It is no secret that composting is one of the best ways to organically fertilize plants in the garden. Egg shells, coffee grounds and table scraps are regularly included in my compost bin, and after slowly cooking a whole chicken in the crockpot, I wondered what to do with the carcass.
Bones are chock full of both calcium phosphate and nitrogen, making them an excellent option for composting and a great source of nutrients for plants once they are decomposed. A fantastic way to break the bones down quickly is through a process called hot composting.
Do Bones Decompose?
Bones will always decompose if left to their own devices in nature, but it can take several months. It is probably not a good idea to sprinkle animal bones around in the garden for fertilizer. Apart from scaring the neighbors, it can also attract coyotes or animals you might not want roaming through your yard at night.
However, if you find some animal bones in the yard or have some bones scattered around the dinner table after rib night, adding them to a composting bin can expedite the decomposition process through a chemical reaction often referred to as hot composting.
What Happens If You Put Bones in the Compost?
When we use containers to collect our compost, carbon and nitrogen from the organic matter inside produces heat. A microbial process speeds up the decomposition, producing nutrient-rich, natural fertilizer that your plants will love!
Be sure to include plenty of carbon-rich composting ingredients such as newspaper, leaves, or straw along with nitrogen-rich ingredients such as vegetable scraps, coffee and tea grounds, manure – and bones!
The composting bin should be 75% carbon and 25% nitrogen elements. So there should be significantly more filler – like paper or straw – than other matter.
During the microbial process that is hot composting, temperatures usually reach 130°F to 140°F (54°C to 60°C). If you do not have a compost thermometer, don’t worry. If the compost inside the container is hot to the touch, then the chemical breakdown process is working.
Rotating the matter can also speed up the composting process. Some composting bins have a rotating feature, but even if you use a five-gallon bucket or other type of container, you can use a shovel or your hands to turn the compost inside.
Can You Put Chicken Bones in Compost Bins?
The majority of an animal’s calcium is stored in its bones. Therefore, chicken bones can be an excellent source of calcium phosphate for compost. Of course, the bones must be decomposed or ground into bone meal before they will be of any use to a plant or soil. Adding chicken bones to the compost bin can be a great way to boost your compost quality.
Are Bones Good for Soil?
Bones can be a fantastic source of nitrogen and phosphorus calcium for soil. As we mentioned earlier, it is important to have a good amount of nitrogen-rich matter in the compost to temper the carbon-rich base. Bone meal (the dust left behind after the bones decompose) is an excellent source of nitrogen and other necessary nutrients for the garden.
You can also use bone meal compost to make your own potting soil by combining equal parts compost, peat moss, perlite, and topsoil. Bone meal fertilizer can be a terrific way to boost perennials’ blooms in their first year and provide great nutrients to many fruit and vegetable plants too.
Typically, potting soil is used for container gardens, but it can also be worked into the topsoil of the garden before planting. Putting bone meal fertilizer or compost potting soil into the garden area can help remedy the soil, improve the pH balance, moderate the soil’s temperature, and hold in moisture in addition to providing nitrogen.
How Do You Crush Bones for Fertilizer?
We know that bones are an excellent source of organic fertilizer, but what is the best way to crush bones before adding them to the compost bin?
First, it may be more convenient to use cooked bones because it is much easier to remove all the fat and tissue from the bone when it has already been cooked. The higher the cooking heat, the better because this will help the bones dry out and become more brittle. (Of course, if you live on a farm or somewhere you regularly access livestock bones, they can be placed in the compost bin and will decompose in a few months.)
Next, the bones can be crushed in a blender, coffee grinder, or similar appliance. If you choose not to use a blender, try placing the bones into a burlap or canvas sack, closing it tightly, and using a rolling pin, meat tenderizer or similar heavy tool to manually crush the bones.
Do not worry if the bones are not broken up into a fine powder – the composting bin can take care of that part. But drying the bones and breaking them into smaller pieces can accelerate the composting process.
Place the bones into the composting bin remembering to have plenty of carbon matter like paper or straw. Rotate the compost every few days and let mother nature take care of the rest. Within a few weeks, you should have some compost worth its weight in gold!
Are Bones Good for Vegetable Gardens?
Bone fertilizer or compost with bones can be a great fertilizer for vegetable gardens. For as long as humans have been growing food, they have been using compost and fertilizer with bone. Bones provide excellent sources of phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen – all of which are completely necessary for healthy plant growth.
Furthermore, if we do not recycle the phosphorus sources we already have on the planet we could run out within 70 years! So, composting bone is one of the most eco-friendly ways to fertilize vegetables.
Root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, radishes, and onions especially benefit from composted bones or bone meal. Bone meal also functions as a slow-release fertilizer that continues to nourish plants for up to four months.
This can help ensure that garden vegetables have all the nutrients they need to thrive throughout the entire growing season.
Is Bone Meal Good For Tomatoes?
Tomatoes also love compost and can even thrive when planted directly into composted material. Bone meal is an excellent addition to the soil when growing flowering plants, which includes tomatoes.
Incorporating bone meal into the tomato’s compost can help ensure the fruit gets the necessary amount of calcium. The calcium from bone meal can also help protect against blossom rot.
No bones about it – bones make an excellent fertilizer! Do not be afraid to incorporate the chicken or turkey carcasses, T-bones, or ribs leftover from dinner into the composting container. Even bones from wild animals can be added to the compost bin.
Whether you are growing roses or tomatoes, the nitrogen and phosphorus from bone meal can help keep blooms bright and vegetables healthy throughout the entire growing season. Add bones to the compost or grind them into bone meal and do not hesitate to give the garden an extra boost!