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Horn meal and dried blood, nitrogen-packed natural fertilizers

horn blood fertilizer

N, P, K… does this fertilizer alphabet mean anything to you? These three elements – present in blood and bone meal – are crucial for proper plant growth.

• Nitrogen (N) → leaf growth
• Phosphorus (P) → plant immunity
• Potassium (K) → blooms & fruits

To reap a great harvest and increase productivity in the vegetable patch or to smother the garden with flowers, these natural fertilizers are the way to go!

No need to fall prey to the dark side of the force – you can avoid use of nefarious chemical fertilizers completely!

Many natural fertilizers are very effective, often even more so than chemical ones. This is particularly true of fertilizers derived from animals.

Animal-based fertilizer

Horn meal, crushed, in a growing bedNature works well, and gives the plant kingdom all it needs to thrive.

Lawn trimmings, vegetable scraps, carrot and radish leaves, leaf mulch, vegetable broth, weedy tea… it’s already a common practice to use plant-based fertilizer as nourishing mulch or compost ingredients. Everyone quickly gets familiar with these plant-derived products.

Enter the Animal Kingdom.

Though always covered with plant material, the ground occasionally gets a dose of animal matter as well. In the wild, life and death provide these randomly. In your garden, dried blood, crushed horns, bird guano, bone powder, eggshells can be added at will.

Pair plant matter with animal residues to boost blooming and get tasty produce.

Dried blood: power booster

Blood meal being sprinkled into the growing bedOften sold in the form of powder, this concentrated nitrogen dust will trigger rich vegetation.

  • Sprinkle it around the vegetable patch or around ornamental plants in spring.
  • Simply pour the powder on the ground and use a stiff short-toothed rake to work it into the soil a bit.

Also called blood meal, it’s commonly used for flower plants and has the advantage of bringing on quick results.

  • Container plants: Add some to your potted plants as well. These don’t have the luxury of reaching out for nutrients on their own, so you’ve got to provide it to them.
  • Lawns: Spread about 1½ oz. per square yard (50g/m²), but use a bit more, about 2½ oz. (75g) for the same surface for a vegetable bed or ornamental flower bed. Excellent when included in your topdressing mix.
  • Trees & Shrubs: A space where trees or shrubs grow will need even more, about 4 ounces per square yard (125g/m²).

Horn meal or powdered horns: slow-release fertilizer

Whole horns will work even better than meal in the long runCrushed horns will slowly release the nitrogen compounds they’re made of.

This makes it an excellent choice to provide nutrients over the entire vegetation (growing) season, from March to October.

  • It’s also ideal for young plants, since it provides useful nutrients over an extended period of time: this favors proper rooting.

As a consequence, remember to use it in autumn, during the planting phase, but it’s also worth adding to potting mixes in spring, when you repot most container-grown plants.

For the vegetable patch and for flower perennials, restrain yourself to 2½ oz (75g) for a square yard or meter, whereas 1½ oz. per square yard (50g/m²) is enough for heath plants. A tree or shrub will require about 14 oz (400g) upon planting.

You’ll be tempted to increase these doses – resist!

Having too much nitrogen in the soil is actually detrimental, since plants will only produce leaves and completely forget about flowers and fruits.

  • Quick tip: if all you’ve got is whole horns, don’t worry! Just bury them under the plot, and they’ll slowly break down over the years.
  • Deep-reaching root systems like that of comfrey and trees will harvest the nutrients and release them to the surface when their leaves fall and decay.

Other animal-based fertilizers


Typically collected from places where seabirds gather, guano has incredible amounts of both nitrogen and phosphorus.It’s perfect for both the veggie patch and the flower garden. Just like dried blood meal, it’s a “power boost” that yields immediate results. The recommended dosage is 1.5 oz. for a square yard (50g/m²) 2.

Egg shells

Egg shells crushed and sprinkled near a plant stemCalcium is the valuable additive that egg shells provide. Indeed, plants do have other needs than only N, P, K!

Add your eggshells to your compost or crush them finely to sprinkle them at the base of your plants. The rule of thumb is to give each plant a small handful. Scratch it into the soil with a cultivator to avoid forming a crust.

Bone meal

Phosphate-rich with a lot of calcium on the side, bone meal is an effective fertilizer. It supports root growth as well as blooming and fruit formation. Spread it as you would the egg shells, or simply toss a handful in the hole upon planting. Use about 2½ oz (75g)2 for perennial flower beds, and a bit more at 4.5 oz (100 g/m²)2 for the vegetable patch and for bulb flowers. Weigh out about 2½ ounces (75g) per shrub and twice that amount, 5 ounces or 150g, for each tree. Read also:

Images: CC BY 2.0: Ivan Radic, theamaria, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0: Dawn A., CC BY-NC-SA 2.0: theamaria, CC BY-SA 2.0: Oregon State University
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