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January 30, 2007



Thanks for your post, your comments are so clear and descriptive. I hadn't read the book yet because, well, I was fairly intimidated. It's not that I couldn't understand the science, it's that I didn't think I could do anything with it. You're demonstrating to me that it might not be so hard.

I want to pass on my story about corn gluten and dandelions. I have 1/3 acre of hard Illinois clay soil. In the spring, it is waterlogged. In the summer it is dry and hard as concrete. I could, if I wanted to, sell my dandelions as a cash crop. My lawn is about 1/3 intentionally planted grass, 1/3 dandelions and 1/3 "other". I spent 2 full growing seasons outside with a dandelion digger. I found corn gluten in a bird seed store, the same brand that is available through Garden's Alive. I spread it all over my lawn in the spring, when they tell you it is most effective. I had dahlia-sized dandelions by the end of June, exuberantly yellow, enormous gourmet dandelion leaves and two foot stalks!

I also have an invasive, non-native ivy that is often found at Home Depot as a hanging plant. It has no natural chemical enemies. Our extension office told me to apply borax. I found it did a great job on the ivy, but also served to weaken, although not outright kill, the dandelions enough that their roots weren't quite so vigorous, so I'm back to digging with my dandelion digger.

I apologize for the long comment.


Paula: Thanks for visiting! I really do recommend Teaming with Microbes. I was not very motivated to start it, but I really learned a lot. Your dandelion story is interesting. Dandelions are pretty much the only "weed" that I really don't like. Maybe it's because they're so conspicuous, so I feel like the neighbors are thinking, "Don't they do *anything* to control the weeds?" However, once the first few flushes of bloom are over - about mid-June - I forget about them. At our old house, we didn't have nearly as many as we do now, so I didn't do anything with them there, either. However, maybe knowing that the elderly lady who owned the house before us died while pulling dandelions had a little something to do with my unwillingness to spend to much time worrying about them!

Annie in Austin

Hello Tracy,
The book has been on my list, and your well-written post is one of those convincing me to still get Teaming With Microbes and read it.

While I'm no big expert on corn gluten, I think this is Paula's problem: Corn gluten is supposed to be used as a pre-emergent - so that less seeds can germinate. But it doesn't work on existing plants, and those dandelions that bloomed in Paula's yard had germinated the previous year. Since they already existed when Paula put on the gluten, of course they could grow and flower.

What I have heard is that you keep working away with your digger on the current crop, applying the gluten when most of the dandelions in your neighborhood are blowing seed around. Your hope is to catch up on the weeding while preventing the next crop from ever getting started.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose


I learned that about the corn gluten and dandelions after my experience, but since the corn gluten produced such vigorous dandelions, which produced even tougher stalks and more abundant seed, I abandoned the gluten project, because I felt I would never get ahead as long as I lived. I now employ the teenaged son with lawnmower strategy.

Ottawa Gardener

Thanks for the review. Sounds interesting. I think I will give it a read. For another book that's light on science but heavy for the science allergic reader, you could try Carol Deppe's book 'Breed your own Vegetable Varities'. I love it's can-do attitude but also how it lists min. numbers of veggies for seeding a sufficiently genetically diverse crop... are your eyes glazing over already? Really, it is neat!


Annie: That's right, I've also read that corn gluten meal is meant for pre-emergent dandelions. Laughably, I use my own pre-emergent method of dealing with seeds - I pick all the yellow flowers I can and throw them away. It never works, though, because there will be one day when I don't have the extra 30-45 minutes to pick them all, and then I have seed the next day.

Paula: This summer, I think I'll try the corn gluten and see my dandelions respond the same way yours do. I'll report back here sometime next year.

Ottawa: Thanks for visiting my blog! I have a feeling that Teaming with Microbes will be my "scientific" book for the year, but I must admit that I've started getting much more interested in seed saving and playing with pollination. I'll definitely check out Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties."

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