Use Corn Gluten Meal As A Natural Weed Killer

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Natural Weed Killer Corn Gluten

Looking for a natural weed killer? You’re in luck, we know of one that works great that you’ve probably never heard of. Yes, it’s natural and it kills weeds!

In today’s world, most of us are trying to avoid chemicals as much as we can. One of the ones that you can avoid completely, is a pre-emergent weed killer. I’ll show you how this is possible using an ingredient you probably already have.

What is a Pre-emergent Weed Killer?

Weeds usually start out as seeds. This method works very well for them, but will not work on weeds that rely on runners, roots or bulbs to reproduce. There are other methods for those. A pre-emergent weed killer stops the weed seeds as they germinate, so they will not produce plants. I got my first dose of this about 25 years ago when I was taking care of my grandmother’s lawn. It looked great, then all the dandelion seeds rooted and they were everywhere! (of course, now we know dandelions are a valuable herbal resource!) I used a chemical pre-emergent that worked well and didn’t allow the seeds to take root after that. But I knew there had to be a way to control the weeds without chemicals.

Corn Gluten is a Natural Weed Killer

In doing some research, which in those days meant running around to garden centers since the internet wasn’t really in use yet, I found a product called Preen®. It promised to kill the weeds before they came up and work for a few months. Ok, it worked, but it was still a chemical. It contains Trifluralin. While considered a low-risk product, it still has warnings and it’s still a chemical. Was there something more natural? Yes! Preen® also makes an organic product, which contains corn gluten meal. What does it do? Exactly the same thing! It won’t last as long in your garden, but it’s non-toxic and safe around kids and pets.

Corn gluten meal is available from a number of companies and is relatively inexpensive. We recommend using Dave Thompson’s Organic Healthy Grow Corn Gluten. We did the research for you but if you want to do more reading on the efficacy of corn gluten as a natural weed killer, read the clinical trials here.

How to Use Corn Gluten as a Natural Weed Killer

To use it, you need to be sure that any seeds that you DO want to sprout are already up. It won’t harm existing plants. Next, it’s best to have bare soil, but it can work on grassy areas such as lawns. The dandelions weren’t the only things I wanted to get rid of, crabgrass is another. Once that stuff takes root, you need a backhoe to get rid of it! Ok, not really, but it seems like it. It’s really tough to get out of flower beds, so keeping it out is key.

Here’s the hard part: crabgrass has a very short window of germination. It usually occurs in the early spring right after the first bout of very warm weather. Here in Western North Carolina that can be as early as January and as late as April. The germination period only lasts a few weeks, so if you don’t catch it in time, you’ll have crabgrass sprouting. Hence the claims that this product doesn’t work. Corn gluten as a natural weed killer does work, you just need to apply it at the right time.

How I Use Corn Gluten

Each spring I get my garden planted, then I sprinkle the corn gluten meal on the soil. You don’t need to water it in or distribute it into the soil. It’ll take care of itself. If you can’t find corn gluten meal where you live, it’s available on the internet. Oh wait, you probably have some in your pantry and didn’t even realize it. Plain old cornmeal will work just as well. Yep, cornmeal. It doesn’t matter if it’s white or yellow, or even blue or red, it all works the same way. Grits are made from corn too, but they don’t seem to work as well. I’m not sure exactly why as it would seem that they are about the same thing.

Tips on Weed Germination

It helps to remember that weed seeds have a certain germination period. Some, like crabgrass, have a short window in the spring, while some, like the dandelion, can shed seeds all summer. knowing when things flower and produce seeds is a big help. There is a lot of information online about plants and when they produce. If you need help with local plants, try your local Master Gardener. They’re a part of your local county extension office (here in the US) and they can be a huge help. I was a part of the Master Gardener program for many years and identifying weeds and using natural weed killer were some of the things I helped people with.

Life Span of Corn Gluten

Remember also that corn gluten meal has a short life span. It usually lasts about six weeks. If you want to plant seeds in the same spot later, it’s best to wait three months to be sure all of it has been expended in the soil. Corn gluten meal will also slowly release nitrogen into the soil over 3-4 months. A nice added bonus!

Another good thing to remember is that it won’t take care of existing weeds. Once they sprout, you’ll need to get rid of them another way, like our homemade weed killer.

Tips for Using Corn Gluten as A Natural Weed Killer

One of the only drawbacks that I’ve seen with the corn gluten meal is that it can attract rodents. If you fear voles and mice in your garden, place some of the meal in a coffee can and add some powdered cayenne pepper. That will usually do the trick! And if the meal stays on the surface and gets moldy, which can happen in damp climates, just sprinkle some cinnamon on top of it. That will usually take care of any mold.

Have you tried corn gluten meal for weeds? Tell us what you think!

About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor, and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon!

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  1. James (Buster) Mary says

    Yes, corn meal. Every spring to control ‘stickers’ in my NW Louisiana yard, I sprinkle about ten pounds of any type of corn mean on my front lawn. I learned about this from a neighbor. It appears to eliminate most weeds. I thought it was too simple, but it works. Grandkids can play w/o getting stickers in their bare feet and hands. James (Buster)Mary Pleasant Hill LA

  2. Beverly says

    Hi! Love all the great information you provide and now I have a question, and hopefully you can help. Our son’s garden is loaded with thistle and he has tried everything to get rid of it and nothing has worked. He’s tried chemicals, then a natural product which our local Agway recommended with no positive results, they’ve even tried laying tarps over the area to smother this’s very stubborn weed. The only thing that is growing in their garden presently is thistle, no vegetables at all as they cannot get rid of this thistle. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks

    • Carol L says

      OK< this isn't about corn gluten. I just found a really interesting combination that has worked for me with poison oak around my house. Now, I am not sure what the effect would be should you ever want to plant things here later, and I don't know how long this will stay in the ground making it unsafe to plant, nor if the offending plant will return, but here goes:
      This needs to be done in the heat of summer. I took vinegar, the first time, ACV with the mother because that is all I had. The second time, I used white vinegar made with grain. (You have to LOOK for it, as most all white vinegars are made from petroleum now, unless it specifically says made with grain, and it is hard to find. Essential Everyday is the only brand I have found). Pour the vinegar all over the unwanted offending plant. Use liberally. Next, sprinkle liberally, any kind of salt over the plant. First time, I used rock salt; next time some non-name brand without iodine. Both worked well. After the first day, the plant had turned brown, by the second day it was totally dead. I will continue experimenting with this and hopefully have some answers to some of the possible results of unanswered issues named here.

  3. Carol L says

    OK, clarify something for me. You said that you plant your garden then sprinkle the corn gluten on it??? WHAT? Aren’t you just killing all the seeds you just planted?