Corn Meal in the Garden
We all have grown a bit of corn in our gardens from time to time. There is nothing more fun than to watch the ears form and mature. Nor is there anything better than picking fresh ears of sweetcorn, taking them right to the kitchen.
Corn has other uses besides being slathered in butter or popped for a movie. Corn can be a proven addition to your organic arsenal in the garden. The forms of corn used in the garden are varied. To understand the differences, we need to examine a kernel of corn. The kernel is made up of 4 main parts, easily identifiable and each with its specialized role. The red portion of the illustration is the hull or bran. In the center of the kernel is the germ, colored here a dark brown. The rest of the kernel, colored yellow, is the endosperm. The endosperm is what makes up most of the cornmeal you purchase in the grocery store.
Whole Ground Cornmeal
Whole ground cornmeal is the most widely used corn product in the organic garden. It is used to amend soil and disease control. Whole ground cornmeal is made from the entire corn kernel. Whole ground cornmeal is found in grocery stores but is usually expensive and in small quantities. A better alternative is to find a garden center, feed store or farm supply store that sells organic products and purchase them there in large quantities.
Ground Cornmeal Uses
Use Whole ground cornmeal for amending substandard soil and controlling certain diseases. For root and soil-borne diseases, apply whole ground cornmeal at a rate of 10 -20 lbs per 1000 sq ft. It is also effective against damping-off disease in seedlings and many other fungal diseases in many plants. Dust whole ground cornmeal at a rate of 2 lbs per 100 sq ft around plants to control fungal disease in both food and ornamental crops with no worries about residual toxic effects. You needn’t worry about rain or watering. Cornmeal needs moisture to activate the beneficial properties
Use whole ground cornmeal to make a cornmeal tea by soaking 1 cup of whole ground cornmeal in 5 gallons of water for an hour. Strain out the solids and use the remaining liquid as a foliar spray or as a soil drench.
Preparation of Soil
Be preparation should include the use of whole ground cornmeal as well. To prepare a new grow bed, add 20 – 40 lbs of whole ground cornmeal per 1000 sq ft. The whole ground cornmeal provides nutrients, organic matter, and disease control to the new soil. It encourages bacterial and fungal growth (beneficial) in the soil. Adding dry molasses at 20lbs per 1000 sq ft will enhance these effects in the soil and jump-start your microorganism growth.
Your compost pile will benefit by adding 1lb of whole ground cornmeal to each cubic yard of compost. The addition of corn gluten meal stimulates the beneficial bacteria, helps neutralize contaminants and speeds up the composting process.
Cornmeal will only work with a fully organic system. Using toxic chemicals negates the effect of the cornmeal completely.
Corn Gluten Meal
Corn Gluten Meal is made from just the protein of the corn kernel. It has powerful capabilities as a fertilizer and as a pre-emergent for weed control. Corn Gluten Meal is found in two forms, granular and powdered. The granular is slightly less effective but much easier to use as it can be broadcast using spreaders. Apply corn gluten meal at a rate of 20lbs per 1000 sq ft before weed seeds germinate in the early spring and fall. It will control the weeds and, at the same time, act as a good organic fertilizer. Water it in after application and then let it dry thoroughly. You can use it safely in containers and raised beds as well. Putting corn gluten meal on the bare soil around the newly planted landscape and then mulching can be quite effective in protecting new plants and providing a boost to their growth.
Everyone is familiar with cornmeal. Easily sourced in grocery stores, cornmeal is the starchy endosperm of the corn kernel. Stripped of the germ and the bran, only the endosperm of the kernel of corn is ground. This material has relatively little value as food or as a horticultural product.
Things to watch out for
Be careful when shopping for corn gluten meal, even in the most reputable garden and feed stores. Some products are showing up on the market that is not true corn gluten meals. Many of them contain corn gluten feed or distillers grain for corn gluten meal and will not be effective. Be sure that what you buy is at least 60% protein and has been wet milled.
There is a lot of dissension and discussion about the use of whole ground cornmeal and corn gluten meal. A lot of this comes from the university agriculture departments. The problem is that if you dig deep enough, a lot of the funding that these university agriculture departments receive comes from big chemical companies with a vested interest in selling non-organic synthetic herbicides and fertilizers.
The fact is, the University of Iowa has an entire body of well documented and conducted research on the efficacy of corn gluten meal that the other researchers ignore. Most of the information in this article was gleaned from the University of Iowa’s Corn Gluten Research. If you have the time and the inclination, you can read the studies and make up your mind.
Links and Resources
For more information about organic gardening, lifestyles, and living, visit our website at West Texas Organic Gardening.
If you found the information here helpful, you might also find these articles on our website of interest.
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