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.
(Distributed 12/21/10) Make sure your holiday treats such as eggnog, cream pies and other dishes containing eggs are safe to eat, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. Eating raw or undercooked eggs is a risk for foodborne illness. The same is true for lightly cooked eggs and egg dishes.