Cornmeal in any form serves as a soil amendment and mild natural fertilizer. It also has fungal disease control properties due to containing and stimulating a beneficial fungus called tricoderma. The outside edge, (bran and germs) of the corn kernel (hominy) has been called whole ground cornmeal is the most commonly used from for soil amending and disease control, corn gluten meal is the protein fraction of corn and has fertilizer and pre-emergent weed control ability. Corn gluten feed is a low quality waste product and the regular cornmeal sold in grocery stores is basically the starchy endosperm of the kernel and has low value as a food or horticultural product.
Cornmeal is different than corn gluten meal and whole ground cornmeal is different still. Cornmeal is – well – just cornmeal right out of the kitchen. Whole ground cornmeal is a more concentrated form.
How has this food product become an important gardening tool?
Cornmeal, plain old cornmeal right out of the kitchen, has a terrific use in gardening, landscaping, and farming. Even for your potted plants. It’s a natural disease control. Dr. Joe McFarland and his staff at the A&M Research Station in Stephenville discovered, that cornmeal is effective at controlling fungal diseases on peanuts. I started playing with it and discovered that it is effective on brown patch in St. Augustine and damping off in seedlings. Used at about 20 lbs./1,000 sq. ft. per surface area of soil. Cornmeal will help control all diseases on photinia, Indian hawthorn, roses, fruit trees, turf and seed flats. Horticultural cornmeal is even better because it is the concentrated outer edge of the corn kernel and it’s available in large bags at many of the garden centers and feed stores that sell the organic products.
DISEASE CONTROL IN THE GARDEN
Use cornmeal for root or soil borne fungus problems at 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Cornmeal works as a disease fighter in the soil by providing and stimulating existing beneficial microorganisms that feed on pathogens such as rhizoctonia, better known as brown patch in St. Augustine. Cornmeal at about two pounds per one hundred square feet also works on seedlings to prevent damping off, also on any other soil borne fungal diseases on both food and ornamental crops. One application may be all that is needed, but multiple applications are okay if necessary because cornmeal serves as a mild organic fertilizer and soil builder. The cornmeal needs moisture to activate. Rain won’t hurt cornmeal’s efficacy because, like all organic products, it is not water soluble.
For floating paint-like and filamentous algae in water, use cornmeal at 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet or 150-200 pounds per surface acre. The cellulose in the cornmeal helps to tie up the excess phosphorous in water, balances the water chemistry and thus kills off the algae. The organic carbon in the cornmeal enables the beneficial bacteria in the water to flourish at the expense of the algae. Then the decomposing algae provide a source of carbon for the bacteria. One or two treatments is usually enough to control the algae for several months.
Caution: any fast algae kill from any product can cause an oxygen depravation and result in fish kill.
Additional information can be obtained from the following publication:
“Cornmeal – It’s Not Just Hog Feed Anymore,” The Peanut Farmer, May 1996.
Aquaculture Engineering (1990) 175-186.
Cornmeal only works in an organic program. When toxic chemical products are used, the effect of the cornmeal will be lost.