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This is the time to think about our lawns. And one of the newer discussion we are having these days is regarding using corn gluten meal as a way to reduce the weeds in a lawn.
Some background – we used to use a very ‘effective’ chemical weed killer for lawns called 2, 4-D, and while it did a great job on the weeds – it was not so good for the environment, was dangerous to use and many people were glad to see it now no longer being able to be used for residential gardens. The removal of this herbicide does, however, leave a homeowner looking for a nice lawn with a few questions to ask.
That circles us back to the early April time of year and the conversation about corn gluten meal. If you apply corn gluten meal at the effective rate (about 9.8 Kg per 100 m2) in the early spring, just before the weather warms enough for weed seeds to germinate, the corn gluten meal will inhibit root growth of the weed seeds and that will lead to better weed control.
As an aside – as we talk a lot about gluten-free diets and the gluten from wheat - there is no gluten in corn and what we see in garden centres as corn gluten meal is a milled by-product of corn processing. But ‘corn gluten meal’ sounds better than ‘left over corns bits’.
As an added benefit, there is about 10% nitrogen in corn gluten meal, so there is some nice help feeding or fertilizing the lawn. Some pundits claim you can get a nice dark green colour lawn from the use of corn gluten and we all suggest that after a snowy winter like this year that all our plants will need some nitrogen!
So on the good news front - corn gluten can help with weeds and help fed your lawn.
A few caveats though!
One is the rate of corn gluten needed – 9.8 Kg per 100 m2 (20 lbs./1000 ft2) is a heavy application rate compared to the old days of chemical lawn products – and if you use a lighter application rate there is little weed prevention effect. So measure your lawn correctly and do your back stretching exercises before you shuffle those bags of corn gluten into your trunk.
The second issue is timing – it is critical that the material be applied just before seeds start to germinate. One rule of thumb is that is when the forsythia bushes and crocus just start to break into bloom! If it is applied too late, the weed suppression effect will not work well - and it will just be a lawn food.
Finally – the good news is that corn gluten does interfere with weed seeds growing – but the bad news is that it will also interfere with grass seeds growing. So do not apply corn gluten meal if you are planning to re-seed your lawn. This is a product that is for established lawns only.
So – go visit the garden centre and stock up on corn gluten meal – watch the timing of the forsythia bushes – and go get those pesky weeds.
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