Bone meal nightmare

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by Jennie Beth, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. Jennie Beth

    Jennie Beth Member

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    Hi all,
    On the advice of a nursery, I added some bone meal into the bottom of the holes when I transplanted 2 japanese maples and a dwarf conifer last weekend. To promote root development, they said. Well, any roots that may have been developing have been sheared off as my dog repeatedly digs them up!!!! Two nights in a row now, they have been dug up and left with their roots out in freezing weather all night. I have discovered dogs are attracted to the stuff and will do anything to get at it. What do I do? I am afraid if I lay down wire fencing, he will destroy the trees trying to get the fencing off. Is there anything I can do to make it disipate faster? Anything at all? I love my little maples and had finally found them good permanent homes in the ground instead of the pots they had been living in.

    Please help!
    Jen
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    • Bone meal supplies high levels of phosphorus and calcium, elements that are rarely limiting in
    non-agricultural soils.
    • Phosphorus, from bone meal or other sources, does not “stimulate” plant growth; it is only a
    mineral, not a plant growth regulator.
    • High levels of phosphorus, from bone meal or other sources, will inhibit growth of mycorrhizal
    fungi.
    • Without mycorrhizal partners, plants must put additional resources into root growth at the
    expense of other tissues and functions.
    • Before you add any supplementary nutrients to your landscape, have a complete soil test
    performed first


    http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~Linda Chalker-Scott/Horticultural Myths_files/Myths/Bonemeal.pdf
     
  3. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Jennie--when I saw your post title, I immediately assumed, correctly, what your personal nightmare would be! I had the same experiences using bonemeal in our veggie garden. In our case the beds were covered with remay, which was torn to shreds before the newly planted beds being rototilled by dogs or other critters, yikes!

    This activity is definitely not mentioned on any of the labelling of the bonemeal containers. My condolences, etc...I'll never use bonemeal around here again (and Ron, my soil test does indicate a need for P but certainly will use something else :-))

    Glen
     
  4. Jennie Beth

    Jennie Beth Member

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    Hi Glen,
    Any idea how long it takes for the scent, or whatever attracts the dog, to go away? I hauled a bunch of big rocks up from the back yard last night and barricaded the trees in boulders :) Have to wait and see if the little bugger can get thru them or not...might be having dog for dinner if he keeps this up ;) Good thing he's cute or he'd be in big trouble.

    Jen
     
  5. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Blood meal also attracts animals.
     
  6. Laticauda

    Laticauda Active Member

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    Try mulching with pecan hulls. The critters don't like the way it feels on the pads of their feet. They also have a coleus hybrid that smells really skunky, and the animals are apparently repelled by it. I just bought two of these, I'll let you know how it turns out!
     
  7. saltcedar

    saltcedar Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Control your animals?
    When I hear complaints like this I always wonder why?
    Regards
    Chris
     
  8. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I think the best remedy is to separate dog and plant for a few days. I warned daughter about her use of blood and bone in her vegetable pots. Pyrenean Mt Dog had a wonderful time with her nose. Daughter now mixes it well into soil and waters and it seems to have solved the problem.

    Usually a couple of days should do it as long as you water it in.

    Liz
     
  9. Jennie Beth

    Jennie Beth Member

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    "Control your animals"

    Thank you all for the help...though I would add in my defense that I can only control my own animals, not neighborhood dogs or wild animals. I merely wondered how long I would need to deal with the problem. Rocks and watering seems to have done the trick...no holes last night! I wonder what a person who innocently follows the bulb bed enhancement instructions on their bone meal package and then finds their entire front yard plowed up by the neighborhood dogs would do...

    Jen
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2009
  10. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    We are well fenced and only need to worry about our mob. (5 big ones)
    Liz
     
  11. greengarden bev

    greengarden bev Active Member

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    A suggestion for next time:

    Bone meal (at ~11% P) is a "fast-and-dirty" source of Phosphorus. Soft rock phosphate (colloidal phosphate or CalPhos) is milder (0-3-0) and and lasts for years. Because it's a mineral it won't attract the critters the way bone meal does.
     
  12. Jennie Beth

    Jennie Beth Member

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    Thank you so much for the suggestion...I planted another tree today, WITHOUT the doggy treats in the hole, and wondered if there was any other way to do this.

    Much appreciated,
    Jen
     
  13. greengarden bev

    greengarden bev Active Member

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    Another way to add P that doesn't attract critters? If you are going to add P, it needs to go deep-- at root level. P doesn't "travel" well in the soil.

    But you don't really need to add anything to the planting hole for shrubs. Even though garden center staff and tree nursery people often recommend bone meal to help the roots get established, the other school of thought is to ask WWND (What Would Nature Do?): let the roots go out and get what they need. We don't really need to provide them with a bathtub-like planting hole filled with high-calorie goodies that will make those roots reluctant to foray out as they should.

    If I'm planting a shrub or a tree at the optimum time, in optimum weather I don't add anything to the planting hole. More important than a quick breakfast for the roots is a good environment to help the plant deal with transplanting stress: adequate moisture and no air pockets around the roots.

    On the other hand, if I'm planting with bad weather, the wrong time of year, or into really crappy soil, I'll dig out a fairly big area around the hole (not deeper, but wider) and add some rock phosphate and some greensand to the larger area. This way the root system can expand for a few years in an "amended" environment. After that, they're off and running.

    As gardeners we should be aware of the non-renewable nature of most forms of agricultural phosphate: http://www.energybulletin.net/node/33164 . Bone meal, at least, is somewhat renewable since it comes from processed bones and carcasses from the animal rendering industry.
     
  14. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    If a soil is deficient it needs to be fertilized at planting if the newly planted specimen is not to go without. Trees and shrubs need to have adequate nutrients same as herbaceous plants. It all depends on what specific kinds of plants are being planted, and what the existing mineral content of the soil is at planting.

    Different kinds of trees and shrubs have different nutrient requirements. Foresters can even judge the nitrogen levels of a site by what native trees, shrubs and other plants are abundant or successful on it.
     
  15. greengarden bev

    greengarden bev Active Member

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    This kind of advice is often repeated on this board. It is the standard approach from proponents of industrial agriculture, and it is not the only approach that gardeners may choose to take. I'd like to add some information for the people who need authorities and credentials as well as logic. First the authorities:

    The ISA (International Arborists Society) does NOT recommend that trees be fertilized at the time of transplanting : http://www.treesaregood.org/treecare/tree_planting.aspx (read to the very bottom)

    At least one landscaping association recommends the use of a high P fertilizer at the time of planting, but no other fertilizers: http://www.landscapeontario.com/c?c=1393

    So there is diversity within the mainstream. I could not find one single association that recommended a general fertilizer in the planting holes for shrubs or trees to correct soil deficiencies. I welcome input on this, if there is contrary evidence.

    Now the logic. Trees have root masses that can go down into the subsoil to a depth of their height-- even more-- depending on the species and local geology. The root system generally extends to the circumfrence of the canopy. So I ask, how does fertilizing the planting area do anything for the long-term "nutrient needs" of the tree? Are you suggesting that the homeowner fertilize the area that will be occupied by the root mass of the mature tree? 60, 80, 100 feet in diameter? 60 feet deep?

    Tree roots don't grow in soil. "Soil", as gardeners think of it, only exists in top foot or so of the land's surface. The rest is subsoil and rock and roots. Tree roots are built to push through the subsoil to get what they need. The "mineral content", as you put it, of the soil in the planting area is pretty much irrelevant when you think of where those roots will eventually end up.

    My overall point is that the cultural practices we use for herbaceous plants (ones with shallow root systems) cannot be simply transferred to trees and shrubs. We don't "garden" trees, and we can only partially "garden" shrubs, depending on their size and the depth of their root systems.

    Seriously degraded soils are caused by: the removal of topsoil (what happens in most new housing developments); compaction (from heavy equipment when buildings are constructed); intensive, abusive agricultural practices (monocultures, certain types of plowing creates hardpan and destroys the soil tilth, excessive chemical fertilizer, pesticides etc); and heavy industry that can seriously and irrevocably contaminate soils. To remediate such soils is absolutely necessary, I think, for a lot of eco-reasons I won't go into now.

    If a soil is seriously degraded it is going to need far more than the application of the right combination of fertilizer to make it grow anything. Remediation is a long-term undertaking. I don't think we, as gardeners, ought to think that ALL soil needs to be tested and "fixed" before we can plant. I've said this before: soil ought not be treated as an inert substrate to which we add the appropriate combination of chemicals so we can grow what we want. This is the industry approach. A better, more ecologically sound, approach is to grow plants that are adapted to the kind of soil you have. Right plant, right place.

    This is relevant to the point about different varieties of trees and shrubs having different "nutrient requirements". The industrial approach is for humans to "provide" what we think they need-- the NPK solution. This may be the only way to get stuff to grow in seriously degraded soils that we don't / can't spare the time to remediate. The ecological way, in non-degraded soils, would be to simply let the plant roots go out and down and get what they need. That is what they were designed to do. Why would we put them in a super rich "pocket" of amended soil that thwarts their natural growth pattern?

    I'm seriously asking here. Ron, if you or anyone else has a serious, well-reasoned rebuttal to my argument, I welcome it.
     
  16. Liz

    Liz Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    We have a situation here in Oz where soils are not very fertile on the whole they are old soils and if planting natives it is recommended to use plant food for natives ifyou want to fertilise. So in my case if I do put a tree out down in my paddock and it is an exotic for eg oak then I will give it general feed in the soil such as blood and bone. You may well ask why plant European trees in the first place. Reason being I need the winter sunshine and the summer shade. I am on a south slope (north for others up top of world) I have had no problems feeding young plants to give them a start as quickly as possible given our water situation and a small window of good growth opportunity. I for one will stick to the old and tried methods my father used and they work for me even tho he learned his trade in Europe.

    Liz
     
  17. adly

    adly Member

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    use cirp - rock phosphate instead of bone meal
     
  18. The Hollyberry Lady

    The Hollyberry Lady New Member

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    Greengarden Bev:

    Thank you for that terrific post - it made perfect sense to me! You are a very thoughtful and intelligent person. I had never even considered these things before, but yes I can see the logic clearly. This is coming from someone who is completely fertilizer-happy, so that is saying something!

    I am wondering too then, in your well-informed opinion, what would be the difference between a tree planted in amended soils, as opposed to one whose roots were made to go deeper for what they needed? Would the unfertilized tree be stronger, in the long run?

    P.S. With gardening, there is never just one way of doing things. It is all about sharing our own personal experience, and what has worked for us. I do not judge anyone, for doing things differently than me - or for having an entirely different experience than me, either. Just thought this was worth mentioning to people in this thread.

    : )
     
  19. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Sorry Ron, don’t take this personal but some of these comments
    have to be somewhat countered here.

    Bone meal supplies high levels of phosphorus and calcium,
    elements that are rarely limiting in non-agricultural soils.


    High levels of P2O5, no. Elements that are rarely limiting in
    non-agricultural acid soils is closer to being right. Saline,
    alkaline and calcareous soils (for Phosphorous) is another
    matter entirely.

    Phosphorus, from bone meal or other sources, does not
    “stimulate” plant growth; it is only a mineral, not a plant
    growth regulator.


    I've made comment to this before - not true that Phosphorous
    does not help stimulate plant growth - think in terms of why
    greenhouse florist nurseries and outdoor Spring bulb growers
    still use bloom fertilizers in their growing operations. Yes, too
    much applied Phosphorous at one time or an overabundance
    of Phosphorous and Calcium as well in the soil can indeed
    stunt growth. Most of the nutrients used in fertilizers are
    not a plant growth regulator anyway. Most plant growth
    regulators are hormones, either synthetically applied in
    some cases or internally created by the plant through
    chemical processes and/or metabolic pathways.


    High levels of phosphorus, from bone meal or other sources,
    will inhibit growth of mycorrhizal fungi.


    Fine for areas that rely on mycorrhizal fungi but in most arid
    regions with saline to alkaline soils with sustained 55 degree
    or higher soil temperatures, there isn't any real mycorrhizal
    development to rely on or expect to begin with.


    Without mycorrhizal partners, plants must put additional
    resources into root growth at the expense of other tissues
    and functions.


    Studies that we did on Pines in Oregon back in the mid 80's,
    early 90's tell a whole different story. The native trees that
    produced a root system first yielded more volume of growth
    later on than their root system lacking, top growth “racehorse”
    counterparts. Which other tissues and what chemical functions
    are negated or lessened by root system development without
    mycorrhizal partners?

    Before you add any supplementary nutrients to your landscape,
    have a complete soil test performed first.


    This should be mandatory in all areas that have acid soils.
    Three nutrients that should be cautioned for use with in acid
    soils are Iron, Calcium and Sulfur without an accurate read
    out of what our current levels of these nutrients are in the soil.
    Sulfur is our fungal inhibitor, which means applying Sulfur in
    cooler, wet regions predominately with acid soils, in which
    certain plants that are co-dependant on mycorrhizal fungi
    activity, growth and spread may see the beneficial fungi
    killed off by the application of Sulfur. Iron has a knack for
    binding with Oxygen giving us a water insoluble precipitate
    that is not readily leached out of the soil. Calcium carbonate
    or the breakdown of Calcium in an acid soil provides some
    of the Oxygen needed for Iron to yield Iron oxide which is a
    water insoluble crystal in an acid soil. We may raise the
    pH of the soil using Lime but at the same time we force
    some of the free Oxygen in the soil to become bound at
    the same time. Not a smart way to work things in which
    most Pacific Northwest forest soils are dependant upon
    having Oxygen movement or free Oxygen spaces in these
    soils to help prevent, soil and root restricted, compaction
    and prolonged soil saturation in wetter areas, which greatly
    increases the likelihood of wet fungal root rot incidence.

    I believe I mentioned somewhere else in this forum that
    Bone Meal should be applied as a top dress, can be used
    as a potting soil additive in small amounts, ounces not
    pounds for five and fifteen gallon containers. Then again
    the grind of the Bone Meal becomes important also, is it
    a finely ground powdered form or not? Bone Meal should
    not ever placed at the bottom of the planting hole for trees
    and most shrubs. Ron, Linda or whomever else and I do
    not always agree about what to do at planting time for
    certain trees and shrubs, a lot of that is due to our
    dramatically different growing environs and growing
    conditions but we do agree that no foreign material
    should be placed at the bottom of the planting hole.

    I’ve written before in this forum what I’ve done and
    advised for others growing salt burn susceptible
    Japanese Maples in the Los Angeles basin with an
    alkaline soil and more than negligible amounts of
    Chlorine in the metropolitan or city water. If I amend
    the soil I do it after I’ve placed the root ball on top of
    the native soil placed back in the bottom of the hole.
    From there I may pack around the roots a humus
    amended and hand mixed native soil but never place
    the humus at the bottom of the planting hole. Maple
    roots want to grow outward first once in the ground in
    hot and dry areas and then will grow downward (if they
    are allowed to without compacted clay or impervious
    layer restrictions). What we do is give the roots a
    better chance to grow outwards first, get settled and
    then worry about if we should fertilize them later or
    not. No need to fertilize for a while if our forest humus
    does its job as a standalone as there will not be any
    measurable native mycorrhizal activity to help us along
    in those saline to alkaline and warm to hot, dry soils in
    the interior valleys.

    Yes, we do get some short term mycorrhizal fungi benefit
    from the humus but only for the very near term as they
    disappear rather fast in those dry, alkaline and warm soil
    conditions. Place an inoculated container plant in an open,
    sunny area on shade cloth outdoors in sustained 80+ degree
    weather sometime and then test for the presence of mycorrhizal
    fungi two weeks later and see for yourself if the inoculations
    were a wasted effort or not. With outdoor temps in the 60’s
    to lower 70’s instead with soil temperatures in the container
    at 55 degrees or less may be a different story where many
    of you are located however.

    Jim
     
  20. redster

    redster Active Member

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    as far as the dogs go, mousetraps or pepper. im sure black pepper could work, but im talking more along the lines of crushed ceyenne or pepper flakes. even a dumb dog shouldnt take more than one or two times accidently in his eyes to learn his lesson.
     
  21. The Hollyberry Lady

    The Hollyberry Lady New Member

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    Thank you for the great information Mr. Shep (Jim) - that was quite a read! I am a beginner to planting trees, and want to learn more. It is great to get all this information, and be able to assess for myself how I would like to personally plant my little trees, based on all these suggestions.

    I am excited to learn more...

    : )
     
  22. bob 2

    bob 2 Active Member

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    Thanks Jim:
    That should clear up a lot for many including me.

    Bob
     

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