question of bone meal

supersweetJuly 1, 2008

I'm new to grow anything. I heard that when you prepare your soil to plant tomato, you should throw in a hand full of lime to mix in with the soil. Is that right? How about bone meal? Does bone meal work as same as lime? Should I mix both in the soil? What does bone meal do for the plant? I thought that growing tomatoes only need fertilizers and water, so I didn't add anything to my plants but fertilizers! Do you guys think my plants are gonna be OK until the harvest season?

Thanks in advance

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sprtsguy76(Santa Clara Ca. 9b)

Regular fertilizer is just fine. You can also find a ton of info on side dressings, foilar sprays and soil amendments. For the time being fertilizer will suffice. Bone meal, I believe is a source of phosphate, which is included in a fertilizer usually.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 11:36PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I heard that when you prepare your soil to plant tomato, you should throw in a hand full of lime to mix in with the soil. Is that right? How about bone meal? Does bone meal work as same as lime? Should I mix both in the soil? What does bone meal do for the plant?

I think it all depends on your soil whether lime or bone meal is needed. Seldom would there be a call for both however. And the only way to know if either is needed is to have a professional soil test done first. That way you will know what your soil needs if anything.

Bone meal is a source of phosphorus, it is needed for blooms and fruits. Lime is a source of calcium. So if your soil test shows that your soil lacks one or both, then yes you may need some. But very few soils are deficient in calcium and both are also relatively slow acting, especially bone meal. Most agree that there is little if any immediate benefit.

Lime has the additional problem of changing the pH of your soil and that can lead to all sorts of nutrient problems for your plants.

You will "hear" about all sorts of things people try. ;) Over the years we all tend to develop planting rules and tricks that we find work for us in our gardens. But none of them are iron clad rules in any way and none of them apply to all gardens. So the best approach is to experiment a bit in your own growing environment and see which works best for you.

But all this applies to garden soil and if I remember correctly from you other posts you are growing in containers, right? If so, then all you need is a quality soil-less potting mix and some supplemental fertilizer.


    Bookmark   July 1, 2008 at 11:42PM
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What Dave said. Don't add lime unless you know the pH, because it will alkalize the soil (increase the pH). The pH of the soil affects nutrient uptake, so if your soil were already alkaline (over 7), and you added lime, then the net effect would be to lower the soil fertility. Check out the link at the end of this post for a discussion of soil pH and nutrient availability with a nice graph.

Bone meal supplies both calcium and phosphate, but it releases its nutrients very slowly, so my understanding is that it's best used in the fall to amend the soil for the following year. You can supply both those nutrients more quickly with a good organic tomato fertilizer - a commonly available one in my area is Espoma Tomato Tone (4-7-10).

Finally, since you're in Toronto, you'll need a good mulch to heat the soil in addition to the water and fertilizer. Black plastic works well, or some people are using red plastic that's supposed to be even better. Along with heating the soil, the plastic will retain moisture so you have to water less frequently, and moisture levels will be more consistent, which will help prevent blossom end rot.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil pH : AZ Master Gardner

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 10:03AM
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The first thing you should do, rather than guess, is spend the $15.00 and buy a soil test kit. Test your soil. Test it in the spring, test it in the fall, test it, test it, test it!!! Amendments, such as lime, should be added in the fall and allowed to break down and work into the soil over winter. After testing my new garden plot[later than I should have] this year, I discovered it to be totally devoid of nitrogen. I will be working dried blood in every time I cultivate[ about 30 all] all summer [ except where I have planted beans( they make their own and would gain too much leaf growth and no fruit if I added more ) and potatoes ] but do not expect to see the real results until next year. Bone meal aids fruit and flower production, but once again, is slow to release. Fortunately, I planted my tomatoes the way I always have- dig a hole 24 inches deep x 14 inches wide, place 2 shovels of well rotted cow manure in the hole and mix with some of the soil near the top, strip the bottom few sets of leaves off the plant and plant it as deep as possible, 12 inches is good [ some people plant them sideways, but I always felt this promoted sucker growth] the plants will root from the buried stem and will be strong, well rooted and very productive! Lastly, be careful with the lime. Most plants like a slightly acid soil. I try to aim for a ph around 6-6.5 After you have tested your soil, if it is too acid[ 4.5-5.5 or lower] add your lime this fall, that way you wont have to worry about burning your plants. Test again in the spring. Other amendments, such as compost, peat moss, wood shavings and "green manure" can help modify your ph and N-P-K, while improving over-all soil structure. Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 10:22AM
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jtcm05(Zone 6 CT)

Good soil tests don't normally test for nitrogen as it's movement in the soil is so rapid and can't be measured concisely.

Adding bone meal at planting time can't hurt, but I would hesitate to add any limestone(won't "burn" plants) unless you're sure the soil's pH dictates the use of it. Just monitor your plant's growth and fertilize if the plants appear to need it.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 10:40AM
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Thanks to all. I'm so glad that you guys gave me all the helpful information. I think I have to spend some money to buy a soil test kit to test my soil in the containers before I go buy either lime or bone meal or none. Actually, I didn't expect I needed to spend that much money on pots, nets, fertilizers and now test kit and maybe more later on! Hopefully, my tomato plants made it all worth it!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 11:15AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I think you may have missed a couple of vital points here. ;)

First - all of this info, as said above, is relevant only to gardens, NOT containers. Containers are supposed to be filled with potting mix, not garden dirt as that creates a whole other set of problems.

Potting mix is already pH neutral +/- and nutrient balanced so testing container mix is not only a waste of time but not relevant.

Second, there is a great deal of difference between testing garden dirt with a home purchased test kit and having a professional soil test done. Home test kits are notorious for being inaccurate and are generally considered a waste of money. You will find many discussions on this here at GW.

Further, as John already said you cannot effectively test for nitrogen because of its mobility and the effects of weather on it's soil levels. The professional tests do not even include it most of the time. They just make a blanket recommendation for the minimal amounts to be added. So tilling in large amounts of blood meal or any other source of nutrient based on a home test will only create a whole new set of problems. Sorry.

Supersweet - assuming you used a good quality potting mix in your containers, your plants already have everything they need but some additional feeding. This, because the nutrients wash out of the container when you water it. As said, the options of adding lime or bone meal are for planting in the ground, not in containers, and your containers are rather small so adding anything besides feeding them will drastically affect the results.

Had you stipulated you were using containers in your original post, then none of this would have been recommended but it was assumed you were talking about in-ground plants, ok? ;)


    Bookmark   July 2, 2008 at 11:49AM
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