Your shopping cart is empty.

Why corn meal is a better fertilizer than bone meal?

June 8, 2014

Last fall I experimented with WHOLE-GRAIN corn meal as fertilizer ... was impressed at how DARK GREEN plus leaves became shiny and glossy. Didn't realize that whole-grain-corn-meal has 23% iron, 1% calcium, only 2% sodium, plus high in B-complex vitamins that boost plant growth.

Cracked-corn is VERY ACIDIC at pH 3.5. At that low pH, both bacteria and fungi are suppressed. I use diluted vinegar to zap the black fungus on my shower curtain. Fungi is also suppressed at very alkaline pH, such as baking soda at pH 9.

I soak cracked corn to lower my high pH tap water at 8.3. It's acidity neutralizes the calcium hydroxide in my tap water, and helps roses to bloom in summer heat. NPK of corn meal is 1.6 / 0.65 / 0.4 .... that's better than horse manure NPK of 0.44 / 0.17 / 0.35. The biggest drawback of horse manure is the salt-content, plus the de-worming medications given to horse.

Whole-grain corn's minerals profile is impressive, with 39% magnesium, 23% iron, 29% phosphorus, 10% potassium, 30% manganese, 37% selenium, 12% copper, and 15% zinc. Iron deficiency cause yellowing of young leaves, versus manganese deficiency of diffused yellowing. I have both: iron deficiency in my pot plants, and manganese deficiency in my native clay.


I checked the nutritional profile of bone meal: zero values on most, except for 90% calcium at 900 mg, and 36% phosphorus at 360 mg. My soil is limy alkaline clay, and I'm next to limestone quarry, with manganese deficiency in plants.


I used Epsoma Tomato-Tone for 10 tomato plants ... these are dark-green. But the last 3 plants I used high-bone meal Jobe's tomato fertilizer NPK 2-7-4, plus extra bone meal. These 3 plants are yellowish.

I did a research on bone meal and chlorosis, one nursery reported yellowing of hibiscus with bone meal. Also found a second report of bone meal causing chlorosis and nutritional deficiency. See link below for pictures of purplish streaks on corn leaves with bone meal, plus yellowing of young leaves.

Here's the conclusion of Haiwaii County Extension: "With bone meal, there were purpling on the stems and yellowing of the early mature leaves. The leaves of higher rate of bone meal displayed chlorotic symptoms similar to manganese deficiency."

Below is William Shakespeare 2000 rose with manganese deficiency in my alkaline clay, pH 7.7 ... The picture is taken years ago, now it's greener since I fixed the hole with cracked corn ($2.99 for 10 lbs. from the feed store). You can see manganese deficiency with green veins, but yellow background. That's different from iron deficiency, where the young leaves are pale.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bone meal on bean and corn seedlings

This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Mon, Jul 21, 14 at 16:02

Comments (22)

  • strawchicago

    Bone meal isn't as bad as chemical sprays ... bone meal has its use in very acidic soil, where calcium and phosphorus are less available. Below is a good reference link of the toxic effects of chemicals, from Sevin, Malathion, Preen, Bayer Advanced products, Round Up, Permethrin. 2,4-D (Weed-B-Gone), and Insecticides.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Please read this before you spray poison

  • seaweed0212

    Evelyn, 2 Color Magic, one small Love Potion in bud, on top, big Royal Amethyst, pink Pretty Lady at bottom,

    Orange small red is Brown Velvet, 1st one, not well formed, ate by the bug, below, cut too soon Maggie Barry near Evelyn, Mutabilis of 5 single petals is left to Love Potion.
    Thanks, Strawberryhill, taught us using corn meal as another fertilizer, I used it last year, now the leaves turns so green and healthy. You deserve all the credit!

  • seaweed0212

    photo was not upload right,

    strawchicago thanked seaweed0212
  • strawchicago

    Thank you, Seaweed, for that bouquet which made my day. It's pretty like a painting. The dark-background is like the harsh reality of life, and roses are what cheer things up.

    Your leaves are incredibly shiny & healthy, and dark-green. I regret experimenting with bone meal in my 5 pots this year, none of them have leaves like yours .... they have dull & pale leaves, typical of calcium & phosphorus overdose.

    My next experiment will be to fertilize with grind-up sunflower seeds, which have an impressive nutritional profile, with 245% vitamin E, much higher B vitamins, 154% phosphorus, 19% potassium, 122% copper, 47% zinc, 140% manganese, and 151% selenium, plus 32% iron, 12% calcium. Its anti-fungal nutrients of zinc, copper, and selenium are high. It's sold cheap at $2 per bag, raw at Trader's Joe, and easy to grind with a coffee grinder.

    Below is a picture of shiny & dark green Evelyn's leaves. That was last fall when I fertilized with WHOLE-GRAIN organic corn meal (Bob's Red Mill).

    Here is a link that might be useful: Nutritional profile of RAW sunflower seeds

    This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Mon, Jul 21, 14 at 14:58

  • Mas_Loves_Roses


    Wow. This is all great info! I coincidentally picked up some corn meal at the supermarket this weekend. I'll be putting it around the roses this week.

    Let me know how the sunflower seed experiment goes.

    Seaweed, pretty, pretty roses! What is the one in the middle?

  • seaweed0212

    The apricot pink color right at the center, Evelyn, next to lower orange Maggie Barry and top red orange Brown Velvet.
    Thanks Strawberryhill for Evelyn and instruction for raising apricot mixed fruity scent. A gem, heart warming growing in the garden!

  • strawchicago

    Hi Seaweed: I'm glad you like Evelyn. That one does well in alkaline clay.

    My neighbor uses Daniels low-salt fertilizer (made from soy beans). He bought that from BALL nursery. It's an organic SOLUBLE fertilizer. His tomato went from yellowish & wilted when first planted, to vibrant green & big and healthy.

    Check out the nutritional profile of soy bean from the link below: 49% iron, 71% Manganese (iron and manganese are most deficient in high pH), 18% calcium, 37% magnesium, 42% phosphorus (Daniels beat chemical fertilizer in early flowering), 25% potassium, 0% sodium, 13% zinc, 35% copper. For vitamins, it's 92% folate, 41% vitamin K & also high in B6, riboflavin.

    Will post pic. of his tomato plants later and compare that to my tiny ones.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Nutritional Profile of soybean

  • strawchicago

    I went back to the previous post I did on Daniels liquid fertilizer (made from soybean) and found that Daniels also BEAT other chemicals in producing dark-green leaves. Below is my neighbor's tomato, picture taken June 9, with Daniels soy-based soluble fertilizer, NPK 20-10-20.

    When he planted his tomato 2 weeks before me on May 24, he bought BIG plants, but they were withering & sick and very yellowish. After Daniels soy-based liquid, here's the result, dark-green leaves & thick stems, with flowers:

  • strawchicago

    Compare that to my tomato plant, bought as a tiny plant and planted 2 weeks later, on June 2. I used Jobes Organic pellets for tomato, NPK 2-7-4, low nitrogen of 2, since I don't want tall plants. It's flowering (with a 7 in phosphorus), and thick stems (with a 4 in potassium) but pale in color, thanks to my pH 7.7 clay:

  • strawchicago

    There's zero study to prove that bone meal benefits root-growth, but there are plenty of hydroponic experiments that documented the best root growth was achieved by decent phosphorus & potassium, plus calcium.

    See below link for YouTube experiment that showed how bad the urea, salt-index of 74.4%, in MiracleGro against root-growth in a hydroponic setting. The Master-blend 4-18-38 has calcium, and showed MUCH BIGGER lettuce than MiracleGro.

    I followed the above last year and was VERY HAPPY with my band-roses growing solid 2-gallon root balls last year.

    This year I was foolish to mix bone meal into my potting soil: DISASTER !! Yellowing and wilting of my tomato plants, plus IMMEDIATE yellowing and sickening of a young band, a Gallica rose, see below:

    Here is a link that might be useful: Hydroponic experiment showing potassium for root growth

    This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Tue, Jun 10, 14 at 10:30

  • patricianat

    Looks like your rose is lacking in iron, nitrogen and/or has rose mosaic disease.

  • JoppaRich

    Its amazing how little actual information, and how much propaganda is in this thread. Someone needs to look up the meanings of the phrase "control group" and "Confirmation bias"

  • strawchicago

    Hi Pat: That band was 100% HEALTHY, dark green and lush from Heirloom Roses in Oregon. My friend sent me that as a gift. Then I put in potting soil mixed with bone meal, and it IMMEDIATELY become shriveled & yellowish.

    So I took it out, rinsed it, and planted in my native clay ... it has improved in that picture.

    Few years ago I threw bone meal around my geraniums, and the same thing happened: IMMEDIATE yellowing, plants shriveled, then died. High Phosphorus burns, a few folks reported that the Mor-Bloom formula in Alaska Fish fertilizer (high in phosphorus), burnt their plants.

    Hi JoppaRich: I appreciate that if you could provide your own experiments, research, pictures, link and documentation that bone meal is beneficial for root-growth, I can't find any. I challenge you to provide your own info. & experiment and research, rather than merely negating. Thank you in advance.

    This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Tue, Jun 10, 14 at 10:43

  • strawchicago

    Hi JoppaRich: I don't see any info. in your post either, please provide. As to your criticism: "•Posted by JoppaRich "Its amazing how little actual information, and how much propaganda is in this thread."

    JoppaRich, where is your actual info., and what's your agenda? My agenda is to grow roses successfully using the cheapest and most effective product. I have 55+ roses. How many roses do you have? Here's my info., and it's ACTUAL RESEARCH done by Ball Nursery, a large international corporation:

    Since own-root roses are sensitive to salt, Kelp4Less sells 2-20-20 SOLUBLE fertilizer, low-salt index of 7.2, plus mycorrhyzal & bacteria, molasses. But they raised the price to $18.66 per lb. still expensive with free shipping.

    My neighbor, Ph.D. in biology & botany, works for Ball International nursery. I visited Ball headquarter and was impressed with their plants. Both Ball nursery and High Country Roses use low-salt Daniels fertilizer (made from soy).

    Ball International gave Daniels Soluble fertilizer thumb-up, citing sooner-flowering, darker green leaves. Here's a quote from Ball nursery:

    "Daniels Plant Food proved to be an effective fertilizer for seven species of bedding plants and cyclamen. Plants tended to be desirably more compact for most species while for the others, growth was similar to the conventional 20-10-20-fertilized plants. Plant color with Daniels was deeper green in all but two species. Earlier flowers formed in petunia and cyclamen plants. Tissue K levels were lower but in all cases adequate. Ammonium toxicity was not a problem with Daniels. It was more resistant to ammonium toxicity than conventional fertilizers."

    *** From Straw: Daniels is not sold at local stores. But one can make low-salt "fertilizer tea" by soaking pellets of organic fertilizer, and using that water as soluble. That's what I will do with Alaska vegetable & tomato fish-fertilizer pellets, NPK 4-6-6, 3lb., for $7.97 at Menards and HomeDepot.

    Here is a link that might be useful: GrowerTalks magazine on Daniels fertilizer

  • seaweed0212

    Knowing that was a fact, safer with organic fertilizer, diluted and less is better, especially when we have band size like a new born baby, so delicate, that is why the instruction comes with it, saying only liquid fertilizer, very diluted, keep it moist, and applied once a week, allow it time getting used to the new harsh environment, traveling shock from easy comfortable green house, do not use high content of fertilized soil, I have made quite a few mistakes, and regret my over eager intention. Give it time, first partial shade or only morning sun or just bright light, not direct sun, easy into it for a week or your educational observation time, some require more than other, read the instruction, if you trust organic, very dilute, ease into the new environment, give it time to adapt to your local area. Let it grow in one gal pot for at least one month. You may even ask the experienced nursery personnel, that could be helpful?

  • strawchicago

    Hi Seaweed: So glad to hear from an experienced rose-grower with 160+ roses like you. Thank you for reminding to be gentle & diluted with new-band ... tiny roots are sensitive to fertilizer damage.

    The bone meal I used for that Gallica-rose-band was Encap brand, with NPK 6-9-0. I checked their website, and the instruction was, "For Potted Plants: Apply 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp. per pot." I used more than that .. thus the phosphorus burn.

    The advantage of organics like horse manure NPK 0.44 - 0.17 - 0.35 , and corn meal NPK of 1.6 - 0.65 - 0.4 are: they are balanced, plus low-dose, won't burn plants.

    Some info. from the below link: "phosphorus is as fertilizer, but it is also used in weapons, the herbicide glyphosate (aka Round Up), baking powder and detergent among other things.

    A review of scientific literature reveals that most, as in 75 - 95%, of the phosphorus fertilizer applied to crops is not taken up by the plants. It will mostly stay in the soil. However, significant amounts are washed or eroded away into adjacent streams where they wreck havoc with aquatic systems causing large algae blooms killing lakes.

    Phosphorus Fertilizer Bans - In an effort to reduce the damage caused by phosphate runoff and resulting algae blooms in lakes, a number of local, state and provincial governments have banned phosphorus fertilizer for lawns.

    A series of random soil tests in WI showed phosphorus levels were always adequate for lawns with a average P level two and half times that needed for healthy lawns. Restrictions exist in Manitoba, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Florida.

    Phosphorus is an extremely reactive element ... The phosphorus ions used in fertilizers are negatively charged. The first thing phosphorus does when it hits the soil is draw positively charged ions to it. These turn into new insoluble compounds, and these compounds do not move in the soil. They sit there, insoluble and out of reach of plant roots.

    Plants may be surrounded by reserves of phosphorus, but these reserves are either inaccessible or insoluble so not suitable for plants to uptake." http://www.the-compost-gardener.com/phosphorus-fertilizer.html

    More info. on phosphorus: "High Available Phosphate Reduces Root Colonization - Interestingly, research has also shown that, when soils contain high levels of available phosphate, the degree of root colonization by mycorrhizal fungi diminishes. This effect only applies to available phosphates. Insoluble phosphates are unavailable, and do not affect mycorrhizal development. "

    Paul of Fine Gardening Magazine said it well, see link below: "Professor Chalker-Scott goes on to say this: “I believe this is what has happened in many landscapes that feature roses. Well-intentioned, yet misguided, homeowners over apply phosphate and other fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides until the soil system is so impacted that it becomes non-functional. Without the beneficial soil organisms, roses become more susceptible to nutrient deficiencies and opportunistic diseases, causing rose aficionados to add even more of these chemicals.”

    One more reason to just treat roses like any other plant. After all Roses Are Plants, Too. Happy Roseing - Paul.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Roses and the myth of 1 cup of bone meal

  • strawchicago

    I should had googled "The myth of bone meal" before mixing bone meal with potting soil for my tiny band-size roses, resulting in phosphorus-burn.

    See excerpt from below link "When plant roots are in low phosphorus environments, they exude organic acids from their root tips. These acids allow mycorrhizal fungi to penetrate the roots and form the networks that assist plant roots in taking up water and nutrients.

    Mycorrhizae are particularly adept at extracting phosphorus from the soil. If phosphorus levels are too high, however, the roots do not exude the organic acids and mycorrhizal connections do not form. This forces the plant to put more resources into root growth to compensate for the lack of mycorrhizae. So in a sense phosphorus will increase root growth ��" but at an added cost to the plant. The resources expended by the plant in growing additional roots to take the place of mycorrhizae are not available for other plant needs."

    *** From Straw: Roses Unlimited instruction for the planting hole was 1 cup of triple-superphosphate. I did that for many Austin roses: Queen of Sweden, Scepter'd Isle, and Charles Darwin. They were stingy. Years later, when I dug up Queen of Sweden, I did not see the extensive net-work of roots like Honey Bouquet rose, which I DID NOT use phosphorus fertilizer. My Queen of Sweden had small blooms ... from wimpy roots, thanks to phosphorus-overdose.

    So much of gardening myths stem from corporate-sponsored products. My lesson? Forget about what people recommend, just stick to what's cheapest what works best for my garden. Frederic Mistral used to be stingy for years, only a few blooms per year, even with commercial fertilizers & alfalfa meal & horse manure.

    Then I fertilized Frederic Mistral with the cheapest product possible: Chikity-doo-doo, NPK 5 - 3 - 2.5 plus 9% calcium, only $8 for 25 lbs. bag at Menards. I also use sulfate of potash, sold cheap at $11 for 5 lbs. from Kelp4Less (free shipping). See below for the result this spring, Frederic Mistral rose with at least 70 buds. Picture taken today June 10, zone 5a:

    Here is a link that might be useful: Myth of beneficial bone meal

  • seaweed0212

    Yeah, easier said than providing hand on experience with photos, a picture says a thousand words. "Those who could not cook as chef, be a food critic"
    My salute to you, Strawberryhill!!!

  • Mas_Loves_Roses

    My Frederic Mistral didn't make it through the winter. Such a lovely rose! I am very impressed with how many flower buds yours has. That is one happy rose!

  • seaweed0212

    Hi, you all
    So lucky to hear the pretty roses & Iris, Clematis in your gardens and share with us, it is such a delightful place to exchange beauty and knowledge. What a nice location for the pigeon. Wow.
    Will try to grow heirloom tomato, bought one plant noon today, same as Strawberryhill, Black Krim, last year I had grown Cherokee purple, sweet and plenty to share with few friends, this one is a new challenge, we can compare later.

  • Mas_Loves_Roses

    Hi Seaweed,

    I have not tried Black Krim so would love to hear how bountiful/flavorful this tomoato is. I always grow Cherokee Purple and Mortgage Lifter plus a few others.

    The truth is that I get carried away with how many tomato plants I end up planting, specially since I'm the only one (well, only human b/c my dogs just love them!) that eats them at my house. Then, I end up sharing the rest with the neighbors. My problem in the past has been the dogs harvesting my tomatoes the day before or so before I get to do it.

    I have a friend that cans tomatoes. She was watching my chocolate lab and left one of her tomato bushels on the floor. My dog really put a dent on it. She couldn't believe a dog could eat that many tomatoes.

  • strawchicago

    Mas, That's soo-funny !! I got a good laugh, thanks.

    Tomatoes are the best cancer-fighting weapon. I grow tomato since we first moved here 14 years ago. Four male neighbors came down with cancer ... with 2 deaths. These guys didn't care for my tomatoes. So I make sure that my hubby gets plenty of tomatoes. They freeze very well, much better than canned tomato products. See below link for Harvard Medical research on tomatoes prevent prostate cancer:

    Here is a link that might be useful: Tomatoes prevent prostate cancer

    This post was edited by Strawberryhill on Thu, Jun 12, 14 at 17:27

Need help with an existing Houzz order? Call 1-800-368-4268 (Mon-Sun).