If you are looking for an affordable, nourishing, organic amendment to add nitrogen to your garden soil or compost, dried blood meal fertilizer may be the perfect option. This all-natural fertilizer is an animal by-product of cattle processing, and it is an excellent source of nitrogen.
Still, it may not be the amendment of choice for everyone as some gardeners have ethical and dietary conflicts with the concept of using animal products.
In this article, we will discuss the benefits and drawbacks of adding blood meal to your garden soil as a nutrient booster. We will also suggest some alternatives for vegetarian and vegan gardeners. Read on to learn more.
Is Blood Meal Fertilizer Good?
While blood meal is a “good” fertilizer, it is not balanced by any means. In fact, its nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) ratio is usually 12-0-0 or 13-0-0, meaning it provides an abundance of organic nitrogen and nothing else!
A slow-release fertilizer coming in a powdered form, which you work directly into the soil. For this reason, it is not a quick fix. It may take a month to see the results of your blood meal application. Therefore, it is a good product to use on a steady, ongoing basis; however, it is not the product you would reach for to correct an immediate problem.
Is Blood Meal Organic?
Blood meal can be a truly organic fertilizer, depending on the source. When sourced from cattle or other animals raised without chemicals, it is organic. If not, it can contain all the chemicals, hormones and other additives found in commercially raised and processed beef cattle.
It’s important to note that even blood meal sourced from these commercially raised and slaughtered animals is officially considered an organic fertilizer, but if you are a purist, you may not be in agreement with this assessment.
Nonetheless, if you are choosing between blood meal and chemical fertilizers, it is the more organic choice. Synthetic fertilizer may get you quick results, but it will not produce lasting results. In fact, continued use of chemical soil amendments will kill off the beneficial fauna in your soil, destroy your soil and contaminate ground water.
Chemical fertilizers are not balanced or complete. They only provide synthetic versions of the three major elements, but they do not include the micronutrients necessary for plants to survive and thrive.
This is why many organic gardeners as a whole stick with traditional soil amendments such as blood meal, fish emulsion and bone meal. Combined properly, these three provide an excellent balance of nutrients.
Still, if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, you may balk at the idea of using these animal based products, and you may have many questions and concerns, such as:
What Is Blood Meal Fertilizer And What Exactly Is In It?
Blood meal is just what it sounds like. It is a powder made using the blood that is the by-product of animal slaughter. Most often, the blood used comes from cattle. It is an extremely high source of nitrogen that is steadily available to plants when mixed into garden soil.
How Can Blood Meal Benefit Vegetable Growing?
Vegetable plants need a large amount of nitrogen because it is essential to the efficient performance of photosynthesis. Plants that do not have enough nitrogen display yellow, wilted leaves because they cannot produce adequate amounts of chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is necessary for plants to convert sunlight into sugars and energy. For this reason, plants constantly consume nitrogen from the soil, and you must add it back regularly to keep a healthy garden. Blood meal is a highly concentrated source of nitrogen, so a little goes a long way when growing tomatoes and peppers.
Is It Safe To Use This “Animal Product”?
Blood meal made with healthy blood is safe. As with any product you add to your food supply, you should know where the product you purchase originates. Read labels carefully and avoid buying blood meal fertilizer originating in countries with slack animal welfare and food processing laws.
Understand it is entirely possible for pathogens (such as those that produce Mad Cow Disease) to be conveyed to the soil and the fruits and veggies growing in it, via blood meal. This is why the USDA has placed import restrictions on both of these products when sourced in Europe.
Is Blood Meal Economical?
Pound for pound, blood meal is a very affordable source of high-quality nitrogen. It comes in many sizes, so be sure to do the math to determine how much you are paying per ounce. Choose the brand that provides the best value in terms of both quality and quantity. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay between $1.50 and $3 per pound.
As noted, it doesn’t take much blood meal to treat your soil properly. About a cupful per twenty square feet of garden area should be just right.
Naturally, you should read packaging instructions and follow them closely; however, if you are going to err, it’s better to use too little than too much. Remember blood meal is a very concentrated source of nitrogen. Excessive amounts of blood meal can burn your plants‘ roots.
Where Is The Best Place To Get Blood Meal?
When purchasing a blood meal fertilizer, you are probably better off going to our local nursery, Lowe’s or Home Depot, feed store or online than a big box store or department store.
The reason for this is that the blood used to make bulk purchase, low-priced blood meal may come from foreign countries that do not have good regulations concerning food animal practices.
Remember you don’t need to use large amounts of blood meal, and as a semi-perishable product, it is probably better to purchase only the amount you will use rather than trying to store it from one season to the next.
Doesn’t Blood Meal Attract Pests?
While it’s true that some carnivores and omnivores (e.g. raccoons, skunks, foxes, etc.) may be attracted to your garden if you use blood meal, it is also true that the smell repels many herbivores. If you want to keep deer and rabbits out of your garden, blood meal may very well do the trick. The presence of predators will also discourage them!
Benefits Of Using Blood Meal In Your Garden
- Your garden will be far more attractive if you feed your plants blood meal. Plants with plenty of nitrogen display large, lush, deep green foliage. On the downside, too much nitrogen can interfere with fruit production, so don’t overdo it.
- Added nitrogen can also help increase the acidity of your soil. This is a good thing for some types of plants, such as peppers, radishes, onions, squash and many more.
- Blood meal can help heal your soil. If several growing season have depleted the soil nutrients blood meal can help bring it back to a natural balance.
Other sources of nitrogen include feather meal or the vegetarian alternative, alfalfa pellets.
What Are Some Substitutes For Blood Meal?
While animal-based products such as fish fertilizers, bone meal and blood meal are old standbys in gardening and considered acceptable for organic gardening, if you are a vegan or vegetarian and/or have concerns about animal welfare or the spread of pathogens, you may wish to explore non-animal based soil amendment alternatives. Luckily, there are many, and they are very effective.
Good Compost Provides Balanced Nutrients
Making compost using your kitchen scraps and yard waste is an excellent way to give your soil everything it needs. Well-balanced compost full or organic matter provides plants with all the cellulose, carbohydrates and nutrients necessary to survive and thrive.
A study conducted by Woods End Research Lab and published in Organic Gardening Magazine in the summer of 2000 concluded that combining use of cover crops, mulching and compost amendment will produce healthy, living soil that provides your plants with an abundance of all necessary nutrients.
Alfalfa Is Full Of Nitrogen
Alfalfa meal of pellets are readily and affordably available from your local feed store. Alfalfa provides abundant amounts of fast acting nitrogen, along with generous amounts of potash and phosphorous. For this reason, simple rabbit pellets make a very fine all-purpose fertilizer.
Should You Use Blood Meal Or Not?
As a tried and true soil additive, blood meal provides excellent, slow released, high-quality nitrogen. Regarding plant health and growth, it is a great resource for many gardeners. The problems with blood meal lie in concerns about public health and ethics.
If you are frightened of Mad Cow Disease and other possible pathogens, blood meal may not be your fertilizer of choice. Likewise, if you are concerned with animal welfare and/or you are a vegan or vegetarian, you may wish to shun the use of this animal based product. Luckily, if this is the case, there are many non-animal sources of nitrogen for you to use.
Before you add blood meal or any other amendment to your soil, get an idea of its makeup. You will not be able to attain the balanced, nourishing soil needed if you are unaware of the nature of the soil you have. A simple soil test will provide you with the complete nutrient breakdown and the pH level of your soil.
You can purchase soil testing kits at your local garden center or turn to your local ag extension or gardening club for assistance. Knowing what’s in your soil saves you lots of time, energy, money and trial and error in the long run.