(Distributed 05/24/10) The LSU AgCenter’s Louisiana Home and Landscape Resource Center (LaHouse) will hold a sustainable vegetable and landscape field day Friday, June 11, in Baton Rouge.
News Release Distributed 01/28/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen OwingsMany new gardenia and loropetalum varieties have been introduced to the marketplace over the past few years. Older gardenia varieties are still great plants for us, but the newer varieties offer uniqueness in flowering and repeat bloom tendencies and sometimes have better landscape adaptability. The new loropetalums have unique burgundy-to-purplish foliage color throughout the year. In addition, some of the varieties have smaller growth habits. Frostproof gardenia is a great plant home gardeners need to start enjoying. It’s not really a new gardenia variety, but in the past five years it has become widely known and widely grown. Frostproof is also widely used by landscape professionals. It’s an improvement over other, older gardenia varieties. Frostproof’s characteristics include fast growth, site adaptability and suitability to poorer growing conditions, making it more desirable than August Beauty, Mystery and dwarf varieties. Frostproof was initially propagated in the Forest Hill, La., nursery area and is now distributed across the entire southeastern United States. It reaches a mature height of 5 feet with a spread of 4-5 feet. Try it soon for a low-maintenance, good-performing gardenia – which has not been common in the last few years. A newer gardenia is Jubilation. This variety is being promoted in the new Southern Living plant program (www.southernlivingplants.com) and has performed well in LSU AgCenter evaluations. Jubilation has compact growth and will mature at a height of 4 feet with a 3-foot to 4-foot spread. It has good re-blooming potential. Looking for the newest of the new in loropetalums? This plant is also commonly called Chinese witch hazel. Most loropetalums have purplish-to-burgundy foliage seasonally and pink or fuschia-colored flowers in spring about the time azaleas finish blooming. The Purple Diamond variety is highly recommended by the LSU AgCenter. Purple Diamond has the most intense purplish foliage of any of the loropetalums and has a tighter growth habit that can be maintained in a more typical, shrub-like shape instead of a small tree-like shape common of the older loropetalums. The unique foliage color of this variety lasts year-round. Plants reliably bloom for 4-6 weeks in midspring and sometimes bloom a small degree in late summer. Emerald Snow is a new, white-flowering loropetalum variety with green foliage and a mounding growth habit. Plants reach 3-4 feet tall. Loropetalum and gardenia are shrub standards in Louisiana landscaping. Consider these new varieties to improve landscape performance and use. 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.
(Distributed 01/28/11) The LSU AgCenter’s Jefferson Parish office will hold an open house on Wednesday, Feb. 9, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
News Release Distributed 12/17/10Physical activity is important all year round, but it can be especially helpful during the holidays when you may be eating more than usual, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. In addition to burning calories, physical activity helps build muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. “Physical activity is a good way to burn calories and can help you feel less guilty about enjoying holiday favorites,” Reames says. “Besides the benefits of burning calories, physical activity can improve your sense of well-being and help reduce your stress level.” Reames offers several suggestions to increase physical activity during the holiday season: – Take a walk with friends and family after holiday meals to enjoy holiday decorations in your neighborhood. – Grab the leash and walk your dog for 15-20 minutes. Depending on how fast you both walk, you will burn 60-100 calories. Both you and your pet will enjoy getting out of the house for this invigorating activity. – If you’re near a mall, try mall walking. Find out about special hours reserved for walkers. Do some window shopping and enjoy the decorations. – Take time to play with your children or grandchildren. Try favorite activities such as biking, throwing a ball or shooting hoops. – Try some different activities like line dancing or an exercise video workout. – Join friends in a game of flag football during halftime of your favorite football game. You can burn as many as 140 calories for every 15 minutes of play compared to only 71 calories for each hour of TV game watching. Physical activity guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that adults get 2 1/2 hours a week – or 30 minutes a day – of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, such as walking briskly, water aerobics, ballroom dancing and general gardening, or 1 1/4 hours of vigorous physical activity, such as race walking, jogging, running, swimming laps or jumping rope, Reames says. “Celebrate your holidays by spending time with family and friends,” she adds. “But plan time to get together that doesn’t revolve around food.
News Release Distributed 12//17/10By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Winter is here, and many questions always arise this time of year about protecting landscape plants during the cold months of December, January and February. One sound piece of advice is to pay attention to the weather forecasts and try to know a couple days ahead of time when freezing weather is approaching. Keep in mind that frosts and freezes are different. The weather conditions prior to a freeze or frost also play a role in the effect of these temperatures on plants. Thoroughly water landscape plants before a freeze if the soil is dry. This is especially important for container-grown plants. Shrubs in landscape beds also can be helped with irrigation prior to a freeze. It would be best, however, to make sure your shrubs received adequate irrigation and/or rainfall during the fall. Strong, dry winds that frequently accompany cold fronts may cause damage by drying plants out, and watering helps prevent this. Wetting plant foliage before a freeze does not, however, provide any cold protection. Move all tender plants in containers and hanging baskets into buildings where the temperature will stay above freezing. If this is not possible, group all container plants in a protected area (like the inside corner of a covered patio) and cover them with plastic. Keep in mind that your cool-season bedding plants are adapted to the cold temperatures that are normal in Louisiana during winter, so cold protection typically is not needed for them. For plants growing in the ground, mulch them with a loose, dry material such as pine straw or leaves. Mulches will only protect what they cover and are best used to protect below-ground parts and crowns. Mulch also may be used to completely cover low-growing plants to a depth of 4 to 6 inches – but don’t leave them completely covered for more than three or four days. Many folks heavily mulch their tropical hibiscus in landscape beds using this method. Smaller, individual plants can be protected by covering them with various sizes of cardboard or plastic foam boxes. Larger plants can be protected by creating a simple structure and covering it with sheets, quilts or plastic. The structure holds the covering off the foliage, preventing broken branches and improving cold protection. It need be nothing more elaborate than driving into the ground three stakes slightly taller than the plant. The cover should extend to the ground and be sealed with soil, stones or bricks. Plastic covers should be vented or removed on sunny, warm days. For severe freezes when temperatures dip into the teens, providing a heat source under the covering helps. A safe, easy way to do this is to generously wrap or drape the plant with small outdoor Christmas lights. The lights provide heat but do not get hot enough to burn the plant or cover. Please be careful and use only outdoor extension cords and sockets. If necessary, you may prune back a large plant to make its size more practical to cover. 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 12/15/10Although spring marks the height of the season, Louisiana strawberries will be available from now to early May. Strawberries often are called a nutrition super food because they are naturally high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. In addition, they’re low in calories and practically fat- and sodium-free. “Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than citrus fruit,” Reames says. One cup of whole strawberries provides 46 calories, 85 milligrams of vitamin C and 2.9 grams of fiber. The American Heart Association considers fiber to be important for heart health, she adds. Studies report that people who eat higher amounts of total fiber have a lower risk of heart disease. In addition, potassium is an important nutrient needed for electrolyte balance, aiding muscle contractions and maintaining a healthy blood pressure. And antioxidants – including vitamin C – help prevent chronic diseases and promote optimum health by fighting free radical compounds that can cause chronic illnesses. Strawberries contain folate, which may prevent some types of birth defects, Reames says. It also reduces serum levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that may be beneficial in preventing heart disease. And the fruit also is rich in phenolic compounds such as flavonoids and elagic acid, which have antioxidant, anticancer and antimutagenic properties. “Serve Louisiana strawberries at breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time,” Reames says. “For a special holiday dessert, top a slice of angel food cake with sliced strawberries and a dollop of whipped topping. Or enjoy whole strawberries dipped in low-fat vanilla yogurt with a light sprinkle of cocoa powder.
News Release Distributed 12/10/10By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler, Allen Owings and Ron StrahanThe late fall through late winter months are the bleak time of the year for most lawns in Louisiana. Warm-season lawns across much of the state will go into some state of dormancy by early December, and re-growth will not commence until late March or early April. Because lawns are not actively growing, fertilizer applications are not needed during the winter. In fact, nitrogen fertilization should have ceased on home lawns by late summer (mid- to late August for St. Augustine grass and centipede grass). Many home gardeners incorrectly apply nitrogen fertilizer in the fall months, and this is not a good idea. Nitrogen fertilizer on dormant to semi-dormant St. Augustine grass, centipede grass, Bermuda grass and zoysia lawns can lead to increased brown patch and winter kill. Also, nitrogen applications during this time have a greater potential for leaching of nutrients into non-target areas. Winter is an excellent time to collect soil samples and submit them for analysis. Samples should be a composite of soil taken from about 3 to 4 inches deep at various places around the lawn. To get your sample tested, bring about one pint of soil to your parish’s LSU AgCenter office or to a participating garden center. Make sure to specify the type of grass you are growing on the soil test form. Soil samples submitted to the LSU AgCenter cost only $10, but they provide a wealth of information concerning the overall fertility of your soil. If results of the soil test indicate the soil pH is too acidic, lime will be prescribed in the soil test recommendations. Winter is the best time to apply lime so it can be fully activated by the following spring. The correct soil pH is extremely important and has everything to do with nutrient availability to your lawn’s roots and to fertilizer performance. Postpone establishing any permanent warm-season turfgrass from seed until next spring. Sod, such as St. Augustine and centipede grasses, can be laid during winter, if necessary, but remember to keep it moist to prevent it from drying out and dying. Establishment is easiest when it’s delayed until the middle of spring, well after spring green-up. Brown patch disease can come and go throughout the winter if the weather is mild. It can be treated with fungicides for control. The fungicide azoxystrobin is now available as a granular product and is one of the best fungicides for managing brown patch disease. Damage from brown patch will slow spring green-up, and affected areas will remain unsightly until warmer spring weather conditions allow for turfgrass recovery. Lawns may begin to show signs of green-up in south Louisiana in late February. Do not push turfgrass growth with fertilizer at that time. Fertilizer applied too early will feed winter weeds and result in lush turf growth that is more susceptible to injury from late frosts or brown patch. Lawns may be fertilized in the New Orleans area by late March, but delay fertilizing lawns in the Baton Rouge area until early April and begin considering fertilizing lawns in north Louisiana in mid-April. February and March are good months to spray broadleaf-type winter weeds while they’re still actively growing. Also, herbicides containing three-way mixtures of 2,4-D plus dicamba plus mecoprop can be used for winter broadleaf control in all southern turfgrasses at this time of year. Because weed-and-feed products usually contain high levels of nitrogen fertilizer, however, any application should be delayed until the appropriate time for applying nitrogen-containing fertilizers. A weed-and-feed treatment can be substituted as your first application of fertilizer during early spring. 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 12/06/10The East Baton Rouge Master Gardeners will conduct a three-week Basic Gardening Series at the Bluebonnet Regional Branch Library in Baton Rouge from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Thursday evenings beginning January 20, 2011. This series has been updated and offers several new and different topics. The free educational presentations provide research-based information targeted toward beginning or intermediate gardeners. Scheduled programs will include: – Week 1, January 20 “Mother Earth” opens the series with discussions of soil composition and guiding you toward understanding your soil and how to use soil amendments and fertilizers safely and effectively. The presentation "On Your Own Turf” explains different turfgrasses, their site preferences and how to care for each. If you are at wit’s end trying to manage your lawn – or your lawn “carers” – you will learn what you need to take control. – Week 2, January 27 “Practical Solutions for Small Spaces” teaches how to beautify problem areas with the right landscaping. Homes with small yards, entryways and problem areas like utility equipment or garbage cans can be beautified with careful planning. “America’s Most Unwanted” will help you learn to identify most common weeds in our area and provide information you need to keep them under control. – Week 3, February 3 "Did an Insect Do THAT?" will teach specific steps to recognize insect problems on plants and how to identify culprits. “Mini Gardens for Children” gives parents, grandparents and other adults the basics on how to invest children with a love of gardening. Children who garden develop a life-long appreciation of nature. Louisiana Master Gardeners is an education program of the LSU AgCenter. The Basic Gardening Series has been presented by the East Baton Rouge Master Gardeners since 2004. The series pinpoints horticultural problems unique to gardeners in this specific area of the state. More information is available from Carol Harbo at 225-766-5696.
News Release Distributed 12/06/10Fried turkey is not as unhealthful as it sounds - if you don't eat the skin of the bird, according to Beth Reames, a nutritionist with the LSU AgCenter. In fact, experts recommend not eating the skin no matter how a turkey is prepared. “Frying a turkey in oil does not necessarily increase the amount of fat in the turkey,” Reames says. “Frying correctly helps to prevent a greasy turkey. The high heat of the oil sears the skin quickly, preventing the oil from being absorbed and keeping the juices inside.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrient database doesn’t include per-serving calorie and fat nutrition information on deep-fat-fried whole turkey. However, a 3 1/2-ounce portion of fried turkey from a recipe posted on the National Turkey Federation’s website has 230 calories, 12.6 grams of fat and 3.6 grams of saturated fat for a whole turkey including the skin. For comparison, Reames cites USDA nutrition information for a 3 1/2-ounce portion of roasted, young hen turkey: – Light meat with skin: 207 calories, 9.4 grams of fat, 2.6 grams of saturated fat. – Light meat without skin: 161 calories, 3.76 grams of fat, 1.69 grams of saturated fat. – Turkey breast with skin; 194 calories, 8 grams of fat, 2.2 grams of saturated fat. – Dark meat with skin: 216 calories, 11 grams of fat, 3.3 grams of saturated fat – Dark meat without skin: 185 calories, 6.98 grams of fat, 2.34 grams of saturated fat. The nutritional information for 3 1/2 ounces of roasted turkey skin is 482 calories, 44 grams of fat and 10.34 grams of saturated fat, Reames says. Because skin is a major source of fat in the turkey, nutrition and health experts recommend removing poultry skin before eating. “Even cooking your turkey in a turkey fryer or roaster that doesn’t use oil won’t conserve calories and fat if you eat the skin,” Reames says. Calorie and fat content differ in turkeys depending on the type of bird and meat, she says. Light meat has less fat and fewer calories than dark meat and skin. Turkey is low in fat and high in protein. It is an inexpensive source of iron, zinc, phosphorus, potassium and B vitamins, Reames says. The USDA’s MyPyramid nutrition calculator recommends 5 1/2 ounces from the meat and beans group daily based on 2,000 calories. A 3-ounce portion of meat and poultry is often compared to the size of a deck of cards.
News Release Distributed 12/03/10By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings It’s time for cool-season bedding plants, and one of the flowers in this group gaining considerable popularity the past ten years has been dianthus. Pansies have long been the most popular cool-season bedding plant, but many new dianthus varieties are making this great, under-used cool-season flower better known to home gardeners. The cool-season dianthus has long gone by the scientific name of Dianthus chinensis. Now, new hybrids and species are making dianthus an excellent choice for winter and spring landscape color. A new hybrid group is a cross between Dianthus chinensis and Dianthus barbatus. The Dianthus barbatus by itself is the source of some great-performing new varieties. These new species and hybrids are taller-growing and have potential as cut flowers. The Telstar series of dianthus is a recommended group for Louisiana. Individual plants reach 12 inches tall and bear clove-scented flowers that are about 1 1/2 inches across. This series has good heat tolerance, so it will last until late spring. Numerous flower colors are available in the series, and you’re guaranteed success whether you choose to use them in a flowerbed or container. The dianthus getting the most attention the last five years or so is Purple Bouquet. Flowers are not truly purple – they are more of a hot pinkish purple. Purple Bouquet is one of the Dianthus barbatus interspecific hybrids and is identified by the Mississippi Nursery and Landscape Association as a Mississippi Medallion plant that performs exceptionally well throughout Mississippi. It also has been outstanding in our LSU AgCenter landscape plant evaluations. Purple Bouquet dianthus reaches heights of about 24-30 inches, and blooms last longer into the warm season heat and humidity when compared with other varieties. Melody Pink is similar to Purple Bouquet in growth habit. In addition, you may want to try Corona Cherry Magic, a recent All-America Selection. The Amazon series is another great group of dianthus. The Amazon group was named Louisiana Super Plants this fall and is available in Rose Magic, Cherry and Purple flower colors. Dianthus performs best in full sunlight but also does well in some filtered afternoon shade. Flowerbed soils need to be loose, well-drained and fertile. Dianthus does well at a soil pH that’s slightly acid to slightly alkaline. Dianthus doesn’t tolerate wet soil conditions, so it is important to adequately prepare a landscape bed and irrigate properly. You can plant dianthus from October through February on a 10- to 12-inch spacing to achieve a full landscape effect. At planting, or shortly thereafter, broadcast an application of a slow-release fertilizer over the entire bed. Depending on plant performance, a second light application may be beneficial in early spring. Dianthus usually lasts well into mid- or late spring in Louisiana and can even grow and bloom through the summer with limited success. Although dianthus is a perennial plant, it likely will perform best when treated as an annual, cool-season plant from mid-fall through late spring. 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 12/03/10The holiday season is a special time for giving – especially to those in need. The economic downturn has created a surge in needy individuals and the charities that aspire to assist them. But scam artist can masquerade as charities with an aim to defraud people of their money, warns LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker. “We need to be very careful with our charitable gift giving because there are some charities that are fraudulent,” Tucker says. She offers these tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help you avoid fraud and make the most of your charitable donations this season: – Donate to recognized charities with a history. Charities that spring up overnight in connection to economic challenges, natural disasters or a news story may disappear just as quickly with your donation. Even if the charity is well-meaning, it may lack the infrastructure to provide much assistance. – Be suspicious of charities with names that are similar to the names of well-known organizations. Some phony charities use names that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations to gain your trust. – Give directly to the charity, not to paid solicitors who contact you on the charity’s behalf. Some charities hire professional fundraisers who then keep a portion, often a significant amount, of the money they collect. That leaves less money available for good works. Ask whether the person is a paid fundraiser and, if so, what percentage of your donation goes to the charity. If you’re not comfortable with the amount, consider donating to a different organization or sending your gift directly to the charity. – Guard your personal or financial information – including your Social Security number or credit card and bank account numbers – from solicitors. Scam artists will use this information to commit fraud against you. – Check out the charity before you donate. You can research it at charity-rating sites, such as the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at www.give.org, www.charitynavigator.org, www.charitywatch.org or www.guidestar.org. Keep in mind that many small or local charities may not be included. – Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card. Write the official name of the charity on your check – never the name of the solicitor. You can contribute safely online through many official charity websites. Look for signs that the site is secure – such as a closed padlock on the browser’s status bar – before enter any personal information. When you are asked to provide payment information, the website URL should change from http to shttp or https, which indicates that the transaction is encrypted or secure. – Ask for identification and written information when you’re approached in person. Written materials could include the name, address and telephone number of the organization, information about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible. When in doubt, call the charity to make sure it is aware of the solicitation and has authorized the use of its name. “The only charity some solicitors are collecting money for may be themselves,” Tucker says. To file a complaint against a fraudulent charity or business, call the Federal Trade Commission toll-free at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).
News Release Distributed 12/02/10 The smell of a live Christmas tree has a way of making the season bright, but there are a few things you need to know before you make your choice, according to LSU AgCenter forestry specialist Don Reed. As for price, the live trees that you go out to a tree farm and cut will cost more. Because most of the stores buy in bulk, they can afford to sell at a lower price, which is normally around $6 per foot. When buying live trees from a garden nursery or from other stores, one of the first things Reed recommends is that you do the “freshness test.” “I like to run the needles through my fingers, and if they start to come off in my hand, I know that’s not a fresh tree,” Reed said. To ensure freshness, Reed said buying a live tree on the stump is the best option. You’ll know the tree is fresh, but there are a few other concerns that need to be addressed. “The one mistake that many people make when buying from a Christmas tree farm is not having the measurements from their home,” Reed said. “Trees look a lot smaller outside than they will when you get one home.” Reed says measure the height and the width of the area where the tree will be in the house to avoid having a tree that’s too big. Once you get the tree home, then it must be cared for, which means watering regularly. “You really need to make sure you get it in some water quickly,” Reed said. “Water, water and more water will keep your tree looking good throughout the holiday season. "People don’t realize how much water these trees can take up, especially in the first 24 hours," Reed said. "People normally put the tree in a gallon or two of water and within about 24 hours, the tree has absorbed all of that water, and its sitting there out of the water." When this happens, the tree builds a callus on the cut end of the trunk. So even when you put water back in its stand, the tree won’t take up the water, Reed said. "I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping plenty of water in the stand," Reed said. "Even if you buy the tree and are not going to put it up for a day or two, go ahead and put it in a bucket of water. And keep water available for the tree as long as you have it up." Barton Joffrion, area agent with the LSU AgCenter, provided additional tips for taking care of your tree this year: – Locate the tree away from any heat source. – Check wires and connections on all lights. – Keep gift wrappings and other flammables away from direct contact with the tree. – Only plug lights in if adults or responsible individuals are at home, and keep an eye on tree. – Unplug lights before you go to bed. There is still good use to be made of the trees even after the holidays, Reed said. “Many neighborhoods have collection days where trees can be picked up at the curb after Christmas and made into either mulch, fish habitat or used to help slow coastal erosion.
News Release Distributed 12/01/10Americans will spend a projected $23 billion on gift cards this holiday season. Consumers gained new gift card protections when most provisions of the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 took effect. But legislation known as the ECO-Gift CARD Act delayed one part of the law. LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker says new information regarding inactivity fees and expiration dates won’t be required to be printed on gift cards until after the holidays. “The ECO-Gift CARD Act prevents the destruction of more than 100 million gift cards that didn’t have the required disclosures printed on them,” Tucker said. The disclosure requirements of the CARD Act will go into effect on Jan. 31, 2011. Gift cards without the disclosures can still be sold through January, but card issuers still must apply the CARD Act benefits. Newly minted CARD Act-compliant gift cards will have the required information printed on them. During the holiday shopping season, “consumers can expect to see a combination of old and new cards in stores,” Tucker said. Other gift card provisions of the CARD Act include: – Gift cards can no longer incur inactivity or dormancy fees until after a year of non-use. – Funds loaded onto gift cards have to be available for at least five years after the date the card is purchased or is last loaded with funds, whichever is later. – Consumers can request a free replacement card if the card expires, but the funds remain valid. The CARD Act applies to "closed-loop" gift cards, which can be used at a single retailer or a chain of stores or restaurants, and "open-loop" cards, which bear a credit card logo such as American Express or Visa and can be used at any merchant that accepts the card brand. Little will change for retailer gift cards because closed-loop cards do not generally have fees or expiration dates. That means you will likely see few disclosures for store gift cards, Tucker said. Inactivity fees and expiration dates are more prevalent with open-loop cards. “Five out of eight major network-branded gift cards charge an inactivity fee,” Tucker pointed out. Don't expect to see CARD Act signs at gift card kiosks everywhere. The ECO-Gift CARD Act didn't pass until a month before the gift card rules were slated to take effect; therefore, some new card stock had already been produced in preparation for the holiday season. After Jan. 31, 2011, gift cards on store shelves must have the required disclosures printed on them.
News Release Distributed 11/29/10Many consumers are experiencing an off year due to a “bah humbug” economy, but LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker says holiday spending is expected to be up this year. Americans will spend about $688 per household on gifts, decorations, food and other purchases this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation – a 2.3 percent increase over 2009 sales. If this amount was put on a credit card at 18 percent interest – and assuming only minimum payments at 2 percent were made – it would take more than six years to pay off the balance. Tucker points out consumers would also pay $485 in interest charges. “Considering the current economic climate, families are encouraged to plan their holiday purchases more carefully than ever,” she said, advising families to avoid allowing holiday spending to cause their financial security to backslide. Tucker says it’s best to say “no” to gifts and other purchases that you truly cannot afford. “The greatest gift you can give your family is financial stability.” From gifts and parties to decorations and travel, the holiday season brings a multitude of financial pressures. “Don’t let this pressure, often combined with enticing sales and impulse purchases of last-minute items, cause you to lose perspective,” Tucker says. “Remember, spending money you don’t have to save money on a sale item is no savings at all.” The LSU AgCenter expert offers these tips to manage spending during this holiday season: – Make a budget and commit to following it. Identify and list all the gifts and decorations you plan to buy, the parties you will attend and the travel expenses you anticipate. Calculate how much you can realistically afford to spend on each of these items. Do not exceed your preset limits. – Make a gift list and check it twice. Like Santa, list all family members, friends and co-workers for whom you plan to make purchases. Be flexible in cutting the list to accommodate your budget. – Comparison shop. Consider online shopping to compare products and costs to find the best deals, but be sure to figure in shipping costs. Check sale ads regularly, and be selective in your shopping. Remember, it’s the thought that counts, not the price. Once you have purchased a gift for someone, cross them off your list. Avoid adding last-minute impulse items just to make your gift seem more meaningful. – Trim your list. To maintain your budget, you may have to cut down your list of recipients and gifts. Discuss alternative options with close friends and family members. Consider drawing names; exchanging “homemade” gift certificates for babysitting, home repair, yard work or other services; sharing a photograph of the gift giver and recipient; substituting “family’ gifts for individual gifts; mutually agreeing to limit gifts to something personal, meaningful but inexpensive or even suspending some gift exchanges this year. You also may have to be selective in the parties you attend. Many people will add substantial costs with other expenses, such as elaborate gift wraps and sending holiday cards. Avoid costly wrapping and consider sending a letter or personalized electronic greeting rather than individual cards. – Begin saving for next year. Although it may be late this year, remember, holiday spending is an annual expense. Consider establishing a savings account that you regularly contribute to throughout the year. Check to see if your bank or credit union offers “Holiday Club” accounts that allow you to make regular, automatic deposits. Savings will help reduce your dependence on credit when the holidays roll around. But if you turn to credit cards, be sure to use them responsibly, Tucker says. Designate one card to use for holiday shopping and leave the others at home. Be sure to select a card with a low interest rate – check for zero percent interest offers. Finally, keep a record of all expenses and stay within your budget so you can pay off the bill when it arrives in January. “Remember, those ‘bargains’ that are so tempting in the store are not really bargains if you end up paying interest on them,” Tucker says.
News Release Distributed 11/19/10When it comes to preparing a holiday turkey, cooks can choose from a variety of methods, including marinating, brining and basting. These methods involve the use of a liquid to change or improve the flavor, taste, tenderness or texture of poultry, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. They can be done at home, or birds may be purchased already marinated, basted or brined. Marinating means to steep food in a marinade – a savory, acidic sauce in which a food is soaked to enrich its flavor or to tenderize it. The acid in marinades causes the tissue to break down and has a tenderizing effect. “The breaking down of the tissue also causes the poultry to hold more liquid, making it juicier,” Reames says. “Too much vinegar or hot sauce in a marinade, however, can have the opposite effect and cause the meat to be stringy and tough.” Poultry may be marinated by completely immersing it in the marinade. To help infuse the marinade, you may use a fork to make holes in the meat or use a needle-like injector. Poultry can be refrigerated for up to two days in a marinade. For easy cleanup, use a food-grade plastic bag and discard it after use. Or you can use food-grade plastic, stainless steel or glass containers. In any event, cover poultry while marinating in the refrigerator. For safety’s sake, Reames says, don’t use marinade from raw poultry as a sauce unless it is boiled first to destroy bacteria. Brining means to treat with or steep in brine – a strong solution of water and salt. A sweetener such as sugar, molasses, honey or corn syrup may be added to the solution for flavor and to improve browning during cooking. Salt in the brine dissolves protein in the meat, and the salt and protein reduce moisture loss during cooking, Reames says. This makes meat juicier and more tender. To prepare a brine solution for poultry, add 3/4 cup of salt to one gallon of water or three tablespoons of salt per quart of water. Add sweetener, such as sugar or molasses, if you wish. Place the brining solution in a food-grade plastic, stainless steel or glass container and totally submerge the turkey. Store it covered in the refrigerator. “For best results, refrigerate at least overnight,” Reames says. “Poultry may be left in the refrigerator up to two days after it’s thawed or purchased fresh.” If you’re stuffing a marinated or brined turkey, marinate or brine the bird first and then cook it immediately after stuffing. A third way to cook a turkey is by basting it in the oven. “Basting adds flavor and color and prevents poultry from drying out,” Reames says. Basting means to moisten meat or other food while it’s cooking, generally with melted butter or other fat, meat drippings or liquid such as a stock. The basting liquid can be spooned or brushed on the turkey or drizzled with a bulb baster. If you’re basting a bird, remember that each time the oven door is opened, the oven temperature is lowered and additional cooking time may be needed. And always use clean utensils to avoid cross-contamination, Reames says. However you prepare it, be sure to cook your turkey safely. Set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees, and cook whole birds or parts to a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees as measured with a meat thermometer. Stores may sell raw poultry products that already have been marinated, basted or brined, Reames says. These products have been injected or marinated with a solution containing butter or other edible fat, broth, stock, or water, plus spices, flavor enhancers, colorings, or other approved substances. “If you see terms such as basted, self basted, marinated or for flavoring on a raw-poultry label, a solution has been added during processing – up to 3 percent by weight for bone-in poultry and up to 8 percent by weight for boneless poultry,” Reames says.
News Release Distributed 11/19/10By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Whether renovating an existing landscape or working on a new landscape, we need to remember that soil pH and proper preparation of landscape beds will be essential in determining the performance of your ornamental plants. A Louisiana landscape planned for long-term success includes these important considerations. Optimum soil pH is critical for landscape success. Louisiana has soils that are somewhat variable in pH ranges. Ideally, a perfect soil pH for most ornamental plants in Louisiana is 5.5-6.5. Soil pH is a measurement of its acidity or alkalinity. A pH value of 7 is neutral while a pH value less than 7 is acid and a pH value greater than 7 is alkaline or basic. Soil pH is raised by using lime (normally dolomitic lime in landscape situations) and is lowered by using sulfur. Always adjust pH based on the results of a soil test. Some plants in Louisiana landscapes and home gardens are classified as acid-loving. These plants do best with a soil pH slightly lower than other plants that we commonly grow. A soil pH in the 5.0-5.5 range is preferable for plants that require more acid growing conditions. Common examples are blueberries, camellias, sansanquas, dogwoods, azaleas, periwinkle, petunias and pansies. In turfgrass, centipede grass prefers acid soil, while St. Augustine grass prefers neutral to slightly alkaline soil. The LSU AgCenter Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Lab can conduct soil testing for you. It will provide a report with information on soil pH and also the levels of many essential nutrients present in your soil. A routine test is $10. You can access information from the LSU AgCenter Soil Testing Lab at www.lsuagcenter.com/soillab. Once you know your soil pH, you can move on to bed preparation. Several factors need to be carefully considered when you are developing beds for ornamental plants. Improving internal drainage should be the first priority. This can be accomplished by amending some of our existing soils, but more intensive work may be needed in more poorly drained soil types. French drains can remove water from poorly drained areas by providing subsurface drainage. You can construct a French drain by first selecting an area lower than the landscape site. Dig a trench, fill it partially with gravel and lay pipes to carry water away from the planting site. Sometimes lawn areas benefit from French drains, and landscape beds may need French drains depending on the individual situation. Raised beds are almost essential for successful landscape plant establishment if French drains or “pitcher’s mounds” are not used. A raised bed at least 6-8 inches deep can be enclosed with decorative bricks, concrete edging, landscape timbers, railroad ties or 4x4s. Chemically treated wood is safe for use around ornamental plants. A raised bed does not necessarily have to have a physical border on the edge. If properly prepared and well mulched when completed, the soil should hold in the bed and not wash away in heavy rainfall. We recommend a “pitcher’s mound” or berm when planting an individual tree or shrub. This accomplishes the same thing as a raised bed, but it’s done for an individual plant. The berm should be 1 foot tall and needs to come out from the center gradually and slope down to the surrounding soil level. If you’re planting directly in a heavy clay soil, incorporate a 3-inch layer of new soil to form a transition layer between the existing soil and any soil that is added. A sudden change in soil texture disrupts the flow of water and causes a stagnant area beneath the new soil. It’s highly likely that roots of a newly planted tree or shrub will not move out of the planting hole if you don’t follow proper planting procedures. Soil preparation, drainage and pH are very important in landscape gardening success. Do not overlook this important factor. 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 11/17/10Pies are traditionally served at holiday feasts, but some need to be treated carefully, according to Beth Reames, a nutritionist with the LSU AgCenter. To prevent foodborne illness, pumpkin, custard and cream pies and others containing eggs and milk and pecan pies made with eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of preparation, Reames says. And they shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than two hours when they’re being served. Holiday cakes, cookies and breads with perishable fillings or frosting also should be refrigerated. “Eggs and milk have high protein and moisture content,” she says. “Bacteria can multiply rapidly when foods containing these perishable items are left at room temperature. Refrigerate perishables, prepared foods and leftovers within two hours.” Pies containing eggs and milk should be baked to at least 160 degrees, cooled quickly and refrigerated until they’re served, Reames says. Leftovers should be returned to the refrigerator. “Commercial pumpkin pies have preservatives and other ingredients added to make them shelf-stable,” Reames says. “They may be displayed and stored at room temperature, but once cut, they should be refrigerated. Check the label on commercially baked pies for storage requirements.” Leftover fruit pie, which typically is prepared without eggs, can be covered and stored unrefrigerated for up to two days. To maintain best quality, however, refrigerate them. The nutritionist recommends storing fruit pies in the refrigerator during warm weather.
News Release Distributed 11/15/10For most Americans, Thanksgiving wouldn’t be complete without turkey. But cooking a big bird requires care, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. “There is no quality difference between a fresh or frozen turkey, although fresh turkeys have shorter shelf lives,” Reames says. “By purchasing a frozen turkey, you can often take advantage of special sales.” To make sure you have enough turkey for the feast and for leftovers too, purchase at least one pound of uncooked turkey per person, If you choose to buy a frozen bird, make sure you have adequate storage space in your freezer. If you buy a fresh turkey, be sure you purchase it only one to two days before cooking. Proper thawing is important to prevent growth of harmful bacteria that may have been present prior to freezing a turkey. Reames says three safe ways to thaw a turkey safely are in the refrigerator at 40 degrees or less, in cold water and in a microwave oven. When thawing a turkey in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours of thawing time for every 5 pounds of turkey, she says. Place a frozen turkey – still in its store wrap – in a baking sheet with a lip or a shallow pan on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. To thaw a bird in cold water, keep the turkey in the original packaging, place it in a clean and sanitized sink or pan, and submerge it in cold water, changing the water every 30 minutes. For microwave thawing, follow the oven manufacturer’s instructions. “Plan to cook the turkey immediately after thawing in a microwave because some areas of the turkey may become warm and begin to cook during microwave thawing,” Reames says. For safety’s sake, wash your hands for 20 seconds in hot, soapy water after handling raw poultry or meat, she says. Also, be sure that utensils, plates, work surfaces, etc. have been thoroughly cleaned. Keep raw foods separate from cooked or ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination, Reames warns. It is important that the juices from raw meat and poultry do not come into contact with food that will be eaten without cooking. Also, never place cooked food on an unwashed plate that previously held raw meat or poultry. To cook a turkey safely, set the oven temperature no lower than 325 degrees, Reames says. To make sure a whole turkey has reached a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees, use a food thermometer to check the innermost part of the thigh and wing and thickest part of the breast. An unstuffed turkey that weighs 14 to 18 pounds will need to cook approximately 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours in a 325-degree oven. “The color of cooked poultry is not always a sure sign of its safety,” Reames says. “Turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink.” If you decide to stuff a turkey, prepare the stuffing and stuff it into the cavity immediately before it's placed in the oven. When you cook a stuffed turkey, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperatures of both the turkey and the center of the stuffing, the nutritionist says. If the turkey is done and the stuffing has not reached 165 degrees, remove the stuffing from the turkey and place it in a greased casserole dish to continue cooking. For optimum safety, cook stuffing separately from the turkey, Reames says. Cooking stuffing separately also will help prevent overcooking the bird. Take care of leftovers promptly to keep foodborne bacteria from growing. Cut the turkey into small pieces and refrigerate stuffing and turkey separately in shallow containers. Use leftover turkey and stuffing within three to four days and gravy within one to two days, or freeze these foods. Consumers with food safety questions can call the toll-free U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854. The hotline is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time Monday–Friday and from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.
News Release Distributed 11/12/10By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen OwingsNovember and early December are excellent times for planting trees in Louisiana. We have many excellent species of trees recommended for the state, including our native trees, such as the Louisiana state tree – the baldcypress – and the Louisiana state flower – the Southern magnolia. During late fall and through the winter months, the soil is still warm enough to encourage vigorous root growth, and trees will have several months to get established before next summer’s heat. At the same time, the weather is cool, and the trees are going dormant, helping reduce stress. Normally generous rainfall during winter also makes constant attention to watering unnecessary. Planting at this time of year is especially beneficial for balled-and-burlapped trees because they lose so much of their root systems when they are dug. You can plant trees properly by following these steps: – Dig the hole at least twice the diameter of the root ball and no deeper than the height of the root ball. – Remove a container-grown tree from its container. If the root ball is tightly packed with thick encircling roots, try to unwrap, open up or even cut some of the roots to encourage them to spread into the surrounding soil. Place the root ball in the hole. – Place balled-and-burlapped trees into the planting hole. Remove any nails, nylon twine or wire basket that has been used to secure the burlap. Then fold down the burlap from the top half of the root ball or remove the burlap. – Make the top of the root ball level with or slightly above the surrounding soil. It is critical that you do not plant trees too deep. – Thoroughly pulverize the soil dug out from the hole and use this soil, without any additions, to backfill around the tree. Add soil until the hole is half full. Then firm the soil to eliminate air pockets, but do not pack it tightly. Finish filling the hole, firm the soil again and then water the tree thoroughly to settle it in. – Generally, do not fertilize trees planted during fall, although you can apply some slow-release fertilizer next spring. The use of a root stimulator solution is optional. – Stake the tree if it is tall enough to be unstable; otherwise, staking is not necessary. If you use stakes, drive two or three firmly into the ground just beyond the root ball. Use strips of cloth or nylon stockings – or use wire covered with a piece of garden hose where it touches the trunk – tied to the stakes and then to the trunk of the tree. Leave the support in place no more than nine to 12 months. – Keep the area 1 to 2 feet out from the trunk of a newly planted tree mulched and free from weeds and grass. This encourages the tree to establish faster by eliminating competition from grass roots. It also prevents lawn mowers and string trimmers from damaging the bark at the base of the tree, which can cause stunting or death. The mulch should be 2 to 4 inches deep and pulled back slightly from the base of the trunk. Follow these steps and you’ll be successful with your tree-planting efforts. 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.
(Distributed 11/05/10) SHREVEPORT, La. – AgMagic at the State Fair answered a question that has been bugging one Bossier City student for years. “What happens if a bug gets into cotton?” asked Dallas Kaiser, 10, a student at Meadowview Elementary School in Bossier City.
(Distributed 09/24/10) Shrimpers are benefiting from a direct-sales method using the Internet to announce when they will be coming ashore with a fresh catch. The Twin Parish Port Commission – along with the LSU AgCenter and Sea Grant – has created a marketplace, Delcambre Direct Seafood, where consumers are able to contact seafood producers (fishers) directly to purchase fresh shrimp and other seafood when they arrive at the dock.
(Distributed 08/26/10) With sweet potato consumption rising and a shift in the industry toward more processed products, the LSU AgCenter’s Sweet Potato Research Station showed growers how to optimize production at a field day held at the station Aug. 24. The latest research was presented to help growers learn how to produce a high-yielding, predictable, profitable crop.
ALEXANDRIA, La. – Herbicide-resistant weeds have been causing havoc in soybean fields across the South, and they appear to be “just an eyelash away” from being confirmed as a problem in Louisiana, said Daniel Stephenson, an LSU AgCenter weed scientist.
News Release Distributed 08/03/10The average American family will spend $606.40 on back-to-school clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics this year. Citing recent research, LSU AgCenter family economist Jeanette Tucker says that’s an increase of $56.72 over 2009. “The economy will continue to play a role in American families’ back-to-school preparations,” Tucker says. More Americans will buy store brand or generic products this year compared with last year, the economist says. Additionally, more parents will comparison shop online. The state of the economy also has affected a parent’s decision regarding whether a child should attend public or private school. Growing children mean growing budgets, Tucker says. The average family of school-aged children is expected to spend 37 percent of their budget – or $225.47 – on clothing. Electronic- or computer-related school needs will take $181.60 – or 30 percent – of the family’s back-to-school dollars. Families also will spend an average of $102.93 on shoes and $96.39 on school supplies. Tucker has tips for creating – and sticking to – a back-to-school budget to keep expenses under control. – Make a list It doesn't take much to turn the school's supply list into a shopping list, Tucker says. Add in school clothes, backpacks and back-to-school haircuts, and the cost grows exponentially. Before buying the first pack of crayons, Tucker recommends estimating the total that you can spend and what the costs are likely to be. “Don't leave anything out,” she says. “It's better to know ahead of time if things will be tight so that you can plan ways to cut before you get to the store.” – Get the children involved “Have the kids join in as you prepare for making those back-to-school purchases,” Tucker suggests. Hands-on participation will teach them great lessons about budgeting, finding a good deal and the difference between wants and needs. Younger children can use safety scissors to help cut coupons. Older children can compare costs and add up projected expenses. “You might even put them in charge of research – scouting out deals to help stay under budget,” Tucker says. – Try online Buying online? Play it smart, Tucker says, suggesting grouping orders with friends to get free shipping. Or buy bulk packs of supplies at office or warehouse stores to share. Challenge teens and tweens to conduct online research to compare prices and find money-saving perks like free shipping and coupons, she advises. “You might also find a ‘steal’ on internet auctions such as eBay or Craigslist,” Tucker says. – Be willing to compromise “Youngsters will want to have the same cool stuff their friends have,” she says. “If your budget has the room to consider some of these cool items, you can help your kids learn to prioritize.” Talk to students about how choosing a more expensive item means they'll have to cut costs on another item, and give them a chance to think their choices through, Tucker says. “If they have money of their own, you might ask them to help fund that special lunchbox or name-brand backpack,” she says. Another tip to consider is waiting to purchase backpacks until a week or so after school starts when items are more likely to be discounted. Tucker reminds consumers that many high-quality book bags are guaranteed, so be sure to file away receipts and related paperwork for the future. – Get creative There's a good chance school clothes and shoes are the biggest items in your back-to-school budget. Tucker says they don’t have to be. Now is a good time for older siblings to clean closets to locate hand-me-downs or trade clothes with other families. Tucker suggests shopping discount stores, thrift stores and garage sales. If school uniforms are required, check whether the school has a trading or discount program. – Learn from the experience Make your savvy back-to-school approach an annual tradition. Keep track of this year's expenses to help determine your budget next year, Tucker advises. “Keep notes about what you discover this year, like which thrift stores are best and when the store shelves start to empty,” she says. “They'll come in handy a year from now.” Tucker says families should practice these smart shopping skills each year. “By the time the kids graduate, you'll have saved a bundle, and your children will be much more prepared for the real world.
(Audio 07/26/10) Flower gardens add a great amount of beauty to our landscapes. Late July or August is a great time to evaluate your flower beds to see what needs to be replaced. Hear about some great replacements that can withstand the summer heat. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/26/10) Caladiums are one of the most common bedding plants to use in shady areas of the landscape. They are popular, reliable and do not have many insect problems. Caladiums do require extra care during the summer. Be sure to keep beds well-mulched, water deeply, and apply a light application of fertilizer. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/26/10) Crape myrtles are popular summer-flowering trees, and they have a very long blooming season. If your tree is relatively young, and you notice some leftover seed pods, trim these off to encourage new growth. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/26/10) The roses in your landscape do not enjoy the heat of summer. You may notice smaller flowers, faded color and declining quality. There is not much you can do for your roses when this occurs, but be sure to water deeply when the weather is hot and dry. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/26/10) Some people feel guilty for harvesting flowers from their flower gardens. Imagine how much more you would enjoy your flowers if they were cut from your garden and arranged in an attractive vase indoors. Here are a few tips on how to make cut flowers last as long as possible. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Video 07/19/10) Common wax begonias are beautiful in the landscape, but they’re kind of small. If you’re looking for a begonia with bigger flowers and leaves, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill recommends trying dragon wing begonias on this segment of Get It Growing.(Runtime: 1:41)
(Video 07/26/10) Blue flowers can add a cool touch to hot summer gardens, but are all flowers that may be called blue truly blue? In reality, relatively few flowers in nature actually are blue. In this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill is in search of some of those true-blue flowers. (Runtime: 1:45)
(Audio 07/19/10) Unlike most summer-flowering shrubs, gardenias and hydrangeas should be pruned around the same time that spring-flowering shrubs are pruned. Here are some tips for pruning your gardenias and hydrangeas. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/19/10) Basil is an indispensable herb used in Louisiana cooking. Basil is a warm-season herb, and you can add more basil to your garden despite the heat. Visit your local nursery to find basil transplants to add to your garden. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/19/10) During the heat of summer, shade trees in the landscape are incredibly welcomed. As the years go by and these shade trees get increasingly larger, the grass beneath the canopies may not get enough sunlight and may begin to fade away and die. Here are some options for dealing with bare areas underneath shade trees. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/19/10) If you ever notice a fine, silvery webbing located on the bark of trees, do not be alarmed. This is the web of bark lice, which are scavengers that feed on organic debris lodged in the crevices of the bark. Bark lice are harmless, so it is not necessary to remove them. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/19/10) Blackberries are one of the easiest and most productive fruits that can be grown in the home garden. They have a unique life cycle. Blackberry chutes do not produce during the first year, but during their second year they produce vigorously and then die. Be sure to prune all of the old canes down to the ground and prune the tips off of the new canes. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(For Release On Or After 07/16/10) Deadheading is an important but often-neglected gardening technique. It refers to pruning old, faded flowers from a plant as it blooms. It is most often done to annuals and perennials, but it is also useful with some summer-flowering trees and shrubs.
(For Release On Or After 07/23/10) We all are familiar with low-growing, running grasses like St. Augustine and centipede used to cover lawn areas, and in most gardeners’ minds, all other grasses are simply weeds. Ornamental grasses, however, are an often-overlooked group of herbaceous perennials that thrive in Louisiana and will grow beautifully with minimal effort.
(For Release On Or After 07/30/10) The LSU AgCenter conducts greenhouse and landscape research on many new bedding plants each year. This helps to determine production practices to assist growers and evaluate performance in the landscape to provide garden centers, landscape professionals and home gardeners information on how these plants will perform under Louisiana’s growing conditions.
(For Release On Or After 07/09/10) Not satisfied with the occasional, chance appearance of butterflies, many gardeners are creating butterfly gardens with plants specially chosen to invite them into the landscape. A large number of beautiful native butterflies will visit gardens that provide for their needs.
(Audio 07/12/10) Leaf miners are tiny insect larvae that get inside leaves and feed between their upper and lower surfaces, which results in white lines on leaves. Prevent leaf miner damage by applying an insecticide. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/12/10) Nobody enjoys weeding a garden, especially during the heat of summer. The best defense against weeds that grow from seeds is to keep beds mulched or use a pre-emergence herbicide. Learn more about preventing weed growth in your beds. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/12/10) Figs are ready for harvest. One of the main issues growers have with fig trees is birds. Birds will wait until the figs are perfectly ripe, and they peck holes in them before you have a chance to harvest. Learn how to stop birds from damaging your figs. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/12/10) The intense heat of summer takes a toll on our flower gardens. Many summer bedding plants are able to endure this heat and produce lots of flowers for us. Here are a few tips on watering and keeping your garden looking lively. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/12/10) When growing plants in containers, it is critical that the containers have drainage holes. Drainage holes allow us to water these plants generously and let the excess water seep out of the holes. When placed on wooden decks, use bricks or pot feet to boost these container plants because the excess water could stain or rot the wood. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/05/10) Because Louisiana summers are extremely hot, many gardeners choose to take a break from gardening until the weather becomes cooler again. Before you put your vegetable bed to rest, be sure that you take steps to ensure your garden doesn’t become full of weeds. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/05/10) Webworms are small furry caterpillars that tend to form colonies and spin webs enclosing the tips of branches, especially on pecan trees. Within these webs, these caterpillars feed on the foliage causing a brown discoloration. Hear more about how to handle webworms. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/05/10) If it weren’t for shade trees, Louisianans would hardly be able to spend any time outside during summer. Interestingly, the shade that these trees cast also saves you money on your utility bill. Hear more about the benefits of having shade trees in your landscape. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/05/10) The most important parts of lawn care this time of the year are mowing and watering. Here are some tips on watering and mowing your lawn during the summer. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 07/05/10) Louisiana is at the end of its prime tomato. Many varieties can't handle the intense heat during July and August. When you feel that your tomato plant is done producing, feel free to pull it up and deposit it into your compost pile. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Video 07/05/10) During the heat of summer, flowers obviously need to be well-watered to keep them alive and attractive. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill describes a hardy plant that is drought tolerant, while also maintaining its color throughout the entire summer. (Runtime: 1:37)
(Video 07/12/10) No trees show off more bright, flowery colors during the summer than crape myrtles. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill offers some advice for selecting and growing these beautiful and popular landscape trees. (Runtime: 1:36)
(For Release On Or After 07/02/10) When you think of shade trees in your landscape, you most likely focus on the shade they create outside. It would be hard to do anything on a patio or deck this time of the year unless it was shaded. But trees that shade our homes also help hold down inside temperatures far better than curtains or blinds. And this lowers the cost of summer air conditioning.
News Release Distributed 02/25/10 Palm trees have gained increased interest in Louisiana home landscapes over the past few years, and this resurgence mainly can be attributed to the lack of severely cold weather over the past 20 years, according to an LSU AgCenter expert. “Most people remember the winters of the early 1980s and late 1980s that resulted in considerable damage to palms around the state,” says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings. “This winter also saw temperatures go below 32 degrees for two straight weeks in early January, and palm damage around the state is considerable.” Owings says one of the most reliable palms for Louisiana is the windmill palm. “This species can be grown across the state and is one of the palms that can be planted in more northern locations,” Owings says. “Windmill palms are cold-hardy to 15-20 degrees and can tolerate lower temperatures for very short times.” Windmill palms have average heights of 15-25 feet but can be as tall as 40 feet. Trunks are slender, and mats of dark brown, hair-like fibers coat the trunk on younger palms. Windmill palms like ample water but don’t do well in extremely moist soils or standing water. “Low, poorly drained areas will significantly slow growth of windmill palms,” Owings says. “And they have high drought tolerance and moderate salt tolerance.” Windmill palms are relatively slow growing, so consider this fact when adding some to the landscape, he adds. These palms do their best in full sun, although plants will grow – at a slower rate – and adapt to partially sunny or shady situations. “While most of us now realize that fall and winter are the best times to plant the majority of ornamental plants in our landscapes, the best time to plant palms in Louisiana is May through September,” Owings says. “The soil is warmest this time of year, and warm soil is one of the most important criteria for palm root growth.” The horticulturist warns that rough handling of palm trees or severe vibrations during transportation can break the tender bud, causing death many months down the road. “It also is important to transplant the palm as soon as possible after digging,” he says. “Never allow the roots to become dry, although this should not be a problem with container-grown plants.” Maintenance is minimal on windmill palms once they are established in the landscape. Fertilization every couple years can aid in growth and foliage color, Owings says. You also can consider removing the oldest leaves, but it’s not a necessary practice. “Windmill palms are tough and durable,” Owings says. “They can be used in narrow planting locations. Lawn grass will grow and ornamentals that need sunlight can be planted in beds underneath windmill palms because of their high foliage canopy. “They make excellent focal trees and tropical accents,” he adds. “Think about windmill palms when you replant cold-damaged palm trees this year.
News Release Distributed 02/25/10 Easy Does It is the All-America Rose Selections (AARS) winner – the only winner – for 2010. “This variety is a floribunda from Weeks Roses,” says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings. Flower color is a mango, peach and apricot blend, and petal count is 25-30, Owings says. Susceptibility to blackspot disease is slight to moderate under Louisiana growing conditions. “Easy Does It performed very well in the AARS official display garden at the LSU AgCenter’s Burden Center this year,” he says. “In addition, it was named a People’s Choice award winner at the LSU AgCenter’s landscape horticulture field day held at the LSU AgCenter’s Hammond Research Station in 2009.” The horticulturist says the new rose thrived during two years of comprehensive testing in 23 gardens nationwide. In fact, this variety flourished in 15 categories, including the ability to resist disease, overall beauty and general ease of maintenance. “Each winning rose bears the AARS red-rose seal of approval that ensures gardeners the plants will grow beyond expectations with little maintenance,” Owings says.All-America Rose Selections is a nonprofit association of rose growers and introducers dedicated to bringing exceptional, easy-to-grow roses to gardeners across the county. The organization operates the world’s most rigorous plant trial program via a network of more than 20 official test gardens throughout the country and representing all climate zones.
(Video 02/15/10) Not all palm plants are created equal. Because of the unusual cold this year, some palms are looking brown and dried up, while others are green and healthy looking. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains the differences among popular palms and how to care for them. (Runtime: 1:37)
(Distributed 01/29/10) CROWLEY, La. – Farmers attending the 2010 joint annual meeting of the Louisiana Rice Council and the Louisiana Rice Growers Association heard an optimistic report from a Washington, D.C., agriculture journalist recently (Jan. 26).
(Distributed 01/29/10) BUNKIE, La. – Rice farmers could be facing challenges in the marketplace this year, but the outlook is countered by positive news, an LSU AgCenter economist advised them.
(Distributed 02/01/10) A home remodeling project – and your investment in it – can do much more than update your surroundings. It can make your home a healthier place to live and breathe, according to Claudette Reichel, LSU AgCenter housing specialist.
(Distributed 01/29/10) Landscape beds, parking lots and construction activities around trees are all possible without harming the trees if you understand where the tree roots are and what they need to survive. Louisiana celebrated Arbor Day earlier in January, and now is a good time of the year to be reminded about tree care in landscape beds, parking lots and construction sites.
(Distributed 01/28/10) The LSU AgCenter has scheduled training sessions across the state to certify contractors, painters and others who perform renovation projects that disturb lead-based paint in housing and other child-occupied facilities built before 1978.
(Distributed 01/27/10) During February, the American Heart Association wants people to Go Red for Women and call attention to the need for women to take charge of their heart health. On Feb. 5, women across America are to wear something red as part of the National Wear Red Day, according to Beth Reames, LSU AgCenter nutritionist.
(Distributed 01/26/10) POLLOCK, La. – One hundred campers from across Louisiana gathered around their sewing machines to create several items at the annual 4-H Fashion Camp Jan. 23-24.
(Distributed 01/26/10) BOSSIER CITY, La. – Your soil is alive, and you need to feed it, Dr. Grace Peterson, an LSU AgCenter agent, said at the monthly Lunch and Ag Discovery session held at the LSU AgCenter Red River Research Station Jan. 20.
(Distributed 01/25/10) The public can learn the latest about the greenhouse tomato industry at the LSU AgCenter Red River Research Station’s 14th annual greenhouse tomato seminar Feb. 26 in Bossier City.
(Distributed 01/25/10) Ag Adventures, an educational experience in agriculture for third- through fifth-graders, will be held Feb. 23-24 at the Northeast District Livestock Show Barn and Civic Center in Delhi.
(Distributed 01/25/10) Iron chlorosis is a common and sometimes serious problem in landscape plants across Louisiana.
(Distributed 01/22/10) LAKE CHARLES, La. – Rice farmers and a Lake Charles rice mill are donating rice for Haitians to eat after the massive earthquake hit last week. The Louisiana Rice Growers Association (LRGA) has agreed to buy two tons of rice, and Farmer’s Rice Mill is donating five tons in addition to providing a 10 percent match to any other rice donated for the cause.
(Distributed 01/21/10) RAYVILLE, La. – Farmers learned ways to improve the quality and yield potential of cotton from LSU AgCenter experts at the Northeast Louisiana Crop Forum Jan. 19. Each year, scientists evaluate cotton varieties and publish guidelines for cotton production practices associated with planting time and variety selection, said Donald Boquet, agronomist.
(Distributed 01/20/10) BATON ROUGE – Youth from across Louisiana are preparing to compete in the 75th annual LSU AgCenter Livestock Show next month at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.
(Distributed 01/19/10) Recent cold weather in south Louisiana will cause this year’s strawberry crop to come in a little later, but the damage is not as bad as the industry first believed, LSU AgCenter experts say.
(Audio 01/25/10) Although garden pests are more active during the summer months than they are in the winter, gardeners should be aware of a few insects. Caterpillars, aphids, snails and slugs can be a nuisance in vegetable gardens during the winter, and should be dealt with appropriately. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 01/25/10) Plants that are kept indoors require some simple care from their owners. Learn the correct way to most effectively water your indoor plants. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 01/25/10) January is an excellent time for planting camellias because it allows them to settle into their new environment without much stress. Visit your local nursery to purchase the specific camellias you want for your landscape, and be sure to plant them in a suitable location. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 01/25/10) Although pruning is necessary for some plants, there is some pruning that gardeners should avoid. For example, gardeners should refrain from trimming spring-flowering shrubs this time of the year to ensure the maximum amount of blossoms. Learn more about what not to prune. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 01/25/10) Indoor plants can embellish our homes and even refresh our air, but tese plants can harbor insects such as the mealy bug. Hear about symptoms related to a mealy bug infestation on indoor plants. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Distributed 01/15/10) Sugarcane growers are nearing the end of the harvest season with the last mill set to shut down around Jan. 16.
(Distributed 01/15/10) Master Farmers were recoginized at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge on Jan. 14, 2010.
(Distributed 01/15/10) Mulching is a great sustainable landscape practice when done correctly. The new year is a good time to review the use of mulch in the landscape and how to apply it properly to achieve the maximum benefit.
(01/15/10) WEST MONROE, La. – More than 1,800 first and fourth graders from seven northeast Louisiana parishes heard about agriculture commodities at Ag Alley in special showings Jan. 13-14 at Ag Expo.
(Distributed 01/15/10) BATON ROUGE – A group of 23 Louisiana farmers, including one married couple, recently attained the status of master farmer – a title that means they have not only learned the latest in conservation practices, but they are implementing them on their farms.
(Video 01/25/10) The sago palm is a hardy plant for Louisiana landscapes. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains how to care for these beautiful plants while respecting their forbidden fruits. (Runtime: 1:43)
(Video 01/18/10) Hard freezes have affected many plants throughout the state. Now, after the damage has been done, what can you do? On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains what to do with your cold-damaged tropicals. (Runtime: 1:49)
(Distributed 1/15/10) Photos and caption for Master Farmers recognized in Baton Rouge at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Jan. 14, 2010
Photo gallery of Master Farmers recognized at a luncheon during the Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts Annual meeting at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge on Jan. 14.
(Distributed 01/14/10) The LSU AgCenter’s LaHouse Home and Landscape Resource Center will offer a class on ways to improve residential landscape on February 6, 13, 20 and 27 in Baton Rouge.
(Distributed 01/12/10) Twenty-five men and women from across Louisiana began a two-year venture in the LSU AgCenter’s Agricultural Leadership Development Program when they attended their first class last week (Jan. 5-7) in Baton Rouge. Established in 1988, the Ag Leadership Program provides educational opportunities for potential leaders involved with agriculture and agribusiness in Louisiana.
(Distributed 01/11/10) “Selecting the right plant for the right place” is a frequently mentioned phrase in many of our home horticulture educational presentations. How very important it is. When planning new landscape areas or renovating old landscape areas, you need to consider many factors, including gardening style.
(Distributed 01/07/10) Well-below-average temperatures in January will influence the crawfish harvest significantly, according to LSU AgCenter researcher Ray McClain. “Catch is related to water temperature. Cold weather cuts down on the catch, and extended cold weather negatively affects the growth rates of crawfish,” he said.
(Audio 01/18/10) Arbor Day is the day set aside to celebrate trees, and people often plant trees as part of their celebrations. Arbor Day varies from state to state because of the climate and growing conditions in various locations. Find out more about Arbor Day in Louisiana. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Distributed 01/06/10) Horses need help to get through the coming freezing weather, according to LSU AgCenter equine agent Howard J. Cormier. Horse owners need to make plans to protect the animals from a possible deadly combination of extreme cold and rain.
(Distributed 01/05/10) A roaring fire in the fireplace may sound like the perfect escape from the bitter cold weather in Louisiana. But while a fireplace can offer ambiance, it won’t raise the temperature much in your home, and it could raise your energy costs, says Claudette Reichel, LSU AgCenter housing specialist.
(Audio 01/18/10) Irish potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables grown in Louisiana during the winter. Learn how to grow this wonderful vegetable in your own garden for easily available and delicious potatoes. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 01/18/10) Winter is a good time to prune many of your landscape plants and not interfere with their blooming seasons. Hear more about trimming the various plants in your yard. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 01/18/10) While some common fungicides and insecticides lose their potency over time after being opened, fertilizers maintain their effectiveness as long as they are stored properly. Learn the conditions under which your fertilizers should be kept. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 01/18/10) Ground covers are low-growing evergreens that spread to fill in spaces in the landscape. Be sure to plant ground covers that are well adapted to the conditions of the location. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Distributed 01/05/10) You can avoid a frozen pipe crisis and all of the misery that comes with it – being without water while on a plumber’s long waiting list and thousands of dollars of damage to your walls, floors and furniture – by taking a few simple measures to protect your home.
(Audio 01/11/10) Parsley is a popular herb in many Louisiana recipes. Whether you prefer flat leaf or curly leaf parsley, transplants for either are available at your local nursery and can be planted into your garden for everyday use. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 01/11/10) Tropical plants are often moved indoors during the cold winter weather. Gardeners should remember that although these plants are being protected from the cold, they still require a substantial amount of light. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
(Audio 01/11/10) If you are interested in old-fashioned plants that look great in cottage-style gardens, you should try planting foxgloves, delphinium or holly hock. Hear more to learn tricks for success with these plants. (Runtime: 60 seconds)