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Organic Answers Column - March 15, 2023 - Corn Meal

Cornmeal And Its Many Uses


Corn gluten meal is effective but it is dusty


Which cornmeal should be used for what? It depends on what the issue is.


Do you have black spots on your roses, purple spots and yellow leaves on your photinia and Indian hawthorn, brown patch in your St. Augustine grass, damping off in newly planted seedlings or algae in your pond or water feature? You don't have to use toxic chemicals like the synthetic fungicides such as Daconil or Bayleton or heavy metal products like copper sulfate. The natural solution to these issues is cornmeal – and it's available from the garden centers and feed stores.


Regular cornmeal in the grocery store can be used for fungal diseases, but much of the cornmeal at the grocery store is just the starchy inside of the corn kernel and not nearly as effective for disease control. If the grocery store product is whole cornmeal, it would be effective to use, but probably too expensive. The best place to buy it is from garden centers, feed store and farm stores that sell organic products. It is often sold as horticultural cornmeal.


Whole ground cornmeal is the natural disease fighter and best corn choice. It is especially good for use on fungal diseases and the best choice for gardeners and farmers It's also the best to use for cleaning up algae in ponds.


Corn gluten meal is the natural "weed and feed" product. It is the protein portion of cornmeal that is a by-product of the manufacturing of high fructose corn syrup and other corn products. It is a relatively high nitrogen organic fertilizer.


Whole Ground Cornmeal and Corn Gluten Meal (Granulated)


1. BED PREPARATION – Whole ground cornmeal should be used at 20-40 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. as a source of nutrients, organic matter and natural disease control. For better results, add dry molasses at 20 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. Cornmeal can be used as the primary bed prep material or mixed with any of the commonly recommended amendments. Other amendments I usually recommend include Azomite at 20 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft., lava sand at 40-80 lbs. And organic fertilizer at 20 lbs. Compost is the primary bed prep ingredient and should be applied liberally at 2 – 6" across the entire bed.


2. DISEASE CONTROL – Use whole ground cornmeal for root and soil borne fungal diseases at 10-20 lbs. per 1,000 square feet. Cornmeal works as a disease fighter in the soil by stimulating beneficial microorganisms that feed on pathogens such as brown patch in St. Augustine, damping off in seedlings and other fungal diseases. Use cornmeal at about 2 lbs. per 100 square feet to help control any 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. Cornmeal needs moisture to activate. Rain won't hurt cornmeal's efficacy because, like all organic products, it is not water soluble.


Cornmeal tea can also be used for disease control. Soak 1 cup of cornmeal in 5 gallons of water for 30 minutes to an hour, strain out the solids and spray the foliage of plants. It should also be drenched into the soil. Cornmeal tea as part of the Sick Tree Treatment is even effective on tough-to-control fungal problems like oak wilt.


3. ALGAE CONTROL IN WATER – For floating paint-like and filamentous algae in water, use cornmeal at 5 lbs. per 1,000 square feet or 140 lbs. per surface acre. The cellulose in the cornmeal helps tie up the excess phosphorous in water, balances the water chemistry, and thus kills off the algae. The 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. Getting the cornmeal to the bottom of the water increases the effectiveness. One technique is to put in a burlap bag with a rock. Small water features can use cornmeal in mesh bags. Pelletized cornmeal is good because it sinks. Caution: any fast algae kill from any product can cause oxygen deprivation and result in fish kill.


Pelletized Cornmeal for Water Algae Treatment


4. COMPOST STIMULATION – whole ground cornmeal or corn gluten meal can be used for this. It should be used at 1 - 2 lbs. per cubic yard of compost to stimulate beneficial decomposing microbes in order to neutralize contaminates or just speed up the composting process. It can be used at much higher rates for accelerated results.


Granular corn gluten meal is less effective but not as dusty


5. WEED CONTROL – Corn gluten meal (as opposed to cornmeal) is a powerful "Weed and Feed" fertilizer and is available in powdered and granular forms. The granular form is less effective, but much less messy to use. Broadcast at 20 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. before weed seeds germinate in early spring and fall. It not only helps control weeds, but it is also an excellent organic fertilizer with an analysis of almost 9-1-1. For best results, it should be watered in after application and then go through a dry period. It can also be used in containers for feeding and weed control.


6. HUMAN FUNGUS SOLUTIONS – For fungus control for toenails, skin problems, etc., whole ground organic cornmeal is best to use. What was originally reported to me by a listener and now used successfully by many to cure toenail fungus is to put 1" of cornmeal in a flat pan that's large enough for your feet. Add enough room temperature water to cover the cornmeal. Let it sit for an hour. Then add warm water for comfort, enough to cover the feet and soak for about 2 hours. Softer skin is a side benefit. More than one treatment may be needed. Ranchers have reported using a cornmeal poultice to cure ear mites and ear fungus problems. Others have reported that simply putting some cornmeal shoes and boots in the morning eliminates toenail fungus and athlete’s foot. Others have reported that poultices of cornmeal helped with human skin diseases.


Graphic from Bob's Red Mill







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