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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - January 25, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seeds and Seeding, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Corn gluten on Habiturf from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Central Austin. This past Spring 2013) I replaced my San Augustine lawn with Habiturf. My question concerns corn gluten. It is usually applied in late Jan - mid Feb. Would using corn gluten affect the Habiturf before it has become fully established?

ANSWER:

Because this member of the Mr. Smarty Plants Team had no experience with corn gluten or Habiturf (it was developed after we ceased being homeowners and lawn growers) we had to do a little research. Corn gluten is apparently considered a safe organic weed and feed product. The first thing we learned was this product kills the dicot weeds (clover, plantain, dandelions etc.) before they grow to adult size. It's a good thing it doesn't kill monocots, because grass is a monocot, but there are also many monocots that are considered weeds. The weed seeds actually do germinate, but the corn gluten meal inhibits the expansion of the plants’ roots and they quickly die of dehydration.

We found a website from someone who apparently has 20 years of experience with it and suggest you read it, from SafeLawns.org Corn Gluten as Weed Control? Here are some comments from that article:

"My standing answer to anyone who asks about this natural weed alternative is that corn gluten meal has been vastly oversold by an overeager industry. With the rising prices of corn gluten meal in the past three years, homeowners can go broke trying to buy enough product to really make a difference in their weed population."

"Iowa State’s own research on the subject, however, shows that to achieve anything close to full control requires the application of at least 20 pounds of corn gluten meal per 1,000 square feet — at exactly the right time in the spring — just before the weed seeds germinate. Corn gluten meal doesn’t inhibit weeds that already have root systems; in fact it makes fully formed weeds grown even faster due to the nitrogen content of the product."

"If your lawn is mostly weeds, it’s because your soil wants to grow weeds and not grass. The sustainable way to manage weeds on the lawn is to change the soil conditions so the soil wants to grow grass."

We are assuming that since you already have a Habiturf lawn you are knowledgeable about it, but for the many readers of Mr. Smarty Plants who troll our answered questions for help, we suggest you read our article on Habiturf. An article on how to prepare install and maintain this native lawn can be found here.

From that article, here are some comments we want to emphasize:

"Soil.
A well-textured, well-drained soil is essential for long-term lawn success. Normally, after construction, developers spread a couple of inches of imported soil over soil compacted by heavy construction machinery. A sustainable lawn needs deep roots, so rip, rotovate or disk your soil to at least 8 inches - the deeper the better. Then incorporate a ½ inch layer of living compost with a low nitrogen and low phosphorus content into the top 3 inches of your prepared soil."

"Feeding.
If you return the grass cuttings directly to the soil, annual feeding should not be necessary. A healthy, living soil with live compost plus the natural 'rain' of airborne nutrients will be sufficient to keep your lawn at ecological equilibrium just like a natural prairie."

And, finally:

"Warning.
* If you do not prepare the soil adequately, your lawn will suffer and you will get weeds
* If you mow too often and too short, you will get weeds
* If you over-water, you will get weeds
* If you over-fertilize, you will get big weeds"

 

 

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