Corn Gluten Meal for Lawns – Benefits + When to Apply

Corn gluten is becoming a popular organic weed control as an alternative to chemical herbicides. It is safe to pets, children and wildlife. However, most gardeners are not aware of when and how to apply the corn gluten meal on their lawns for effective weed control.

Apply corn gluten in late winter to early spring when most weeds are germinating. Spread the liquid, powder or granular treatment evenly over the lawn and water slightly. Be sure to read manufacturer’s directions on the product label.

Corn Gluten Meal for Lawns – How it Works

Just like pre-emergent herbicides, corn gluten meal can effectively control the emergence of lawn weeds including crabgrass, dandelion, nutgrass, pigweed and other dicot weeds. It is non-toxic organic herbicide that won’t damage your lawn. It is also known to have nutritional benefits to lawn grasses and other plants.

Corn gluten is a byproduct of corn milling that has historically been used as a supplement in animal feed. This product was discovered to kill weeds before they establish. Corn gluten does not prevent weed seed from germinating but inhibits the young weed plants from developing roots.

The newly germinated weed plants are thus left without a mechanism to absorb water and they quickly die of dehydration. The application or this organic weed killer has to be timed just when the weeds have germinated.

Corn gluten meal becomes ineffective when applied any time before weed seed germinate or after the weed plants have established and grown strong root system. At this time, the product will only serve as a fertilizer to your grass and the weeds as well.

corn gluten meal

When to apply corn gluten on your lawn

Majority of weed seed germinate during late winter and early spring. This is the period when forsythia plants bloom before even their leaves emerge. Apply the corn gluten meal during this short window in which the dreaded crabgrass and other weeds are germinating.

To effectively prevent winter annual weeds such as bittercress, deadnettle, henbit and chickweed or other perennial weeds whose seeds usually germinate in the late summer or fall, apply the corn gluten meal in the late summer, as soon as daytime temperatures start to decrease.

Further the amount you apply will also determine how fully it will defeat the weeds. The recommended rate of application is 20 lbs. of corn gluten per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Anything short of that means money gone down the drain.

The effectiveness of corn gluten also depends on the your watering or rainfall pattern. After the application, the product need to be driven into the soil by watering or rainfall. Ideally a watering or rainfall of about 1/4 inch is great for application of corn gluten.

That is not all, a short dry period of three to seven days is necessary to completely deny the germinated weeds some water. While it can be difficult to achieve this with rainfall, it is much possible with artificial watering. Another application after one month or in late summer will guarantee full control of the weeds.

In addition to natural pre-emergent weed control abilities, corn gluten also serve as a plant food. It contains about 10% nitrogen by weight in an organic form which is released slowly into the soil as it decomposes over a period of 3-4 months. During that period your turf grass will grow thick, green and lush.

How to Apply Corn Gluten Meal on your Lawn

Corn gluten meal is available at most garden centers in liquid, granular or powder form. To apply corn gluten meal as a weed treatment, spread it evenly over the lawn as directed on the label by the manufacturer and water slightly.

Do NOT use the corn gluten meal when seeding a new lawn or over-seeding. It may prevent the seed from germinating.

The downside of using corn gluten

  • Existing weeds may also benefit from the fertilizer when applied at a wrong time, which may bring even a bigger weed problem in your lawn.
  • Corn gluten is expensive than chemical pre-emergent herbicides. The cost of corn gluten meal has been rising yearly.
  • Seed germination sometimes vary based on species of the weed and changes in climatic conditions. It may not be easy to time appropriately. This is why most gardeners end up frustrated after spending thousands of dollars without achieving good results.

Final Though

Corn gluten meal is a great alternative to conventional pre-emergent herbicides, however, timing is very critical in achieving full weed control. When applied consecutively for several years, corn gluten meal will effectively suppress weeds for good. Additionally, healthy lawn care practices such as proper watering, weeding and mowing will give your grasses an advantage over undesired weed plants.


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