How to Use Blood and Bone Fertiliser (Australian Guide)

Blood and bone is an organic fertiliser that has been used by savvy gardeners for centuries.

Blood and bone helps to stimulate plant growth and provides a source of essential nutrients.

Being an organic product it’s also good for general soil health and will improve the soil structure as well as attract earthworms into the garden.

What is blood and bone?

Essentially, blood and bone is a byproduct of the meat processing industry.

It’s a combination of dried animal blood (blood meal) and ground-down hooves and bones (bone meal) that are left over when the animal carcasses are processed.

This combination of blood meal and bone meal is high in nitrogen and also contains phosphorus as well as calcium.

Blood and Bone may also contain cow manure which contains key nutrients and is an effective soil conditioner.

There are a variety of different brands available on the market that contain slightly different combinations of these essential nutrients. 

Here’s the N:P:K breakdown for some popular brands:

  • Yates premium blood and bone – 7.7:5:1.2
  • Richgro blood and bone – 8:1.5:1
  • B&B Liquid blood and bone – 10:4:7

As you can see, there’s a large variation to the amount of phosphorus and potassium contained in different brands.

In its pure form, blood and bone does not contain potassium but in many commercial brands, this has been added.

A brief guide to N:P:K ratios

N – The first number represents the amount of nitrogen in the product. Nitrogen promotes vigorous leaf growth and deep greening of plants, but too much can cause burning of foliage.

P – The second number represents the amount of phosphorus in the product. Phosphorus promotes root growth and flowering.

K – The third number represents the amount of potassium in the product. Potassium helps plants withstand stress and promotes overall hardiness and disease resistance. It also promotes strong root development and the general vigour of plants. Potassium is also important for flowering and fruit production.

How to use blood and bone

Blood and bone is the original slow-release fertiliser. It comes both in granular, powder or liquid form.

However, liquid blood and bone is mainly used for commercial applications such as for turf farms, golf courses, and commercial growers.

The blood and bone products you’re likely to buy at your local garden centre or hardware store will be in a granular or powder form and will be measured by weight.

Ways you can use blood and bone

There are a number of ways you can use this product on your garden:

As a top dressing around your vegetable garden. Just sprinkle around your plants, water and rake in. This will provide your vegetables with much needed nutrients to help them produce a plentiful harvest.

Incorporate it into your soil before planting. When used as a soil conditioner, it will provide a nitrogen boost, and encourage earthworms and other microbial activity.

Scatter it around your fruit trees. Water well after applying around established plants so that it goes down into the soil and the nutrients can be absorbed by the roots.

Add it to the mulch that you place around your established trees and shrubs.

Use it to topdress your lawns. Rake in well after application and water.

Application tips

If you’re applying blood and bone over a larger area, you can add sand to it to give a more even distribution.

It’s important to always water well after applying blood and bone around your plants.

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Make sure that large amounts of blood and bone don’t come into contact with any parts of your plants such as the roots or leaves. If this happens accidentally, just hose it off with water.

How much blood and bone to use

When applying any blood and bone meal products to your plants, always read the label on the pack to determine the correct application amounts.

In general, this will vary according to the specific brand that you’re using and what type of plants you’re using it on.

When to apply blood and bone

Essentially, blood and bone can be applied at any time during the year, but its application is best during the active growing season. This is generally during spring, summer, and autumn.

However, if you’re preparing your garden beds for spring planting, you can incorporate some blood and bone into the soil in winter.

garden gloves 2 | Plant care

Late winter is also a great time to add some blood and bone around your fruit trees in readiness for their early spring blooming.

How often to use blood and bone

As blood and bone is a slow-release fertiliser, it only needs to be applied once or twice a year, depending on which plants you’re fertilising and your soil type.

Here are some general considerations:

If you have sandy garden soil, it’s better to apply lower quantities more often because fertilisers leach out of the soil much faster.

As a general guide, it’s better to apply smaller quantities at more regular intervals during the growing season. This is particularly appropriate when used on vegetables.

Fruit trees should only require one application each year before flower bud formation.

Lawns can benefit from one application in spring and again in summer during active growth.

Which plants is blood and bone good for?

Blood and bone can be used on all plants in your garden. These include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit trees
  • Herbs
  • Flowering and ornamental shrubs and trees
  • Annuals and bulbs
  • Lawns

Frequently Asked Questions

Can blood and bone burn plants?

Because blood and bone is an organic slow-release fertiliser, it will not burn your plants, so long you follow the recommended application rates.

Can you overuse blood and bone?

Like all fertilisers, you should only apply blood and bone at the recommended rates. If you add too much, the excess may eventually leach out of your garden soil and end up in local waterways which is not good for the natural environment.

Is blood and bone good for tomatoes?

Blood and bone is ideal to use on your tomato plants. Make sure you select a brand that has added potassium for good fruit development.

Do roses like blood and bone?

Blood and bone is perfect to use on roses. It should be applied in late winter just before the spring growth flush begins. Make sure that you select a brand that has added potassium to ensure gorgeous flowers in spring.

What plants don’t like blood and bone

Blood and bone is suitable for all plants and it can even be used on Australian natives. Just be sure to follow the application directions on the pack.

Should I put blood and bone in my compost?

Some gardeners recommend sprinkling a layer of blood and bone on your compost to provide a boost of nitrogen.

Does blood and bone raise the pH level in soil?

Blood and bone is not a suitable product for adjusting soil pH. While the blood meal will add nitrogen which will lower your soil’s pH, the bone meal provides calcium which can raise the pH level over time.

Is blood and bone harmful to dogs?

According to the RSPCA, bone meal and blood meal can cause significant gastrointestinal upset in dogs. There is also the risk of pancreatitis if consumed in large quantities.

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Annette Hird

Annette Hird is a gardening expert with many years of experience in a range of gardening related positions. She has an Associate Diploma of Applied Science in Horticulture and has worked in a variety of production nurseries, primarily as a propagator. She has also been responsible for a large homestead garden that included lawn care, fruit trees, roses and many other ornamental plants. More recently, Annette has concentrated on improving the garden landscape of the homes that she has lived in and focused a lot of energy on growing edible plants as well. She now enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge with others by writing articles about all facets of gardening and growing plants.


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