root system and better flowering, which leads to more vegetables.
  • It reduces transplant shock.


  • Being slow-release, your plants will not benefit immediately.
  • Additional nutrients will be needed during the growing season.
  • Your pet dog may dig up your newly planted veggies.
  • Bone meal is not effective for soil higher than pH 7.

By following these simple steps to use bone meal in your garden, you can have beautiful and thriving herbs and vegetables. Bone meal is an organic and safe fertilizer that will help you grow a successful and plentiful vegetable garden. Good luck with your garden and happy growing!


Ensure the bone meal has been mixed into all of the soil and not just the top layer. 

Keep bone meal away from your pets. Though it isn't toxic, it can lead to serious gut issues. 

When transplanting plants, it's a good idea to add a little bone meal in each hole before you replant the vegetables

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