King Corn in My Garden

King Corn in My Garden

A big weekend of gardening — I dug the crabgrass and feral mint (I love my mint, but it was taking over everything) from the perennial beds. It was hard. There was digging, and pulling, and tugging, and sprays of dirt. I have an entire trash receptacle full of roots out there on the parkway waiting for the first yard waste pickup of the year.

My perennial beds have moments of gorgeousness, followed by long periods of bedragglement, caused in part by the weeds. My lawn too, is plagued by weeds — not dandelions so much, I don’t mind dandelions, but by big patches of black medic, which because it does not remain green (or green-ish) falls outside of my very large list of lawn weeds that are okay.

I considered applying a commercial weed-and-feed type product, but every time I tried to buy one I found myself looking at the list of chemicals and well, I just couldn’t do it. The dogs were a worry, for one thing. It was no surprise to me when reports surfaced last week that our pets are picking up alarming amounts of toxins from our environment.

We have a terrific shop over in Bozeman, Planet Natural, and a couple of years ago I read about corn gluten as an organic emergent herbicide and fertilizer. It’s a by-product of the cornstarch production process. When applied to lawns and gardens it inhibits the germination of seeds, and because it’s also very high in nitrogen, it fertilizes as it breaks down. I went to the Planet Natural website but they’re out of corn gluten and said it was on order from the manufactuer. Because it inhibits germination, you want to get it applied before things start to germinate, so time was something of the essence. I stopped at Lowes when I was in Billings last week with the gimpy dog, and scored the last four bags they had. So yesterday, after the great crabgrass-and-mint purge, I used the handy shaker-bag to apply a generous dose of the yellow pellets to the perennial beds, and then dumped a couple of bags in my little push-spreader (which makes me feel like the most suburban person ever) and did the shrinking-but-extant patches of lawn. We’ll see how it works. Luckily it’s nontoxic, since the dogs seem to find it somewhat irresistable …

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, it is an organic substance, even if it is a byproduct of America’s love affair with Big Corn. On the other hand, my grandmother and aunt support our family farm by growning corn, so there’s a kind of completing the circle effect. Mostly though, I hope it helps — if it can do anything about the crabgrass problem in my front perennial bed, I will be a very happy girl.

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