Fish, Blood and Bone: The Best Products & How to Use Them

Everything you need to know about fish, blood and bone fertiliser

Part of our Essential Products Guide by Daniel Woodley at DIY Gardening

I’ve been using fish, blood and bone feed for over 4 years, and it’s become my “base” fertiliser, meaning I use this as a general soil improver around most of my plants. I then add extra fertilisers on a plant-by-plant basis if required.

This has saved me a ton of time as I now use less liquid feeds, and it’s a money saver too, as I bulk buy the fish, blood and bone in either 10kg tubs or 25 kg bags.

If you’ve never used this type of fertiliser before, I recommend Westland’s 10kg tub, you can try it and see how you get on. If you get good results, there are other manufacturers that sell larger 25kg bags and these are a real money-saver.

Danny Woodley

Daniel Woodley

First Timers: Try Westland’s 10kg Tub

Westland's fish, blood and bone fertiliser for dahlias

Key Points:

  • Resealable plastic tub, so your feed never spoils.
  • Don’t waste money on tiny cardboard boxes of expensive fertilisers that don’t last very long.
  • NPK ratio of 3-9-3 promotes root development and flower blooms.
  • Use as a general soil improver/base feed.
  • Less likely burn foliage.
  • Unlike liquid feeds, there’s almost no runoff/wastage.

6 Reasons Why You Should Switch to Fish, Blood and Bone

Here are 6 reasons why you should try fish, blood and bone fertiliser:

1) Gradual-Release but Not Slow-Release

My pet hate is liquid fertilisers that are so strong, they burn the foliage or, worse, get washed away as soon as it rains.

I also take issue with slow-release pellets that are so hard, they take months to dissolve.

Fish, blood and bone fertiliser is perfect as it dissolves in about 4 weeks and provides gradually released nutrients to the plants without burning them.

As the product isn’t a liquid, there’s less runoff and wastage too.

2) It makes for a Perfect Soil Improver/Base Feed

Fish, blood and bone is far easier to work with than manure or other smelly soil improvers and natural feeds.

3) Organic and Natural

You can use this type of fertiliser on crops as well as ornamental plants. It’s safe and natural.

4) It’s Sold in Large Quantities

Unlike many powders and liquid feeds, manufacturers produce fish, blood and bone in bags up to 25kg, which saves on costs and packaging.

5) Just the Right NPK Ratios

Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium are the three key ingredients in all fertilisers and fish, blood and bone products contain either balanced ratios or slightly higher potassium or phosphorous; both are ideal for most gardeners.

6) Very Positive Reviews

Thousands of gardeners have left reviews of fish, blood and bone and 95% of them rated it 4 or 5 stars.

What it Looks, Smells and Feels Like

Fish, blood and bone is a mixture of natural granules of different shapes and sizes, combined with fine and coarse powder.

It feels gritty to touch and it’s obvious this is a natural product rather than the rounded pellets you get with other products.

This fertiliser does have a slight odour to it that is noticeable when the lid is first opened but it’s nothing compared to manure or chicken-based feeds and has never been an issue for us. We’ve used it in containers by our front door and have never noticed an unpleasant smell.

If you’re concerned about the odour, try a smaller 5kg or 10kg product before going all-in with a large bag.

Fish blood and bone fertiliser closeup
Fertiliser fish blood bone
Fish blood and bone in cup

Fish, Blood and Bone Application Frequency

Fish, blood and bone can be applied every 4-5 weeks as this is how long it typically takes for the contents to fully dissolve into the soil.

If the soil has been dry, it may take longer for the fertiliser to dissolve, so you can either provide water or leave it a little longer until the next feed.

If the weather has been unusually wet, the product will dissolve quickly and can be topped up sooner, but the recommended maximum dose is once a month.

Recommended Doses and Application Method

Fish, blood and bone can be applied to the soil by hand (with gloves on) or via a scoop.

Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a product that comes with a scoop, but 35 grams is about the size of a washing powder scoop or a small handful.

Avoid contact with foliage and sprinkle evenly around the base of the plant.

Fish, blood and bone works best when it’s worked into the soil with either a trowel, hoe or small rake.

Unfortunately, if left on the surface in lumps, the bonemeal may attract pests.

The table below contains some suggested doses which you may find helpful:

Young Plants:
Dose:
2 handfuls/scoops per medium-sized plant
General Soil Improver
Dose:
4 handfuls/scoops per square metre
Improver for Very Poor Soil:
Dose:
5-6 handfuls/scoops per square metre
Established Plants and Shrubs:
Dose:
3-5 handfuls/scoops depending on the size of the plant

Ingredients: What’s it Made From?

Fish, blood and bone is made from three key ingredients:

Fishmeal – this is waste from the fishing and fish processing industries. Fishmeal contains nitrogen which promotes leaf colour, vigour and overall plant growth. Phosphorous and other minerals are also present in this diverse product.

Bonemeal – animal bones from the farming (and fishing) industry are treated and ground into smaller particles. These provide calcium as well as phosphorous.

Bloodmeal – this is added for its nitrogen content.

The potassium is usually added from various sources, and if you’re concerned about where it may come from, we suggest contacting the manufacturer. Some produce truly organic fish, blood and bone products, while some are more “semi-organic”.

Is Fish, Blood and Bone Any Good?

Fish, blood and bone is an excellent choice for those that want to move away from chemical-laden products. It’s popular with fruit and vegetable growers, and many gardeners use it as a general soil improver or base fertiliser.

It isn’t the strongest fertiliser, and some plants may require a top-up with other products to get them to perform at their best.

If you’re looking for a general fertiliser that’s better for the environment, try blood fish and bone, which is also available in larger 25kg bags:

Bulk Buy: 25kg Bags

Elixer 25kg fertiliser bag

Key Points:

  • Large 25kg bags go a long way.
  • No need to keep going to the garden centre.
  • Less packaging
  • NPK ratio of 5-5-6 means this product offers a balance of the key nutrients.
  • Use as a general soil improver/base feed for most plants.
  • Less likely to burn plants.
  • Unlike liquid feeds, there’s very little runoff/wastage.

Alternatives

Beyond the usual synthetic, chemical-laden products found on the shelves of most garden centres, there are a few alternatives to fish, blood and bone:

  • Chicken pellets.
  • Rotted manure.
  • Compost.
  • Bonemeal, fishmeal and bloodmeal individually.

For vegans and vegetarians, consider:

  • Seaweed based fertilisers.
  • Comfrey fertilisers.
  • Alfalfa pellets.
  • Home composting.

FAQs

Can Fish, Blood and Bone be Used on Lawns?

Yes, many manufacturers of fish, blood and bone state that it can be used on lawns.

Most commercial lawn feeds have higher nitrogen concentrations than typical fish, blood and bone products because nitrogen makes grass grow longer and greener.

FBB may not be the best lawn feed, but you can use it.

Will Dogs and Other Animals Dig Up Fish, Blood and Bone?

The bonemeal may attract dogs and foxes and should therefore be dug into the soil with a hoe or rake.

Large surface clumps are more likely to attract dogs and foxes who may dig, lick or chew the soil.

Is It Harmful to Pets, Wildlife, Children and Adults?

Fish, blood and bone is a very safe fertiliser, especially when dug into the soil but as with all products, the user should follow the safety directions on the label.

For most FBB products this means:

  • Use gloves.
  • Wash hands.
  • Avoid eye and skin contact.

Of note is the warning that cattle and pigs should not be immediately grazed on land fed with fish, blood and bone. Presumably, this is due to the risk of ingestion or high quantities of ingested FBB causing a health risk.

Can Fish, Blood and Bone be Used in Pots and Containers?

Yes, blood, fish and bone can be used in pots and containers, provided the plant isn’t root-bound.

You can also use it on young plants in smaller pots.

Can it be Mixed With Other Fertilisers?

Fish, blood and bone is a very good general fertiliser and most plants will not require any additional feed.

For hungry plants, extra fertiliser can be applied to the base of the plant.

More From Daniel Woodley:

This guide to the best fish, blood and bone feed was created by Daniel Woodley here at DIY Gardening and was last updated on the 28th of August, 2021.

Discover more essential products here.

Daniel is a keen amateur gardener who completely redesigned his garden and is continually experimenting with new ornamental plants and products.

He also enjoys growing vegetables and fruits in addition to his herbaceous border and expanding container garden.

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