Cornmeal gluten, commonly referred to as corn gluten meal (CGM), is the by-product of corn wet milling. It is used to feed cattle, fish, dogs, and poultry. Gluten meal is known as a natural substitute for chemical pre-emergent herbicides. Using this cornmeal as weed killer is a great way to eradicate weeds without the threat of toxic chemicals. If you have pets or small children, gluten meal is a great option.
Gluten Cornmeal as Weed Killer
However, cornmeal gluten will stop the seeds that these weeds shed in the summer so that the weeds will not increase. With consistent use of gluten meal products, these weeds will gradually decline.
How to Use Cornmeal Gluten in the Garden
Cornmeal gluten is also a popular method to control ants. Pouring it wherever you see ants traveling is the best option. They will pick up the gluten and take it to the nest where they will feed on it. Since the ants cannot digest this cornmeal product, they will starve to death. It may take up to a week or so before you see your ant population dwindling.
Better weed control can be achieved by heavily mulching the area, which will prevent weed seeds from sprouting. At this time of the year, late winter, when many of our weeds have already come up, you can try hand-pulling or hoeing out the small weeds. They are always easiest to control when they are small. This link will give you great information from UC about weed management in the landscape: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7441.html. The key to successfully reducing the weed problem in future years is to make sure none of this year’s weeds go to seed.
CGM will have no effect on already-emerged weeds; it only suppresses some seeds’ ability to sprout. It is sometimes used though where only organic herbicides are permitted, but its effectiveness is still questionable. It should not have adverse effects on soil. Because it is high in nitrogen, it could be beneficial if your soil is deficient in that nutrient.
Client’s Request: I’ve heard that I can use yellow corn meal to control weeds. Is this doable and will it hurt the soil?
University of California research has not shown CGM to be an effective weed control strategy, but in a lawn, it may work because it is high in nitrogen and will feed the lawn, making it more dense, and likely crowding out weeds. Lawns already fed with high nitrogen fertilizers probably won’t show any significant benefit from CGM.
Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Program Help Desk with your question about cornmeal and weeds. I am going to assume that you mean corn meal gluten (CGM), a by-product of corn starch manufacturing that is marketed to home gardeners for pre-emergent control of weeds, especially in lawns. Yellow corn meal makes great polenta, but won’t do much for weeds!
Weeds in our gardens are frustrating and seem to be extra-abundant this year because of all the rain we’ve had. Good luck!