One young Catholic family on a Journey towards Intentional and Communal Sustainability. One Artist, one full time Mama and two babies, we'll tell you about all our successes, and failures, as we try to make it in our overly Consumeristic society on just the bare necessities.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Homemade Bonemeal for my tomatoes

So, you all make your own bone broth, right?  It's amazing, isn't it?  But what do you do with those bone?

A lot of people bag them and throw them into their trash, not wanting to attract flies to their compost.  We've been composting them straight from the broth in our enclosed compost bin, which keeps flies down, but not completely, and I've thought recently, is it really making the best use of these still nutrient rich bones?

And then I noticed that my tomato plants that a friend gave me were starting to get white tips on their leaves.  I think it might be a symptom of being grow light raised, but she told me they had been tempered already, so I'm worried that it may be because our soil is so nutrient depleted.  Such is the problem with living in a Beautiful Desert.  Our yard looked so nice when we moved in, but we soon realized it was actually dead.  The grass growing in the middle was only growing because of constant watering and probably chemicals, and the rest of the "yard" was just mulch on top of layers upon layers of gardening cloth.  So our dirt is actually just sand- dead sand.  We've been working so hard this year on conditioning it, and it's been trouble, but we're having some success.  But I want to keep it up, so I decided to make my own bonemeal from the bones leftover from my broth.  Now I don't have trash, or flies!  Well, I still have flies, and still have trash, but less of each!

How to use your whole Chicken:

1) Eat her.  If you raise your own, then those first steps are up to you- we haven't started raising meat chickens just yet.  Soon, I hope.  But I've heard that feathers make good compost, and that the beak and feet are especially good in broth.  I've make chicken foot broth before with grocery store feet, and it was amazing.  But I haven't found a source of free range chicken feet yet.  Anyway- eat your chicken, however you like.  Then make your broth.  Check out my best broth yet here.

2) When your broth is done, after 2 or 3 days, the bones should be able to be crushed in your hand.  Drain off your broth and store.  Then spread out your bones, and any other gunk that's attached to them, on a cookie sheet and dehydrate in your oven overnight, or for about 12 hours, with the temperature set between 170-200.  If you've got a convection oven, you can set it lower, and it will probably take less time.  If not, set it at least at 170- you don't want things to take so long they start to go rancid.  Another option, that I didn't choose, is to set the oven at 500 and let it go for an hour or so.  That will burn off all the extra gunk, but it will also stink up your house, and possibly loose some important minerals and stuff.  According to Joey, Bone Ash is an important ingredient in glaze materials, and is made by bisqueing bones in the kiln up to 1200 degrees.  The bones don't turn to ash, but get very white and hard and brittle, and you can crush them easily then too.  But for your purposed, dehydrating is all you need to do.

3) After you bones are sufficiently dehydrated- dry and brittle, and easy to crush with your hand- SMASH 'EM UP!  You can include the gunk if you'd like, but I just separated the bones as best I could and composted the rest (it's dry, so less fly issues). I used a combination of the bottom a glass jar and my mortar and pestal to grind up the bones and then sifted them through a small sieve to get them nice and powdery.  They'll look like this:
4) Use your homemade bonemeal on your garden, specifically roses, bulb plants, and tomatoes. Really, if you use a soil test kit, you can know where you need the phosphorus.  According to one site: 

"Plants use phosphorus for cell growth and the development of roots, flowers and fruit. In the vegetable garden the phosphorus present in bonemeal would be beneficial at the beginning of the season, when plants are developing their root systems. Some plants such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and melons suffer from a condition known as blossom-end rot, the decay of fruit starting near the blossom end, caused by insufficient calcium. Bonemeal may be of some benefit to correct this deficiency in the soil."

and here:
"Lack of calcium in the soil shows up in many ways. Blossom-end rot in tomatoes is calcium related. As are bitter pit in apples and cavity spots in carrots. Many sorts of fruit deformation can usually be tracked back to calcium deficiency. Some other things to look out for are Necrosis of young leaves, short brown roots, increase in fungus problems, weak stems and just general stunted growth. Basically general garden suckage.
All this stuff is really bad, but most often the result of limited available calcium is just lack of full potential. Most soils have the calcium required to avoid the terrible problems mentioned above, but obtaining that optimum level can really help your garden out...
...Bonemeal is a great, if a tad expensive, organic fertilizer that contains nitrogen and phosphorus as well as 18% calcium with a negligible pH effect."
 Oh, lucky you, you don't have to pay the high price if you know how to make it yourself!


  1. woo hoo, my comment published!

  2. Thanks for this great article!!! I think you have singlehandedly solved my compost bin fruit fly issue (wet year, the flies are driving me bonkers!!!). I have a batch of broth I started last night waiting to be strained... Now I know what to do with the bones!

    On a related note, I think you probably solved the puzzle of why my zucchinis keep rotting from the blossom ends too (I thought it was a fungal issue). Calcium and phosphorus for the veggies and fruit trees, powder to keep the flies away, a great new use for soup bones when I finish with them... Thanks! This post is a gem!!!