By Jennifer Poindexter
Many people have a love/hate relationship with growing tomatoes. When producing your own tomatoes around your garden, the harvest is like none other.
However, getting to the point of harvest can prove difficult for some. The reason being is growing tomatoes that survive pests, diseases, and still manage to produce a large and delicious harvest takes some skill.
One way to encourage healthy and productive plants is by using bone meal as a fertilizer option. Here’s your guide for using bone meal on tomato plants:
What Does Bone Meal Provide Tomato Plants?
Bone meal is a fine powdered fertilizer made from ground bones. This fertilizer contains a small amount of nitrogen, some calcium, and is an excellent source of phosphorus.
Calcium is a vital nutrient as it helps plants with the cell-making process. This encourages a strong stem and new growth. If a plant is deficient in calcium, you may notice it has warped foliage with dried tips.
Phosphorus is another nutrient tomato plants receive from bone meal. This is important because phosphorus helps plants develop a strong root system. It also assists in flower production and the process of photosynthesis. This is how plants make their food.
Should a plant be deficient in phosphorus, it may appear stunted, produce little to no flowers, have a weak stem, and have light colored foliage with dark veins.
These are a few of the nutrients your plants could receive when bone meal is utilized around the garden. Should you see signs of any of these deficiencies, consider reaching for the bone meal sooner rather than later.
How Does Bone Meal Help Tomato Plants?
Bone meal is a slow-release organic fertilizer that’s a great source of phosphorus and calcium for your tomato plants.
One way this fertilizer assists your plants is by curing blossom end rot. If you’ve ever grown tomatoes, there’s nothing more frustrating than producing beautiful tomato plants only for the fruit to have a rotten bottom.
Blossom end rot is typically a sign of a calcium deficiency. When you see signs of this issue around your tomato plants, remove the damaged fruit and apply bone meal at the plant’s base. This should deter the issue from forming in future fruits.
Other ways bone meal assists tomato plants is it helps increase fruit production as well as increases the size of the fruit.
As mentioned above, bone meal also assists in helping tomato plants produce stronger root systems and stronger stems.
Whether you’d like to avoid blossom end rot, or want to encourage your plants to produce strong stems and roots, bone meal could be a great way to tackle all of these goals at once.
How Much Bone Meal Should You Use on Your Tomato Plants?
There are multiple ways to apply bone meal to your garden. We’re going to discuss these processes in depth in our next section.
However, before we dive into application, let’s discuss the amount of bone meal a tomato plant needs. In most cases, one heaping teaspoon of bone meal at the base of a tomato plant is enough.
Bone meal takes approximately two to fourteen days to get into the plant’s system, whereas it remains in the soil for four to six months.
For this reason, you can do one application of bone meal per planting season. Yet, some people prefer to add it more frequently.
The frequency of application should be based upon the nutrients already existing in the soil. A little bone meal goes a long way for many gardeners.
How to Apply Bone Meal to Your Tomato Plants
When utilizing bone meal around your garden, begin by testing the soil in your growing location. This is vital to ensure you don’t add unnecessary nutrients to the soil.
From here, apply the bone meal directly to the plant’s roots instead of broadcasting over your entire growing area.
This helps control how much bone meal becomes applied to each plant and ensures it only goes where needed.
Though applying bone meal directly to each plant is best, let’s discuss the different application methods. The first way is to apply bone meal into the hole where each tomato plant is grown.
You should add the heaping teaspoon at the time of transplant before placing the tomato plant into the growing location.
When adding the bone meal to the planting hole, take the time to mix it with a few inches of the soil in the area. This ensures it’s well incorporated into the growing space before planting in it.
Another reason for mixing the bone meal is to deter neighborhood pets or wildlife from digging in your garden.
If bone meal isn’t well-mixed into the space, it could catch an animal’s attention which could lead to disaster for your tomato plants.
Another option is if you’re directly sowing tomato seeds into a growing location, be sure to mix bone meal into the soil prior to planting.
This ensures the fertilizer is readily available for the seeds throughout the growing process and again, should deter anything from digging your seeds up before they have time to grow.
Lastly, you may sprinkle bone meal on top of the soil at the time of planting or if you’d like to add a nutritional boost throughout the growing season.
However, be sure to water the area thoroughly after application. This helps the bone meal seep into the soil and reach the plant’s roots while also incorporating it into the soil to deter anything from digging in your garden.
These are a few ways you may add bone meal to your growing location. Pick the option that best aligns with your gardening methods and consider using this fertilizer as an organic boost for your garden.
Words of Caution When Using Bone Meal on Your Tomato Plants
Many times, we assume that because something is organic, there’s no way to overdo it around the garden. This isn’t true.
When using bone meal around your growing location, one potential issue already discussed is the likelihood of drawing pets and wildlife to your garden.
I utilized bone meal around my garden this year and even when mixing it well into the soil, my dogs were drawn to it.
I was able to keep an eye on them and stop them from digging, but I did have to watch them closely around my garden area for a few days until the scent died down.
Other potential issues with utilizing bone meal is throwing the balance off between the nutrients and pH level in your soil.
Be sure to test your soil’s pH level before planting or adding nutrients. The soil’s pH must be below a seven. This allows the acid in the soil to pull the nutrients from the bone meal.
If your soil pH level is above a seven, the plants won’t absorb the bone meal. Instead, you’ll need to add blood meal to the soil to lower the pH level.
Then you may apply bone meal once the pH level is back within an ideal range. Other things to remain alert to is if you add bone meal to soil that has a higher pH, it can cause deficiencies in both iron and zinc.
You may notice this if younger tomato plants develop yellow leaves. The problem with these deficiencies is they aren’t only signifying a lack of nutrients but an imbalance in your soil.
This makes the problem difficult to treat. Therefore, it’s wise to practice prevention instead of correction and always test your soil prior to adding any type of fertilizer to the area.
Not only should you check your soil’s pH levels and phosphorus levels, but you should also be mindful of the amount of calcium in the soil.
As previously discussed, bone meal is also a source for calcium. Should you add too much calcium to the soil, it impacts the soil’s pH level. As you can see, garden soil is truly a balancing act.
Adding additional nutrients to your planting areas can prove useful in the right conditions. In the wrong conditions, it can hinder your tomato plant’s growth.
Take all of this information into consideration when adding bone meal to your tomato plants. Be sure to add the right amount to each plant and incorporate the bone meal thoroughly into the location to avoid attracting animals to the growing area.
As long as bone meal is added correctly, you should see positive results in your tomato plants. Hopefully, this organic fertilizer helps you grow happy, healthy, and productive tomato plants around your home garden.
Frequently Asked Questions: Using Bone Meal on Tomato Plants
How Quickly Does Bone Meal Affect Tomato Plants?
Bone meal is a slow-release fertilizer, taking approximately two to fourteen days to start affecting the plant’s system. This gradual release ensures a steady supply of nutrients over time, so consider this when spacing fertilizer applications on your tomato plants.
Can Bone Meal Be Used for All Varieties of Tomato Plants?
Yes, bone meal is generally suitable for all varieties of tomato plants. Its nutrient composition, particularly high in phosphorus and calcium, is beneficial for the overall health and fruit production of various tomato types. It is a well versatile fertilizer to use in your tomato beds.
Can I Use Bone Meal for Tomato Plants in Containers?
Yes, bone meal can be used for tomato plants grown in containers. Many organic gardeners fertilize with a blend of bone meal, fish emulsion, green sand and kelp meal. Remember bone meal is a slow-release organic fertilizer, so be sure to properly space the applications appropriately.