I get so incredibly frustrated at how expensive gardening can be! You think that you save money by growing your own food but the 5 tomatoes that your plant ends up producing can turn out to be $40 a piece when you calculate all of the costs. At least, this has happened to me a few times. I started doing some research to figure out ways to make gardening less expensive. I started with reading the labels on some of the products I used.
A few summers ago, I was hauling around a $23.99 container of bone meal. I was staring at the empty bottom of the bucket thinking, “Great! I’m at the bottom of this bucket and my gardening budget is shot for the month. I’ve only fertilized half of the plants I’d wanted to fertilize.” What was I going to do? I looked at the label and it had -- bones. It got me thinking. Could I make my own bone meal? I’d dismissed it until the next summer. I had a pile of bones ready to throw out and they were from REALLY expensive cows. I just didn’t want to throw them out. I HATE wasting things in the kitchen and I’m constantly trying to find out how to use waste. Then it came to me! BONE MEAL! I did some research and sure enough, it’s not that hard to do! Not with an Instant Pot!
I hauled out my trusty Instant Pot and filled it with water. I stuck in my bones and put it on the highest setting for the longest I could, which is 4 hours in my Instant Pot. After 4 hours, I put it on another 4 hours (they were huge beef ribs that my hubby smoked (absolutely AMAZING btw - my favourite cut of meat to smoke)). After those 4 hours, I put them on for 2 more hours.
After 10 hours, I let the Instant Pot slow release and opened it up to the most delicious smelling broth you’ve ever smelled. I removed the bones and they were crumbling in my tongs.
I put the bones on a small sheet pan and baked them in the oven at 350 F for 30 mins to sterilize them. I think this helps with the smell. Last time I made bone meal, I stuck it in when I made bread. The bread was cooking at 450 F for 30 mins. I believe the most important part is you dry out the bones and sterilize them.
NOTE: my bones were completely clean, my hubby is THAT good of a BBQer :D! If they have meat on them, when you pull them out of the Instant Pot, remove the meat otherwise they will attract animals.
After the bones were done in the oven I let them cool and then ground them with my coffee grinder.
I stuck them in an old jar and now I sprinkle them on my plants when they need to be fertilized.
Oh! DO NOT throw out the broth! It’s loaded with goodness! You can use it to boil rice, make soup, boil it down for some bullion. My sister once used bone broth to make me brownies when I was nursing!
What you need:
bones (beef, chicken, fish, lamb, duck, deer, moose, any animal bones you have)
Clean meat off bones as much as possible
Put bones in Instant Pot (if they are too big, I tried a clever but almost got a shard in my eye! Be careful of cutting big bones. Get a butcher to do it or just find smaller bones)
Fill with water until bones are covered.
Turn Instant Pot on to Pressure Cook High for 4 hours (or as long as it will go)
Smaller chicken bones will crumble after 4 hours. Bigger beef bones can take up to 10 hours.
After bones are done cooking let the pressure cooker (Instant Pot) slow release.
Open Lid and take bones out of the broth.
Put bones on a baking pan and remove any access meat
Bake on 350 F for 30 mins.
After 30 mins remove from oven and let cool
Chop coarsely with a knife
Grind into a powder
Spread into your garden!
Benefits of Bone Meal
Bone meal is sold at garden centres for fertilizer all over. I thought I had to have the store bought one, like it had something special in it, until I realized it was the same stuff that I was throwing in the garbage. The reason it’s sold as a fertilizer is it has a lot of benefits. It’s high in calcium, phosphorus, and some nitrogen but not a lot. It’s slow release so you don’t have to apply it all of the time. It works well in acidic soil.
A creepy side note: Apparently the old timey farmers were noticing that their soil was depleted so they collected the bones from the battle field from the Battle of Waterloo and ground them up to replenish soil! YIKES! I do NOT suggest this practice.
I use bone meal from Beef and Chickens in the hole where I plant my new flowers, trees, or veggies. I spread them around my veggie and flower garden in the summer. I sprinkle some in my pots, and even used it to grow my little seedlings.