Linda Benedict, Huffstickler, Kyle | 11/29/2011 10:11:38 PM
In addition to being the showplace for home building ideas, the LSU AgCenter’s LaHouse in Baton Rouge also serves as a model for a sustainable home landscape.
The house is designed with hurricanes and hot summers in mind, but also provides ideas for those interested in landscaping and home vegetable gardening, according to Kyle Huffstickler, LaHouse landscape coordinator.
"For us, sustainable simply means minimal impact on whatever you’re doing," Huffstickler said. "LaHouse has seven basic principles that we follow when carrying out our sustainability plan at LaHouse. The most important on that list is having the right plant in the right place."
No matter how beautiful a plant looks at the nursery, you must plant it in the right conditions and tend to its needs properly for it to be beautiful at your house, Huffstickler said.
"Choosing the proper size plant for your area will prevent future problems like being too close to your home or interfering with driveways, walkways or power lines", he said.
One way to do this is by introducing plants such as Louisiana Super Plants and other select species that are suitable to Louisiana’s growing conditions.
"We use as many native species of plants that are conducive to our growing conditions as possible," he said.
When working in a sustainable landscape, one of the first things you should do is collect a soil sample. "Don’t guess, soil test," Huffstickler said, adding that soil should be tested every three years.
"You don’t want to keep adding more elements to the soil such as potassium and phosphorus, which may already exist in the soil," Huffstickler said. The soil pH must be determined because most ornamental and vegetable plants prefer a soil pH of 6 to 7.
Maximizing mulch, fertilizing appropriately, recycling yard waste and managing yard pests and attracting wildlife are all considerations in the LaHouse sustainable landscape.
Water consumption also is a vital consideration in his landscaping plans. This involves the protection of surface waters and wetlands.
"When LaHouse was built, there was a cistern built beside the house to catch the water from the gutters to be used to water plants on the grounds," he said. "We also have a retention pond beside the vegetable garden that we can pump water from if needed. We want to minimize the amount of water we use as much as possible."
LaHouse is across the street from the new LSU Alex Box baseball stadium and is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for the public to come and see what the sustainability programs look like both inside and outside LaHouse.
(This article was published in the fall 2011 issue of Louisiana Agriculture magazine.)