Many people want to get rid of weeds in their yard without using harsh chemicals. One popular alternative is corn gluten. This is an organic pre-emergent used before the soil reaches the temperature where weed seeds start to germinate, typically around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. What exactly is corn gluten and how does it work?
When corn is processed for oil or some other products, the solid portion of the corn is left behind. This is 60 percent protein and 10 percent nitrogen by weight. Corn gluten is non-toxic and is often fed to livestock because of its’ high protein content. The nitrogen content can enrich the soil where corn gluten is spread, as well.
Corn gluten stops seeds from sprouting. This means it will not kill existing plants, but will keep new ones from coming up. This also means you cannot use it in your vegetable garden or any place else you intend to plant seeds until after the seeds sprout. It is safe to use around transplanted plants, however, if they are given time to establish their root system first.
Corn gluten is available as a powder or a pellet. Both work well, but the pellet is somewhat easier to use. You spread both around at a rate of twenty pounds of corn gluten per 1,000 square feet of ground. The best times to spread it vary by area. You want to spread it once just before the ground warms up to allow cool spring weeds to sprout, as early as February in the South or as late as May in the North.
The second application needs to be done six to eight weeks later when the warm weather weeds are about to sprout. After you spread the corn gluten around, you need to water it in lightly so it forms a chemical barrier across the ground. Do not water heavily for several days after applying the corn gluten or you will wash the chemical barrier away.
As weed seeds grow through that barrier, the corn gluten stops them from being able to grow roots or leaves. The seed starves to death before it can get through the chemical barrier. Sometimes, very vigorous seeds will be able to “outgrow” this problem and come up anyway. However, they are few and far between and are easily dealt with using a hoe to cut
Corn gluten is labeled for use around vegetable gardens. It can be used there if you wait to spread it until all your seeds are up and have taken hold well. Transplants need to have had a chance to take hold, too, and develop their root system before the corn gluten is used around them.
Corn gluten is considered an organic product and may be used in organic agriculture. It is becoming more widely available, but you may have to hunt for it at farm supply stores and feed stores. Be sure to read the label and make sure corn gluten is all that is in the product before applying to your organic garden.
The major disadvantage to corn gluten is its’ price. It is significantly more expensive than herbicides that perform in a comparable manner. However, as more people use it and it becomes more common, the price may come down. Only you can decide if the benefits of using corn gluten outweigh the higher cost.