Expert Advice

Blood Meal 101

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Earth Science

Despite its less than palatable name, blood meal is a common product that can be used as a nutritious and environmentally friendly fertilizer. As the name implies, blood meal is a product that’s derived directly from blood. Usually, this blood is a by-product of livestock production, coming from what would be waste material. This blood is dried and made into a powder that’s rich in organic nitrogen, and can be processed and made into a high quality fertilizer product.

Blood meal is a versatile source of nitrogen, and can be used for a variety of plants, flowers, vegetables, and even trees. Below are several advantages of using blood meal, illustrating reasons why gardeners and farmers can use it as an alternative fertilizer:

1. It cuts down on waste.

Blood meal is a natural by-product of the meat processing industry, and would normally be discarded as a waste material. Using blood from meat processing plants to create blood meal takes a waste product and turns it into something that is usable and can be sold in the agricultural or personal gardening industry.

2. It’s a hearty source of nutrients for soil.

Plants need a number of nutrients for optimal health, and one of the main nutrients they need is nitrogen. Plants use nitrogen in order to grow, reproduce, and produce enzymes and nucleic acids. They also use it to make chlorophyll molecules, which are molecules that capture sunlight and help to convert it into food. Because nitrogen is used in all of these functions, plants need it in fairly large quantities in order to survive. Blood meal is one of the best sources of organic nitrogen, and allows plants to use nitrogen when they need it most.

3. It may repel unwanted animals.

Some studies have shown that blood meal keeps certain undesirable animals out of gardens. Most notably, Blood meal is known to keep away deer and rabbits, both of which can cause major destruction to gardens.

4. It can help activate compost.

For compost to rapidly heat up and begin breaking down, it needs to have the proper ratio of carbon to nitrogen, or C:N. Typically, a C:N ratio of 30:1 is ideal. This means that there will be about 30 times more carbon than nitrogen in the pile. When composting high carbon ingredients, like sawdust, adding a high nitrogen material like blood meal can help to adjust the C:N ratio into the proper range and get a compost pile off to a good start.

Blood meal can also be used in strawbale gardening to condition straw bales before planting. This style of gardening is growing in popularity and is ideal for poor soils. Essentially, straw bale gardening creates growing beds from strawbales by jumpstarting their breakdown. High nitrogen materials are added to the bales and they are kept moist to allow breakdown to begin.