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Bone Meal vs Blood Meal. What’s the difference?

Feeding plants is complicated. However, you should remember you’re not feeding the plants, you’re feeding the soil. The plants use up nutrients in the soil, yes, but much like the human gut, soil is made up of microorganisms with specific jobs. They break down nutrients, so the plant can absorb them and stay healthy.

If you’re new to gardening or a new homeowner, a soil test would be beneficial. Or for a short-term solution, ask neighborhood gardeners about the soil quality in your area. Take a sample of soil to your local extension office for testing. Here in Arkansas, a basic soil test checks for: pH factor, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, sulfate, manganese, copper, zinc, boron, and salinity. Soil tests done by your local Cooperative Extension Service generally include fertilization recommendations. If you’re curious about the general pH levels of your soil, it’s possible to determine through a variety of home testing methods, like the ones on this site. For organic gardeners, we recommend the certified Bone Meal and Blood Meal options from Jobe’s Organics.  Here’s a quick rundown on the uses and benefits of these additives.

 

Blood Meal
16_05581Blood meal, which is a slaughterhouse byproduct, adds nitrogen back to the soil in a very efficient manner. Nitrogen is the nutrient that fluctuates the most in soil. Many plants are heavy nitrogen feeders, too, like corn, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, cucumbers and cabbage. Blood meal is water soluble and can be used as a liquid fertilizer. If you’re replanting the same garden bed year after year, blood meal will be beneficial, as plants have a tendency to deplete the soil. Blood meal will also make your soil more acidic, lowering the pH value. Blood meal acts quickly in the garden to fix nitrogen deficiency and a single application can effectively feed plants for 6 to 8 weeks. However, be careful when applying nitrogen to young plants, too much can burn them.  For best results, try dissolving it in water or mix some into the soil when planting.

 

Bone meal
16_05543Bone meal adds phosphorus and calcium to the soil. It’s available in powder or granular form, and the powder form can be dissolved in water for a fast-acting fertilizer. Granular bone meal is more of a slow-release additive. Unlike blood meal, bone meal won’t burn your plants if you add too much. If your soil testing indicates a shortage, add bone meal to your soil to help plants grow and flower. Again, pH testing is important because if your soil has a pH of 7 or higher, bone meal will be relatively ineffective. The acidity level must be addressed first. In addition, mixing bone meal with high nitrogen soil additives can balance out high nitrogen fertilizers like rotted manure. Note: if you have pets, keep bone meal away from them. It can be dangerous if ingested.

In short, your garden soil needs a variety of nutrients to thrive. Bone meal and blood meal are suitable substitutes that can help your garden be stronger and more productive.  Blood meal is considered an appropriate additive for organic gardens. When it comes to using gardening products sourced from animals, organic is the safest bet.

Jobe’s Organic Blood Meal
Jobe’s Organic Blood Meal
Jobe’s Organic Bone Meal
Jobe’s Organic Bone Meal
Lettuce and nasturtiums

3 Hacks to Grow Organic Veggies in a Small Space

What is Intensive Gardening?

Gardening in small spaces uses an intensive or close spacing that is not the traditional spacing like you see on the back of your seed packets or use in the traditional row garden. It is designed to fit a lot more plants into a smaller space than would normally be required if traditional spacing were used. To be successful, this approach relies on optimum soil texture and fertility so that plants do not find it necessary to compete with each other for the nutrients they need to grow and produce fruit. Using raised beds makes this easy as it keeps the amended soil contained.

Good Soil is the Secret to Success

For some time now we have recognized that there is a whole world beneath the soil; small microscopic organisms that are necessary for the life and health of plants. These organisms are responsible for creating an ecology that enables the plants to feed and take up water; so we must protect that system by doing no harm to these organisms. By avoiding toxic chemicals, synthetic fertilizers and practices like excessive tillage that are harmful to soil organisms and using natural amendments, we allow the plants to excel.

Good texture provides soil that is loose and friable and allows plant roots to penetrate through it easily. This is accomplished by the addition of organic matter, which also increases the soils ability to take in and store water.

The Root of Intensive Gardening

Each type of plant has its own distinctive growth habit above ground, which we are more familiar with. We know that by tucking in the smaller plants such as radishes around some of the larger plants like beans, we can make better use of space and light, but did you know there are also distinctive growth pattern of roots underground that are common to each type? Some plants have deep growing roots, and some plants root grow very shallowly. Some plants root spread wide and far, and some are narrow and compact. If you take these growth patterns, for example, pairing a medium rooting bush bean plant, a shallow rooted onion and a deep rooted sweet potato there is minimal competition for water and nutrients at the same soil level. By combining the above and below ground habits, you can create quite a mosaic in each of your beds increasing your harvest in a small space and keeping the weeding, watering and general labor at a minimum, saving your back. I’m all for having more leisure time to enjoy the harvest!

Organic Container Soil

One of the bonuses of the container garden craze is that containers allow
anyone to be a gardener even if their garden is just a sunny windowsill.
Space isn’t an issue with potted plants.

In addition to being space conscious, gardening in containers enables
more people to grow plants because it’s possible to get the soil just
right without a lot of labor, and good soil is the foundation for a
successful garden.

I recommend using an organic potting soil for container gardens for two
reasons. First, organic potting soil has good water retention properties,
but still drains well. Second, containers need frequent watering. This
leaches nutrients from the soil, but because organic amendments release
nutrients over time, there is less chance for nutrients to be depleted.

I like to make a batch of this organic soil mix to have on hand whenever
I feel like planting a container. I store it in a bin with a lid. It’s a
great blend for shrubs, perennials and annuals.

Organic Potting Soil Recipe

Soil

  • 1 Part Bagged Topsoil (No Additions Such As Fertilizer Or Water Retentive Polymers)
  • 1 Part Compost – Friability, Trace Nutrients, Water Retention
  • 1 Part Bagged Builder’s Sand – Drainage

Enhancers

  • 2 Tablespoons Cottonseed Meal Per 8 Quarts of Soil – Nitrogen
  • 2 Tablespoons Soft Rock Phosphate Per 8 Quarts of Soil – Phosphorous
  • 2 Tablespoons Greensand Per 8 Quarts of Soil – Potassium

Additional Feeding

Organic Potting Soil
Getting the soil right is the first step in this process; the second part is to
continue fertilizing the plants throughout the growing season with an organic
fertilizer. I use fish emulsion, but if you want to go vegetarian or can’t
stomach the strong smell try worm castings, alfalfa or corn gluten.