Celebrating the Seasons

Gabby Gardeners

Question: How can I control crabgrass naturally?


Control crabgrass naturally with corn gluten.

Rebecca says: If you had crabgrass last year you WILL get it this year unless you prevent seeds from sprouting and growing. To control crabgrass naturally you can use a product containing corn gluten. Corn gluten inhibits seed germination; in order for it to work effectively it must be applied in the spring before the crabgrass seed germinates. (In your area it’s applied typically when the forsythia is blooming.) As seeds germinate they absorb the corn gluten and die. Unfortunately corn gluten isn’t selective, which means it will have the same effect on all sprouting seeds, including the ones you plant. Use it only in established lawns and perennial beds.

With annual applications, it can take three years or more for corn gluten to reach its full effect. Since you missed the window of opportunity to use corn gluten this year, you'll have to use other methods. Dig out the crabgrass and replace it with sod or seed. Keep the lawn lush and healthy to crowd out sprouting seeds. Then mark your calendar for next year so you can start your corn gluten applications at the proper time.

Question: Can you explain “lasagna” gardening? I keep hearing about it, but am not sure what it is.

Rebecca says: Think of lasagna and the layers needed to make it. Now think of a compost pile and the layers of green and brown materials used to make it. Lasagna gardening uses the same principles — but directly in the garden right on top of the soil! This means there's no digging and no rototilling. And the best part is that it really improves the quality of the soil and encourages beneficial microbes, bacteria, fungi, and other life in the soil.

Lasagna gardening starts with a layer of brown corrugated cardboard or newspaper laid right on top of the soil. The additional layers are alternating “brown” and “green” materials. “Green” might consist of grass clippings, kitchen scraps (vegetables and fruits), manure etc. “Brown” includes autumn leaves, shredded newspaper, dried debris etc. These are piled and layered to the height of about two feet and then allowed to decompose and break down. By season’s end your “lasagna” will be transformed into a rich, crumbly soil loaded with life.

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