Skip to main content

What you need to know about using blood meal for plants

Gardeners use a variety of natural products to maintain healthy plants. Blood meal and bone meal are two of the most popular natural organic fertilizers for garden soil. They deliver essential plant nutrients in a minimally processed form that supports good soil health. Blood meal is especially helpful because it’s a significant source of nitrogen, which plants use in higher quantities than other nutrients.

using blood meal fertilizer
Image used with permission by copyright holder

What is blood meal?

Blood meal is a valuable byproduct of beef, pork, and poultry processing plants. Blood is heat treated to eliminate pathogens and remove impurities, and then dried. The dried blood contains 12 to 13 percent nitrogen by weight, making it one of the richest non-synthetic sources of nitrogen plant food.

hands beside a seedling

Benefits of using blood meal for plants

Blood meal offers a host of benefits for garden soil, plant health, and the environment.

  • Provide high organic nitrogen content. In order to raise plants with lush foliage, nitrogen is critical. If you’re growing organically, blood meal is the most affordable and efficient plant food for nitrogen-hungry plants.
  • Improve soil quality. This rich source of all natural and organic nitrogen nourishes the beneficial microbes that live in the soil, boosting the soil’s organic content. Higher soil organic content fosters deeper root development, improves drainage and water holding capacity, and reduces nutrient leaching.
  • Grow healthier plants. A steady supply of organic plant food nourishes plants more efficiently than the up and down levels provided by water soluble alternatives. Blood meal can help you grow a healthier, more vibrant garden.
  • Reduce pollution. Blood meal delivers nutrients at nature’s pace. It doesn’t dissolve, but breaks down through biological action. Nitrogen becomes available as plants need it, virtually eliminating fertilizer burn and runoff from over fertilization.
bonemeal or blood meal
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to use blood meal in the garden

Gardeners use blood meal primarily as plant food. It also works as a compost starter and animal repellent.


Blood meal is a dry, powdery, or gritty product that is neither “fast acting” nor “slow release.” It doesn’t dissolve in water like a synthetic fertilizer does. Instead, microbes in the soil digest the blood meal particles and then release the nitrogen in a form that plants can absorb. Apply the fertilizer directly on the soil and work it into the surface.

The following numbers are suggested application rates for using blood meal. For best outcome, follow the guidance of soil test results.

  • At 13 percent nitrogen, 7.69 pounds of blood meal contains one pound of nitrogen.
  • One pound of blood meal is 2.5 cups.
  • New garden beds: Apply one to three pounds per 100 square feet.
  • New potted plants: Apply one to two teaspoons per gallon of soil.
  • Transplanting seedlings: Apply one teaspoon per hole.
  • Established garden plants: Apply one to two teaspoons around the root zone monthly.
  • Established potted plants: Apply one teaspoon per gallon of soil monthly during the growing season.

Compost starter

Compost systems work most efficiently when the ingredients have a carbon to nitrogen ratio of about 30 to one. Wood chips, straw, dried leaves, and shredded paper products provide much-needed carbon. Weeds, grass clippings, and vegetable scraps are higher in nitrogen, but also contain carbon. Adding high-nitrogen blood meal to the mix will kick start microbe growth for faster composting.

Animal repellent

When deer or rabbits devour garden plants, the best solution is to install a fence. The second best solution is to use an animal repellent. The scent of blood meal scares many plant eaters away for a fraction of the cost of other products. Just sprinkle it in the area that needs protecting and remember to reapply regularly. However, if cats, dogs, or other meat-eating animals are the problem, blood meal could make it worse.

view of a vegetable garden
ifiStudio / Shutterstock

Organic alternatives to blood meal

Blood meal is a safe and economical organic fertilizer. It makes use of a waste product from the food supply chain that could otherwise cause pollution, so in some sense it closes an ecological loop. It’s one of the most affordable sources of organic nitrogen plant food. Plus, blood meal fertilizer works with nature’s processes to feed plants and build soil. Some gardeners, though, may prefer to use other options, and several good ones exist.

High-nitrogen organic substitutes for blood meal

  • Feather meal, 12 percent nitrogen
  • Fish meal, eight percent nitrogen
  • Bat guano, seven percent nitrogen
  • Cottonseed meal, six percent nitrogen
  • Neem seed meal, six percent nitrogen

Feeding your garden healthy, organic fertilizer doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive. Blood meal supports overall garden health with a steady supply of high-quality nitrogen. It’s safe, inexpensive, and easy to apply.

Editors' Recommendations

Mark Wolfe
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Mark Wolfe is a freelance writer who specializes in garden, landscaping, and home improvement. After two decades in the…
What should you do if you find a snake in your garden?
If you run into a slithering intruder while gardening, here’s what to do
Brown and black snake near some purple flowers

Outdoor gardens are bound to have outdoor creatures in them from time to time, but not all creatures are popular. While you might be delighted to see a bird or bunny in your garden (or feel distraught, if they’re eating your plants), many gardeners would be less excited to see a spider or snake. Snakes have an important role in our ecosystem, and they can even benefit your garden, but you might still wonder what exactly you should do if you see one. We’ll answer all your questions, so you’ll know what to do if you see a slithering intruder in your garden.
What to do if you see a snake

If you see a snake in your garden (or anywhere else), do not approach it. It’s easy to misidentify snakes, especially if they're moving quickly or partially hidden by plants, and even non-venomous snakes will bite if they feel threatened. Keep pets or children away from the area as well. In most cases, you can simply wait for the snake to leave with no further action.

Read more
Watch out for these signs of root rot in your plants
How to prevent and treat root rot
Pothos plant in a vase of water with roots

Every gardener wants their plants to be healthy and thriving. There are pests and diseases to look out for, but most of those affect plants above the ground, which makes them somewhat easier to spot, prevent, and treat. What about your plant’s roots, though? Don’t let root rot be out of sight, out of mind! Here is everything you need to know about spotting the signs of root rot.
What is root rot?

Root rot is, as the name suggests, is when the roots of a plant begin to rot and decompose before the plant is dead. There are two main causes of root rot, and although there is some overlap in symptoms and preventative measures, your treatment options may be slightly different.

Read more
What you need to know about deadheading in your garden
Tips and tricks for deadheading your flowers
Gloved hand deadheading a lily

Flowers are a beautiful, colorful way to decorate your home or yard. Whether you’re growing a garden full of blooms or just a single flower to spruce up a corner of your home, you’ll want your plants to bloom as often and for as long as possible. One technique you may have heard of is deadheading. What is deadheading, though, and how does it work? How do you know if your plants would benefit from it, and how can you deadhead your plants without hurting them? We’ll answer all your questions about deadheading here in this simple guide.
What is deadheading?

Deadheading is the act of removing dead flowers from the plant. This serves a couple of purposes. It improves the aesthetics of plants and the garden overall by getting rid of dead blooms. More importantly, however, it frees up energy for your plant to use. Plants will continue to devote energy to blooms that have died, since this is where seeds or fruit form.

Read more