News Release Distributed 03/29/11The advent of warmer weather and plenty of plants in bloom means honeybees are active. Spring swarms are common as bees look to establish new colonies, and they may find your yard enticing. LSU AgCenter county agent Keith Hawkins says it is best to leave a colony alone or call in an experienced beekeeper. “We encourage humane removal of bees,” Hawkins said. “We need bees’ pollination services, and a beekeeper could bring them into a hive where they would be used for pollination and honey production.” Even if the bee swarm isn’t a nuisance, Hawkins recommends calling a beekeeper so the bees could be put into a hive and managed. He said bee services are vital since colonies began collapsing several years ago. Calling an exterminator or trying to destroy the hive yourself should be a last resort. In Louisiana, honeybees provide $400 million in free pollination services, and commercial beekeepers produce about two millions pounds of honey a year. Hawkins, a member of the Southwest Louisiana Beekeepers Association, says he has seen an increase in bee activity in recent weeks. “Colonies have grown too large, and this time of the year they may split and create a new one,” Hawkins said. Many beekeepers are equipped to remove swarms from inside walls because killing bees there can create serious problems, Hawkins said. The honey can ferment inside the walls and damage wooden structures or attract other insects and animals. Beekeepers have special equipment that sucks the hive out without killing the bees. Most beekeepers, however, are not equipped to remove nests of other stinging insects such as wasps or yellow jackets. To locate a beekeeper in your area, you can contact your local LSU AgCenter office. Also, the LSU AgCenter’s website has a list of beekeepers which includes their locations and how far they will travel to remove swarms. Go to the “Environment and Natural Resources” section of www.LSUAgCenter.com and click on “Insects and Relatives” to access the list. If you’d like more information about beekeeping, you can sign up for Hawkins’ “beemail” by emailing him.
News Release Distributed 03/25/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Azaleas are Louisiana’s most popular shrub in home landscapes. Although fall is considered the best time to plant azaleas, the vast majority of azaleas are planted in spring. This is, of course, when garden centers have the best selection and is the time of year that gardeners see azaleas in bloom. Typically, azaleas in Louisiana bloom from mid-March through mid-April, although that can vary by a week or two from year to year. Many azaleas also flower in fall. You can have long-term, positive results with azaleas in your landscape by selecting the correct variety, planting properly and providing the most ideal growing conditions. Before purchasing azaleas, make sure you ask what the mature size will be for the plants you intend to buy. Depending on the variety, azaleas may mature at less than 2 feet tall up to 10 feet tall. Don’t purchase a type of azalea that will grow too large for the spot where it will be planted. Spring-planted azaleas may take a little longer to become established than those planted in fall or winter. Flowering and shoot growth are going to occur at the time the azaleas are being planted. This will slow down root growth and establishment. Fall and winter, actually, are better times to plant. This encourages root growth before spring bloom and shoot growth commence. Gardeners really should avoid summer planting, although you can be successful at that time by providing extra care, primarily watering. Many azalea varieties will tolerate full sun if provided with adequate moisture. Generally, however, azaleas grow best under a partial-sun-to-partial-shade environment. Four to six hours of morning sun provided by an eastern exposure are considered ideal. Azaleas tend to have sparse foliage, look leggy and bloom poorly when planted in too much shade. But if they’re grown in too much sun, azaleas may wilt constantly during hot, dry weather and scorch on their leaf edges. Western sun exposure during the summer months and into the early fall is hard on azalea plants. Uniformity in soil moisture is important for good azalea growth and establishment in a landscape setting. Azaleas require good drainage but also need an even supply of moisture. They will not thrive in constantly wet or constantly dry locations. Consider the texture and structure of the soil. Azaleas prefer a moderately acid soil in the 5.5 pH range. We recommend planting them in a raised bed 6 inches high and amending native soil with pine bark or a similar organic material. Many, many azalea varieties are recommended for Louisiana landscapes. Popular ones include the Southern Indica, Robin Hill, Satsuki and Encore groups. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 03/25/11The Institute of Medicine recently announced new recommended intakes for vitamin D, according to LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. Vitamin D, often called the “sunshine vitamin,” helps the body absorb and use calcium to build strong bones and teeth and maintain muscle strength. The new recommended intake for North Americans is 600 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D per day, Reames says. People age 71 and older may need more – as much as 800 IUs per day. The Institute of Medicine sets national nutrient standards and has set the new Recommended Dietary Allowances somewhat higher than the previous values for some age groups. “Studies show that the vitamin D levels in many older adults are below recommended levels,” she said. “Together with calcium, vitamin D helps protect older adults from osteoporosis.” Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle or misshapen. Vitamin D also plays a role in maintaining the body’s immune function and reducing inflammation. “Recent research suggests that a lack of vitamin D may also play a role in increasing risk of certain types of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease and obesity,” Reames says. “But results have been mixed and inconclusive.” Most people can meet their needs for vitamin D by eating foods with vitamin D. Good food sources include vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice, fortified breakfast cereals and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines as well as fish oils, especially cod liver oil. The institute’s report advises against routine use of high-dose supplements because of concerns about adverse health effects. “The report states that many people are over-supplementing with vitamin D,” Reames says. “Because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is stored in the body, it can potentially become toxic at high levels.” The body makes vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight's UV rays, and many people meet their vitamin D needs through exposure to sunlight. One recommendation to meet vitamin D needs is to get approximately five minutes to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen. “Increasing age and having dark skin decrease the body’s ability to make vitamin D from sun exposure,” Reames says. “Vitamin D production at 70 years old is only 30 percent of what it was at age 25.” A blood test is used to determine vitamin D deficiency.
News Release Distributed 03/18/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Blooming from late March to early May, the Louisiana iris is a floral ambassador that has carried our state’s name all over the world. Louisiana iris is the name used worldwide for a unique group of native iris species and their hybrids. Their extraordinary beauty and reliability in the garden have made them increasingly popular, but they still deserve more recognition and use here in their home territory. The Louisiana iris is our state’s official wildflower. Though a number of iris species are native to Louisiana, only five species – Iris brevicaulis, Iris fulva, Iris giganticaerulea, Iris hexagona and Iris nelsonii – are known as “The Louisianans.” Only in south Louisiana do all five species occur together. They are closely related and will interbreed with each other but with no other species. The crossing, or interbreeding, of these species has resulted in the modern hybrid varieties we grow today. Their large, attractive flowers cover a broad range of colors, including many shades of blue, purple, red, yellow, pink, gold, brown, lavender, burgundy and white. Be sure to not confuse Louisiana irises with the yellow and blue flag irises. Louisiana irises are much better performers. The best time to plant Louisiana irises is in August and September when they are dormant, but you can buy and plant them as well while they are in bloom in spring with good success. When purchased and planted in spring, however, Louisiana irises need to be handled carefully to avoid damaging the foliage and flower buds. And you may need to stake the plants to hold them upright after planting. But once they’re established, Louisiana irises don’t need staking. Louisiana irises should be grown with as much direct sun as possible. Although they will tolerate shade for part of the day, at least six hours of direct sun are needed for good blooming. You can plant Louisiana irises in beds by themselves, combined with other perennials or even in aquatic gardens. When preparing a spot to plant them in a typical bed, incorporate a generous 3-inch layer of compost, rotted manure or peat moss and some all-purpose fertilizer into the soil. These irises grow best in a soil high in fertility and organic matter. Aquatic culture is one of the easiest and most natural ways to grow Louisiana irises – and the foliage tends to stay more attractive during the summer. Simply place a potted iris into your decorative pond or aquatic garden so the rim of the pot is a few inches below the water’s surface. These plants also grow well and look great planted in the ground on the edges of large ponds. They also are excellent plants for rain gardens. The large seedpods that form after flowering should be removed as soon as you notice them to keep the plants more attractive and vigorous. Next fall, in October or November, fertilize the irises as they begin their winter growing season. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 03/15/11Tuesday, March 22, is American Diabetes Alert Day, an annual event sponsored by the American Diabetes Association to alert Americans of their risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is a serious health problem in America, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. Currently, 25.8 million Americans are living with diabetes, and an additional 79 million are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Approximately 10 percent of Louisiana residents have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician. “People who are overweight, underactive – living a sedentary lifestyle – and over the age of 45 should consider themselves at risk for the disease,” Reames says. African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and people who have a family history of the disease are at an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when cells in the pancreas don’t make insulin. It can't be prevented and is treated with insulin by injection or pump. Type 2 diabetes occurs because the pancreas can’t make enough insulin or the body can’t use insulin properly. It makes up 90 to 95 percent of all diabetes cases. “Type 2 diabetes is increasing in children and teens and may possibly be prevented or delayed with a healthful lifestyle,” Reames says. To find out your risk of diabetes, Reames recommends getting a free diabetes risk test by visiting www.stopdiabetes.com or by calling 800-342-2383. Although Diabetes Alert Day is a one-day event, the diabetes risk test is available year round. Type 1 diabetes usually is recognized and treated quickly, but for many people with type 2 diabetes, diagnosis may come seven to 10 years after the onset of the disease. Diagnosis is critical in order to start treatment and delay or prevent some of the complications, such as heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke, amputation and death. “Studies have shown that type 2 diabetes can be delayed and even prevented by making simple changes in your lifestyle,” Reames says. “Knowing your risk for type 2 diabetes is the first step.” Reames says healthful eating is important for managing diabetes and recommends these tips from the American Diabetes Association for making healthful food: – Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. – Choose whole-grain foods over processed grain products. Try brown rice with stir fry or whole wheat spaghetti with pasta sauce. – Include dried beans, like kidney beans or pinto beans, and lentils in meals. – Include fish in meals two or three times a week. – Choose lean cuts of beef and pork that end in "loin," such as pork loin and sirloin. Remove the skin from chicken and turkey. – Choose non-fat dairy products such as skim milk, non-fat yogurt and non-fat cheese. – Choose water and calorie-free drinks instead of regular soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and other sugar-sweetened drinks. – Choose liquid oils for cooking instead of solid fats that can be high in saturated and trans fats. “Remember that fats are high in calories,” Reames says. “If you're trying to lose weight, watch your portion sizes of added fats.” – Cut back on high-calorie snack foods and desserts such as chips, cookies, cakes, and full-fat ice cream. “Eating too much of even healthful foods can lead to weight gain,” Reames says. “Watch portion sizes.” The LSU AgCenter’s diabetes education program and Smart Portions healthy weight program provide information on healthful eating, physical activity recommendations and lifestyle habits. For information about these programs or about eating healthfully using MyPyramid, go to the AgCenter online at www.LSUAgCenter.com or contact the LSU AgCenter office in your parish.
News Release Distributed 03/11/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Invite a rainbow into your yard this summer – plant a flower garden. Warm-season bedding plants grow and flower best during April through October, and we can begin planting them as early as late March in south Louisiana. Gardeners who planted cool-season bedding plants generally will wait for those plants to begin to fade in late April or May, however, before removing and replacing them with warm-season bedding plants. Tender perennials, such as impatiens, periwinkles, blue daze, pentas and begonias, are used as bedding plants along with true annuals, but these plants have far more stamina and “staying power” in the summer flower garden. They make outstanding bedding plants, often blooming from late spring until cool weather arrives in fall. Sometimes they survive the winter to grow and bloom another year. True annuals, on the other hand, rarely make it all the way through our exceptionally long summer growing season. Choose annuals well-suited to the growing conditions of the location where they will be planted. While most annuals need full sun (at least eight hours of direct sun) to partial sun (about six hours of direct sun), some thrive in partial shade (about four hours of direct sun) or shade (about two hours of direct sun). Even annuals that like partial shade to shady locations, however, will generally not perform as well in full shade, where they receive no direct sun. Caladiums, planted from tubers or as growing plants, are one of the best choices for color in full shade. Prepare your beds carefully before putting in summer bedding plants. First, eliminate any weeds or other unwanted plants. Next, turn the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches. Spread a 2-to-4-inch layer of compost, rotted leaves, aged manure, finely ground pine bark or peat moss over the bed, and then evenly sprinkle a light application of a granular or organic all-purpose fertilizer. Thoroughly blend the organic matter and fertilizer into the bed and rake it smooth. Then you’re ready to plant. Make sure you plant the transplants no deeper than they were growing in the original containers and at the proper spacing. Annual plants are not low-maintenance, and you should keep in mind the care they will need when deciding where, how large and how many beds you will plant. Mulch will reduce problems with weeds, but regular weeding still will be necessary. Regular watering, pest control and grooming (removing dead flowers and unattractive leaves) will keep them looking their best. In containers, hanging baskets and window boxes, annuals need regular watering and fertilization. Here are some excellent choices for summer flower beds in Louisiana. Warm-season bedding plants for sun to partial sun (6 to 8 hours of direct sun): abelmoschus, ageratum, amaranthus, angelonia, balsam, blue daze, celosia, cleome, coleus (sun-tolerant types), coreopsis, cosmos, dahlberg daisy, dusty miller, gaillardia, gomphrena, lantana, lisianthus, marigold, melampodium, narrow-leaf zinnia, ornamental pepper, periwinkle, pentas, portulaca, purslane, rudbeckia, salvia, scaevola, sunflower, tithonia, torenia, perennial verbena and zinnia. Warm-season bedding plants for partial shade to shade (2 to 4 hours of direct sun): balsam, begonia, browallia, caladium, cleome, coleus, impatiens, pentas, salvia and torenia. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.LSUAgCenter.com/lahouse and www.LSUAgCenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 03/04/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Beneath the mighty, majestic live oak surrounded by Southern magnolia, azalea and sweet olive stands the camellia – what many in the South may refer to as “The Queen of the Garden.” The Latin or scientific name of the plant is Camellia japonica. It is a native of Japan, China and Korea and was brought to Europe from Asia sometime in the 1700s. It is believed to have been introduced to the United States near Charleston, S.C., in 1786. However, the first formal records show they appeared in New Jersey in 1897. The camellia japonica, or Japanese camellia, is a small, flowering evergreen tree or medium shrub that has become an essential part of our Southern landscape and heritage. Known for their oval dark glossy green foliage and large beautiful flowers, camellias brighten our Louisiana landscape during winter and early spring. Camellias are long-living, slow-growing plants that can range in size from 6 to 12 feet in height and 4 to 8 feet in width, depending on the variety. Often a single-trunked shrub with a shallow root system, camellias are upright and oval in shape. It is extremely important to avoid cultivating or disturbing the soil around them to prevent damage. The size of the flower can vary from 2 1/2 inches to over 6 inches in diameter. Its colors can range from pure white to all shades of pink to the deepest of red with some varieties having multi-colored or variegated flowers of white, pink and red streaks all within the same flower. The flower’s rose-like flower petals can be a single, semi-double or double form and last up to 10 days or more before the petals begin to drop. Flowers also can be cut and floated in a shallow dish of water as a table arrangement. Because of the numerous varieties to choose from, shop for camellias at your local nurseries during wintertime. Plant them in a part-sun to part-shade location that receives around four to six hours of direct morning sunlight with protection from the hot afternoon sun. Choosing a spot that receives bright, dappled shade throughout the day will prevent stress on the plant and prevent the scorching or burning of the leaves and fading of the flowers. Once established, camellias are typically low-maintenance. They are acid-loving plants that require a well-drained soil with a pH ranging from 6.0 to 7.0. They can withstand some heavy soils; however, they perform better when planted where high organic matter – such as compost, finely ground pine bark and rotted manure – has been incorporated into the soil. When planting camellias it is important that the upper surface of the root ball is slightly above the existing soil level. After planting, water it thoroughly to remove any air pockets and to settle the plant in. Apply several inches of mulch, preferably pine straw, to help maintain moisture and prevent weeds or damage from lawn mowers or string trimmers. Camellias should be fertilized around March to early April when new growth begins. A good, slow-release fertilizer labeled for acid-loving plants works best. Although excellent drainage is necessary for camellias to survive, they do need adequate amounts of water, especially during the hot, dry spells in summer. Watch out for several insects that can harm camellias, such as aphids, spider mites and tea scale. The most serious pest is the tea scale, which primarily feed on the underside of the leaves but can be found on the upper surface during heavy infestations. If a camellia is infected with tea scale, the undersides of the leaves will be covered with white and brown, slightly fuzzy masses which will eventually lead to yellow blotches on the upper surface of the leaf. Plants that are infested with this pest may have poor vigor and will not bloom well. Tea scale will not generally go away by itself and will require the use of a horticultural oil to be controlled effectively. This should be done in the fall, winter or early spring when temperatures are between 45 and 85 degrees. To prevent reoccurrence, a systemic insecticide such as Imidacloprid can be used. Whether used as focal point, mixed-shrub planting or massed in a grouped planting in a shady woodland garden, camellias make any landscape stand out. We are fortunate that our climate and growing conditions allow us to enhance our gardens with these magnificent plants. So when considering a plant for your landscape, don’t forget camellias. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 03/04/11“Eat right with color” is the theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month in March sponsored by the American Dietetic Association. “Begin with colorful fruits and vegetables,” says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. “Compared with people who consume a diet with only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts as part of a healthful diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.” Fruits and vegetables are great sources of many vitamins, minerals and other natural substances called phytochemicals that may prevent or lower risk of chronic diseases, Reames says. Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant compounds in fruits and vegetables that may have health-promoting abilities. Some of the more commonly known phytochemicals include beta carotene, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), folic acid, and vitamin E. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have jointly published Dietary Guidelines every five years since 1980. The new 2010 guidelines recommend eating a variety of vegetables – especially dark green, red and orange – beans and peas. “Eating fruits and vegetables of different colors gives your body a wide range of valuable nutrients,” Reames says. “Usually, the deeper the color, the better they are for providing health benefits.” The dietary guidelines also recommend making half your plate fruit and vegetables. For optimum health, Reames recommends creating a colorful plate with these choices: – Tomatoes, red peppers, cranberries, cherries and other naturally red foods help maintain a healthy heart, memory function and urinary tract. – Blue and purple foods such as blueberries, plums, blackberries, purple grapes and purple cabbage help maintain healthy aging, memory and urinary tract. – Yellow and orange foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges and pumpkin also help maintain a healthy heart, immune system and night vision. – Green fruits and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, kiwi, green grapes and green peppers help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. – White foods like bananas, garlic, apples, onions and cauliflower help maintain heart health and lower the risk of some cancers. “Substituting fruits and vegetables for higher-calorie foods also can be part of a healthful weight loss plan,” Reames says. “You can create lower-calorie versions of some of your favorite dishes by substituting low-calorie fruits and vegetables for higher-calorie ingredients.” The water and fiber in fruits and vegetables will add volume to your dishes, so you can eat the same amount of food with fewer calories, she says. Most fruits and vegetables are both filling and naturally low in fat and calories. Instead of a high-calorie snack from a vending machine, bring some cut-up vegetables or fruit from home, Reames suggests. One snack-sized bag of corn chips – 1 ounce – has the same number of calories as one small apple, 1 cup of whole strawberries or 1 cup of carrots with 1/4 cup of low-calorie dip. “Select one or two of these choices instead of the chips, and you’ll have a nutritious, satisfying snack with fewer calories,” she says. The USDA MyPyramid program recommends 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables each day based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day meal plan. “For the most health benefits, consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables of different colors each day,” Reames says.