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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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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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Monday - March 22, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Using corn gluten to suppress weeds in buffalo grass, blue grama and curly mesquite
Answered by: Julie Krosley and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I own a home in central Austin and am replacing my St. Augustine lawn with a native grass blend of Buffalo, Blue Grama, and Curly Mesquite as a pre-emptive attack for the inevitable drought conditions this summer. I understand that the native grasses do not need supplemental fertilization and that applying such fertilizer can encourage invasive species such as Bermuda, and others that my neighbors lawns seem to contain in abundance, to move in. After germination of the grass seed could I or should I apply corn gluten meal to suppress the germination of weed seeds until the grass becomes established even though it contains a significant nitrogen component or am I just complicating the matter?

ANSWER:

Corn gluten is a pre-emergent that is applied twice a year, in the late winter (late Jan.-mid-Feb.) and in the fall (mid-to-late Sept.).  It is slow acting so applying it in the late spring-early summer may catch a few of the weeds coming up during the establishment phase of the grass, but not a lot.  We would suggest hand pulling the weeds or a carefully applied spot treatment of herbicide on the more persistent ones. You can then put out the corn gluten in September.

The addition of the extra nitrogen in the corn gluten shouldn't be a concern.  The Wildflower Center does use corn gluten on its buffalograss plots (see the answer to a previous question).

 

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