A GROWING CONCERN: A fair time to share a meal with your garden


Our fabulous Norman Rockwell-esque county fair is back and in full swing this weekend.

Why not go to the fair, get a scone and go through the Flower Barn?

Then, next week, let’s give our bulbs, trees, perennials and orchards a real shot in the arm for next year’s performance.

Of course, I am talking about bone meal — but why?

Bone meal is absolutely the miracle drug for flowering ornamentals, perennials and bulb-type plants.

It is rich in phosphorus and slow-release nitrogen, which are crucial for good plant health.

As an added benefit, bone meal reduces soil acidity — a problem here on the Peninsula for most annual, bi-annual and perennial flowers.

The real key to bone meal is the phosphorus component that is needed in strong roots, fruit and flower development, as well as adding greater resistance to disease and stronger cell walls.

A lack of phosphorus translates into plants that will not mature as they should, which to you, translates into far fewer flowers.

In fact, the No. 1 reason bulbs, flowers, trees, bushes and shrubs, along with vines and perennials, do not flower after a few years is a lack of phosphorus.

After the first flowering season, spring-flowering bulbs especially, require a good dose of a bulb-booster fertilizer, which consists mainly of bone meal.

They need phosphorus in order to rebloom.

Our Olympic soils are very nutrient-poor and most often consist of naturally occurring, low amounts of available phosphorus.

Also here on the Peninsula, we amend our soil with copious amounts of organic material — bark, manure and compost, all of which are inherently low in readily available phosphorus.

Phosphates are an essential component of DNA and RNA, and crucial in building strong cellular membranes, so adequate amounts of phosphorus make for strong cells.

This translates to perennial plants overwintering better, and we all would like our plants to survive through the winter and thrive next year.

So phosphorus not only helps plants flower, but is critical to setting the bud eye (next years flower) in many a perennial plant and bulb, as well as helping that plant survive the winter, which, together, is a powerful combination.

Phosphorus also aids in making other nutrients, both major and minor elements, more easily absorbed and processed by the plant.

The correct amount of phosphorus in the soil ensures that other nutrients can be used by plants in their full and needed quantities.

Bone meal is a miracle drug because it is so easily found in numerous outlets and various sizes — from small half-pound boxes to large 50-pound bags.

It also comes in a variety of forms, the best being pelletized. It is a process that not only makes it break down in the soil faster, but uniform pellet size is superior for getting even application rates over the area and will pass through a whirly-bird hand spreader with no problem.

As always, it is a wise idea to have your soil tested so you know where you stand on the amounts of nutrients and the pH of your soil.

You can go online to get local information on how to get your soil tested.

It also take several weeks for organic fertilizers, such as bone meal, to become usable to the plant, which is why we must do it now.

And now, please, stay well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

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