Irises forum: Bone meal, is it any good?

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Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 27, 2014 12:03 PM CST
I have read tons of articles and had friends recommend bone meal for almost any type of bulb. Lately I have seen more about bone meal no longer being of any nutritional value, because the modern bone meal has had all the nutrients cooked out. I'd just like to get a few opinions, mostly about bone meal but also fertilizer in general. I see where some gardeners seem to add every nutrient imaginable to their plants, even things like daylilies, which I thought just needed dirt and water. Some opinions please! I posted this over on the other site also, just hoping to get some more feed back here.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
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irisarian
Jan 27, 2014 2:52 PM CST
Remember irises are not bulbs.
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 27, 2014 2:56 PM CST
Thanks, but my friends still think bone meal is the best thing ever for them, what is your opinion?
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
Charter ATP Member Cottage Gardener Enjoys or suffers cold winters Region: United Kingdom Region: Northeast US Irises
Region: United States of America
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irisarian
Jan 27, 2014 3:01 PM CST
I have never used it.
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 27, 2014 3:06 PM CST
Thanks, at least that means it is not necessary in order to grow great Irises.
Name: Arlyn
Whiteside County, Illinois (Zone 5a)
Irises Beekeeper Region: Illinois Celebrating Gardening: 2015
crowrita1
Jan 27, 2014 3:07 PM CST
Well, first off, bone meal can run from 0-10-0, to maybe 6-12-0, depending on the "brand " used. Then, in my opinion, the most important thing you can do, if you plan on fertilizing, is do a soil test, so you know what, if anything, you need. Then, assuming you are lacking one ,or more nutrients, is decide whether you want to go "chemical", or "organic"( bone meal would be classed as an organic, I'm sure), and what the plants you are growing actually need (sweet corn in a garden would have much different needs than iris). I personally use bone meal on all my flowers and bulbs, and think it helps, but, that's just MY opinion. Another thing to watch is the TOTAL amount of nutrients that you apply. example..if you used bone meal (6-12-0), some alfalfa pellets (3-0-0), a small handful of 10-10-10 fertilizer, and then put some corn gluten meal (9-0-0)on as a weed preventer, your total nitrogen would be pretty high for iris! You have to be aware of what you add, and what you need....Arlyn




Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member Plant Database Moderator Forum moderator Aroids Irises Celebrating Gardening: 2015
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Tropicals Foliage Fan Bulbs Hummingbirder Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge)
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eclayne
Jan 27, 2014 3:07 PM CST

Plants Admin

I've read similar comments where modern bonemeal has less phosphorus than it used to, but don't know the facts. Yet many botanists and highly respected growers of tuberous Aroids recommend it's use. I have no idea how it affects Iris rhizomes.
Evan
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 27, 2014 3:14 PM CST
Arlyn,
thanks for that reply. I seem to be the cheap gardener who wants to use as little as possible and still get good results. My budget can only afford a few plants, and the more I spend needlessly on things like bone meal, the more I can spend on plants. I see people recommending all sorts of things to build up their soil, but I often wonder just how much if any of it is really needed. I would especially like to here from growers who add very little if anything to their Iris beds and still have good results, or on the opposite side people who have tried adding very little and had bad results. Especially in the latter cases I would find it helpful to know what they added that did help noticeably.
Name: Greg Hodgkinson
Hanover PA (Zone 6b)
Charter ATP Member Irises I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: Pennsylvania Region: Japan Garden Photography
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Misawa77
Jan 27, 2014 6:36 PM CST
I don't use bone meal. I did use it in the past for Daffies.

I put a 10-10-10 fertilizer on my iris beds and mix in some Alphalfa meal and Peat Moss as well when I create the bed or after I strip out all the plants after 5-6 year cycle. Otherwise I don't add much.
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 27, 2014 7:02 PM CST
Misawa77,
If I am reading this correctly, you add this stuff when you first start a bed, then five or six years later you do it again? What is that stuff you don't otherwise add much of?
Have you always done that, or did you start because you were having problems of some sort. In other words do you know if adding all that really helps or not? Peat Moss I am certain has almost no nutritional value, so maybe it is to acidify the soil or just to fluff it up? The Alfalfa meal for nitrogen, ? The 10-10-10 that should be gone in a month, do you add that though out the year?
I know too many questions but I have a lot to learn. Any reply will be appreciated.
Name: Mary Ann
Kentucky
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: United States of America Hostas Hummingbirder Daylilies Birds
Irises Keeps Horses Region: Kentucky Farmer Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Muddymitts
Jan 27, 2014 8:27 PM CST
I have used bone meal. It was recommended by one of our nurseries. They suggested that I put bone meal into the newly dug hole before planting each rhizome. I did that, and have to say that it made a big difference in the health of the rhizomes, and the bloom the following spring. The same nursery told me that Irises really don't need anything more. I don't know if that's a general rule, or if that's just true for the soil in our area.
Thoughts become things -- choose the good ones. ([url=www.tut.com]www.tut.com[/url])
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 27, 2014 8:52 PM CST
Muddymitts,
You think the bone meal helped you plants, do you add it every year or just the first time when you plant them. Did you have other Iris that you compared these to that you did not add bone meal when planting?
Name: Mary Ann
Kentucky
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: United States of America Hostas Hummingbirder Daylilies Birds
Irises Keeps Horses Region: Kentucky Farmer Container Gardener Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Muddymitts
Jan 27, 2014 9:39 PM CST
Yes -- I do think that the bonemeal helped the plants. And it is absorbed slowly -- so I think it helps them for at least two years. I did not intentionally compare Irises with and Irises without bonemeal -- but the plants that got it when planted were much more vigorous than the plants in another bed that did not. But as in all things -- it could have something to do with something else. Difference in soil, drainage, amount of direct sun, etc.

Here's what I suggest. Buy a few less plants this year, and buy a bag of bonemeal instead and try it. It's not that expensive -- and a bag goes a long way. See if the bonemeal makes a positive difference for you, with your growing conditions.

I think that Irises are probably the most forgiving plant on the planet -- and if you don't fertilize at all, you'll still get flowers in the spring. But you won't get the quantity and size of blooms maybe, nor the amount of increases that you would if your plants are fed. I think that's probably true for every growing thing. JMHO.

For myself -- my goal is to fertilize with one product each year. The bed that got bonemeal last year will get alfalfa pellets this year. And maybe next year I'll try a commercial fertilizer. That way I can see how each product affects things in my growing conditions. And I won't spend a fortune doing it. Smiling
Thoughts become things -- choose the good ones. ([url=www.tut.com]www.tut.com[/url])
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 27, 2014 10:03 PM CST
Muddymitts,
Thanks!
Name: Brad
iowa (Zone 5a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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ARUBA1334
Jan 28, 2014 1:24 AM CST
I use bone meal at the beginning of the season about the same time I start to put down the pre-emergient for weeds..It takes a long time to break down before the plant can use it so if you wait to late, I think you are wasting your time with it if you are looking for a instant effect. The past few years I have been tilling in aged compost into all my beds and have had the best luck with it over anything else the plants seem to respond really well to the compost in well drained good soil. I would pick compost over bone meal if I had to choose. I did try Osmocote this year in one bed I heard from another grower how well it did for him and it is time released so it may work well for me here but the verdict is still out on it until the spring.
Name: Greg Hodgkinson
Hanover PA (Zone 6b)
Charter ATP Member Irises I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Region: Pennsylvania Region: Japan Garden Photography
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Misawa77
Jan 28, 2014 6:13 AM CST
I use Peat Moss to "fluff" up the bed and to aerate the soil as I have a minor clay issue. I do not use Bone Meal at all. Way back over 20 years ago I used it exclusively for Daffodils, Tulips, & crocuses. I put the Peat Moss in every time I turn the bed over (which is when I clear it out when it gets too crowded which can be as short as three years or as long as 6 years).

Otherwise I just apply a fertalizer every Spring and have recently started to add Alphalfa Meal in the Spring as well. I do not have enough data to go one as to the Alphalfa meal to make any recommendation.
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 28, 2014 8:24 AM CST
Misawa77,
Thanks for the explanation. All the feed back helps me in trying to understand what to use in my beds. I am getting the impression that many gardeners just add stuff because they think they should. Of course adding the Peat to loosen up the soil makes sense, even if it may not provide any nutrients for the plants working in soft friable soil is always more enjoyable.
Name: Arlyn
Whiteside County, Illinois (Zone 5a)
Irises Beekeeper Region: Illinois Celebrating Gardening: 2015
crowrita1
Jan 28, 2014 8:28 AM CST
Like I said, Seedfork, the first step in a fertilization program is to test your soil!...Arlyn
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 28, 2014 8:45 AM CST
ARUBA1334.
When I first saw your reply the thought that you were in Aruba come to my mind, then I noticed you were actually in Iowa. I am so glad you have had such great results with compost, I am a "compost factory" , I love making compost and adding it to the garden. That is actually what lead me to the original question about Bone Meal. I have read articles that say compost is all you need, and I have read articles that say compost has almost no nutritional value. I have only had my present garden location for three years, and each year I add more compost and each year my soil texture improves a little. I add shredded leaves by the truck load also, it is almost like magic to watch those leaves disappear into the soil every year. Still I do fill the need to add things other than compost, but like most gardeners I seem to be lead more by my feelings that scientific soil testing, I really need to do that one year.
I do sometimes toss about some 10-10-10, sometimes some cotton seed meal, and some lime, that is about as scientific as I get, need to do better on that.
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Composter Garden Photography Garden Ideas: Master Level Plant Identifier Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Seedfork
Jan 28, 2014 8:59 AM CST
Arlyn,
you are probably right. I just keep thinking that maybe the best soil test is to look at the plants themselves(as if I'd know if they were not getting what they need). I have quite a few different beds, it's not like I am growing in one large field with the same soil. Some of my beds are quite sandy, one has a decent amount of clay, one area is extremely boggy and has just been transformed from a Creeping Charlie covered area to what is trying to become a raised bed (it just keeps sinking in the muck). My "vegetable garden area" is probably my best soil, two of my perennial beds are a sandy clay mixture. The point I am trying to express is that I am not sure a soil test would be of much use, and I can't afford all the different test for each bed. Ok, maybe I am just too cheap to pay for a $45.00 soil test, when I think it may be of dubious value.
I found this soil test information on line, it is one of the best soil test information sites I have seen.
http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/agcomm/publications/Ag-614.pdf
[Last edited by Seedfork - Jan 28, 2014 9:57 AM (+)]
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