(Video 11/7/11) If you’re craving hardy, home-grown vegetables like lettuce, you might consider planting a fall vegetable garden. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explores the vegetable section at a local nursery and explains how to select lettuce plants and how to properly pick them when you’re ready for your salad. (Runtime: 1:34)
(Video 11/1/11) Now is a great time to plant cool-season flowers. But as you pick your plants at the nursery, don’t be confused by all the vibrant colors. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill shares some important tips to help you choose the right colors for your cool-season flower beds. (Runtime: 1:41)
(Video 1/31/11) You may have bare spots in your landscape and don’t know what to grow there. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill suggests considering different types of ground covers. (Runtime 1:42)
(Video 10/17/11) If you’re looking for a plant that blooms during the fall every year, then sedums would be a dependable choice. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains how these tough plants come in different sizes and shapes. (Runtime: 1:38)
The newest Louisiana Super Plant can be grown as a shrub or can be formed into a small tree. Shoal Creek vitex has been shown to grow very well in Louisiana landscapes. On this edition of Get it Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains why this blue-flowered Louisiana Super Plant is one you would want in your landscape. (Runtime: 1:35)
(Video 1/3/11) After the Christmas holidays are over, you may wonder what to do with the various seasonal plants you’ve used to decorate your home. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill offers advice on which plants you should keep and which ones to throw out. (Runtime: 1:43)
(Video 1/10/11) Although evergreen holly plants have been part of Christmas holiday celebrations for centuries, you actually can enjoy them throughout the year. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill recommends a few holly plants you can put into your landscapes now. (Runtime: 1:43)
(Video News 12/21/11) Changing the way farmers feed their dairy cows can lower their costs without reducing milk production. LSU AgCenter correspondent Tobie Blanchard says researchers with the LSU AgCenter are working on methods to help farmers produce milk more efficiently. (Runtime: 1:22)
(Video 12/26/11) Potted plants need the right kind of soil to help them grow to their full potential. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains how to choose the right potting soil for your needs. (Runtime: 1:52)
(Video 12/19/11) What do you need to be doing for roses during the winter? On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains what to do and what not to do when caring for your roses. (Runtime: 1:38)
(Video News 12/12/11) Louisiana’s sugarcane harvest is ahead of schedule. Dry weather is helping farmers move quickly through their fields and harvest clean cane. An early harvest reduces the risk of a freeze damaging the cane. (Runtime: 1:24)
(Video 12/12/11) With colors ranging from dazzling red to creamy white, the poinsettia is maybe the most popular of all Christmas plants. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains how to best care for your poinsettias throughout the holiday season. (Runtime: 1:33)
(Video 12/5/11) Just because a Christmas tree looks good, doesn’t mean it’s the best choice. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains how to find a fresh tree and how to properly maintain it so it lasts longer. (Runtime: 1:50)
(Video 11/28/11) Want interesting indoor greenery that’s not difficult to care for? LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains why a tough tropical plant called pothos is the perfect choice. (Runtime: 1:37)
(Video 11/21/11) The saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” That slogan could apply to the obscure columbine. Not many Louisiana gardeners have ever heard of it. Until now. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains why the Swan columbine is a great Louisiana Super Plant worthy of the spotlight. (Runtime: 1:30)
News Release Distributed 11/04/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Sasanquas are one of our most popular flowering shrubs for the late fall through early winter. Also known by the scientific name Camellia sasanqua, sasanquas are typically smaller-growing than the plants we normally call camellias. They also have more finely textured foliage. They bloom from mid-October through December or January. Sasanquas are very abundant at retail garden centers these days. Popular sasanquas include Bonanza, Yuletide, Stephanie Golden, Leslie Ann and Sparkling Burgundy. A new dwarf variety with red flowers is Hot Flash. The most popular of these type plants is the ShiShi Gashira variety. It is a smaller-growing, “dwarf” type plant. Flowers are double and rosy pink. It is actually another species of camellia, technically Camellia hiemalis. This variety, though, is typically mistakenly lumped by most folks into the sasanqua group. ShiShi Gashira has been named a Louisiana Super Plant. Success with sasanquas depends on the planting site. Part sun to part shade is best, especially for younger plants. Choose a location that receives four hours to six hours of direct sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon, or find a a spot that receives light, dappled shade throughout the day. When planted in full sun, sasanquas are subject to more stressful conditions. The foliage sometimes has a yellowish look, and flower buds may not open properly. Plants in full sun also may be more susceptible to injury in freezing weather. Good drainage also is essential. Do not plant sasanquas in areas that are poorly drained or where water settles after a rain. If an area has poor drainage, plant camellias on mounds or in raised beds. These plants are acid-loving, and an alkaline soil (pH above 7) can limit their ability to obtain some nutrients, especially iron. When you prepare an area for planting, incorporate a soil acidifier to help make the soil more acid if your soil is alkaline. Three readily available materials for this are ground sulfur, iron sulfate (copperas) and aluminum sulfate. Copperas should generally be used because it is faster-acting than sulfur and provides additional iron. Fertilize in the spring as new growth begins – about March or early April. Use a fertilizer labeled for acid-loving plants or any general-purpose fertilizer according to the manufacturer s label directions. Sasanquas are part of our Southern gardening heritage. A few well-placed specimens will brighten up your landscape during these late fall and early winter days when few other shrubs are blooming. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 10/28/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Your landscape can include many trees and shrubs that will provide significant color in fall and winter year after year. Although decidedly less than spectacular this far south, many trees in late November or early December produce leaves that turn various colors as they get ready to drop. A few trees that reliably color up well in Louisiana include: ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), sweet gum (Liquidambar styraciflua), Chinese pistachio (Pistachia chinensis), Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica), crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), dogwood (Cornus florida), Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), southern sugar maple (Acer barbatum) and some oaks. Generally, the farther south you live in Louisiana, the less fall color you will see. Plants also provide color in fall and fruit in winter. Hollies, with their brilliant red berries, are notable in this regard. Excellent choices for Louisiana include the popular Savannah holly and Foster’s holly (Ilex x attenuata Savannah and Fosteri), both small trees. Beautiful native hollies include the yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), deciduous holly (Ilex decidua) and winterberry (Ilex verticillata). A great thing about holly berries is that they are excellent wildlife food for birds. Shrubby hollies also produce colorful berries. Varieties include Burford, Dwarf Burford, Nellie R. Stevens, Needlepoint, Dixie Star, Dixie Flame and many others. For flowers in fall and early winter, choose sasanquas (Camellia sasanqua). Sasanquas are one of those indispensable shrubs for Louisiana landscapes and bloom from October well into December. Camellias (Camellia japonica) will begin to bloom in November and continue through winter until spring. Roses are also important for fall and early-winter color. Everblooming roses put on a wonderful show in October and November and will often continue to bloom through mid-December and beyond, weather permitting. Although generally not known for their fall blooming, azaleas that bloom during seasons other than spring are becoming more popular. The Encore azalea series is well known for fall bloom. Also notable are some of the Robin Hill azaleas such as Watchet and Conversation Piece and the popular Glen Dale variety Fashion. We often associate spring with colorful landscapes, but we need to remember that foliage and flowers can be achieved in the fall season with proper plant selection. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Video News 10/26/11) Switchgrass could be another source of energy from Louisiana and another source of income for landowners. LSU AgCenter correspondent Tobie Blanchard spoke with a researcher growing switchgrass with pine trees. (Runtime: 1:54)
(Video 10/24/11) The plant nandina is also called heavenly bamboo. It’s a tough, versatile shrub that can provide nice fall color. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains important differences among a number of nandina varieties. (Runtime: 1:41)
News Release Distributed 10/20/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Last fall, the LSU AgCenter announced a new plant marketing and promotion program called Louisiana Super Plants. The program identifies superior plants for Louisiana landscapes and assures wholesale growers are growing and retail nurseries are carrying the selections. Then, we get the word out to the gardening public about these outstanding plants. One of the debut Louisiana Super Plants from last fall was the Camelot series foxglove. This new foxglove earned its Super Plants title because it’s a significant improvement over varieties planted in the past. Foxgloves (Digitalis species and hybrids) are biennials or short-lived perennials. In Louisiana, we grow them as cool-season annuals from October-November to April-May. They bloom in spring or early summer and then typically die in the summer heat. Because Camelot foxgloves planted from seed bloom their first year, they are excellent for use in our climate. The Camelot series foxgloves come in four colors – Camelot Rose, Camelot Lavender, Camelot Cream and Camelot White. This hybrid series is bred to be especially strong and vigorous-growing. And these foxgloves are somewhat more heat-tolerant than foxgloves used in the past, allowing Camelot foxgloves to bloom well into late May or early June. Especially notable is an improvement in the flower spikes. The flowers are larger, and the spikes are taller than previously grown varieties. The bell-shaped flowers of foxgloves are arranged around a strong, tall stem that grows from the center of the plant. Typically, the flowers tend to hang down so you cannot see into the beautifully spotted throats. The flowers of Camelot foxgloves, however, are held more horizontally, creating a fuller-looking flower spike and revealing the spotted interior of the flowers. Louisiana gardeners are accustomed to (and even demand) that bedding plants be in bloom when they are purchased. Some cool-season bedding plants, however, will provide far superior results if they are purchased when young and before the colorful display begins. Good examples are ornamental cabbage and kale, delphiniums and hollyhocks. Young, not-yet-blooming transplants of these plants are best planted in fall or late winter – from November to February – for blooming in April, May and early June. Foxgloves also belong to this group. During winter these plants are perfectly hardy to whatever cold may occur, and there is no need to cover and protect them. During mild winter weather the plants will grow strong root systems and rosettes of large, slightly fuzzy leaves that are a beautiful addition to the winter flowerbed. For best results, get plants in the ground no later than the end of February to give them time to grow into large, vigorous plants before they bloom. A fall or late-winter planting will produce the most spectacular plants with the tallest and largest number of spikes. Most cool-season bedding plants prefer full sun, and Camelot foxgloves will grow in sunny locations. But they also do very well in beds that receive only 4 to 6 hours of sun per day. The foliage is typically darker green and larger in partly shaded spots. Plant foxgloves into well-prepared beds that have been generously amended with compost or other decayed organic matter and a light application of general-purpose fertilizer. Good drainage is important. Place the plants toward the back of the beds where the colorful 3- to 4-foot-tall flower spikes will form a dramatic background. These robust-growing plants should be spaced about 12 inches apart. After the main spike finishes blooming, cut it back, and the plants will send up numerous side shoots to continue the floral display for additional weeks. Eventually, with the hot weather of early summer, the plants will begin to play out and can be removed, composted and replaced with summer bedding plants. Camelot foxgloves are in your local nurseries now. It is best to plant them in the fall for best results. But garden centers also sell them in late winter and 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 10/14/11 By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Are you looking for something new to try in your cool-season landscape this fall and winter? There is much to select from in the way of annual flowers for planting during the cool season of the year. Most of us know about pansies, snapdragons, petunias, garden mums and older varieties of dianthus, but there is much more. Violas are the cousins of pansies and continue to gain in popularity. The Sorbet series of violas always perform well in LSU AgCenter landscape plant evaluations. The series blooms early and performs well from mid fall through May. Try these great alternatives to pansies. They should be planted in mass for a great flower show. The blooms will last two weeks longer into the later spring. Nicotianas are good alternative, cool-season bedding plants for south Louisiana. Nicotiana is flowering tobacco. Most of these for landscape use are “dwarf” in size but still reach heights of 24 inches. Nicotianas have less cold hardiness than some other cool-season flowers, so that needs to be considered. In south Louisiana, they should be able to withstand winter temperature conditions as long as plants are hardened off some before the first frosts and freezes. You also can plant them in mid- to late February. Plants will last until late spring. Flower colors available include white, lime, rose, red and more. They do best during the cool season in a full sun planting, but will perform better into late spring if partial shade is provided. Popular in the series are Nicki, Perfume and Saratoga. The best of new dianthus is the Amazon series. These are very prolific flower producers and should be planted in September, October or November. Flower heads are large and will last until mid-May in south Louisiana. The series also has cut-flower potential. Flower colors available in the Amazon series are Rose Magic, Purple, Cherry and Neon Duo. The Amazon dianthus are Louisiana Super Plants from 2010. Camelot foxgloves are new to the market. These are also called digitalis. For best results, plant in the fall, and 2 foot-tall spikes of flowers occur in the spring. Flowers come on 2-3 weeks before the popular Foxy variety and last 2-3 weeks longer. Camelot foxgloves were also Louisiana Super Plants in the fall of 2010. Flowers in the Camelot foxglove are lavender, cream, rose and white, with lavender, cream and rose being the better-performing colors. We know tall-growing delphinium, but now there is smaller variety for landscape beds. Diamonds Blue delphinium has intense blue flowers and is a new seed-propagated Delphinium chinensis. This plant is considered a first-year-flowering perennial but should be treated as an annual. Plant in full sun in the fall for great flowering performance from February through May. Space plants 12-14 inches apart. Plants reach a height of 18 inches with a 10- to 12-inch spread. If you want to try a tall grower for cut flower use, try the Guardian series. They are available in lavender, white and blue. We know ornamental kale and cabbage, but do we know the best? Redbor ornamental kale is incredible. It is a Louisiana Super Plant for this fall. It is one of the most vigorous-growing and heat-tolerant ornamental kales on the market. Extremely curly foliage, early dark purple foliage and a spring height of 3 feet are characteristic of this plant. You may also want to try Glamour Red, a new ornamental kale that is a 2011 All-America Selections winner. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Video 10/31/11) The relatively unknown bush clover is a drought-tolerant bush that blooms vibrant purple flowers throughout the fall. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains that these low-maintenance plants are a great addition to any landscape. (Runtime: 1:39)
News Release Distributed 10/07/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Encore azaleas have gathered consideration attention over the past 10 years, but we need to remember we had great, fall-flowering – sometimes referred to a multi-seasonal-flowering – azaleas before the Encore varieties. A great example is the Fashion azalea variety. But another azalea group widely planted in Louisiana for fall blooming is the Robin Hill hybrids. These azaleas resulted from hybridization work conducted by Robert Gartrell of New Jersey in the 1950s and 1960s. These have large flowers on hardy plants, good form and foliage, and an intermediate growth size. Other main attributes are cold hardiness and an extended blooming season. Most years, Robin Hill azalea varieties will bloom for six months in Louisiana. You can get two to three months of bloom in spring and another three to four months in late summer through early winter. This group includes 70 varieties with 10-12 readily available in Louisiana. Louisiana nursery growers begin growing these popular azaleas in the 1980s, and they continue to be used around the state today. Varieties of the Robin Hill azaleas for Louisiana include Conversation Piece, Watchet, Nancy of Robin Hill, White Moon, Dorothy Rees, Roddy, Gwenda, Sir Robert and Sherbrook. Flower colors vary from white to pink, blush, bicolors and more. The newest variety is Freddy, a beautiful white-flowering sport of Watchet. It, however, is limited in availability for home gardeners right now. Some of the Robin Hill azaleas are being considered for Louisiana Super Plant status in the future. These azaleas are evergreen, just as most of the traditional azaleas. Most Robin Hill varieties are slow- to medium-growth-rate plants and reach mature heights of 3-4 feet with an equal spread. Just as with other azaleas, they prefer a partial sun to partial shade and need acid, well-drained soil. After planting and during the establishment phase, irrigate as needed to aid in plant establishment. Robin Hill azaleas should be pruned in spring within 2-4 weeks after the bloom cycle is completed. Fertilize in the spring also with a slow-release fertilizer after flowering. Mulch azalea beds with pine straw. Intermediate-growing azaleas, like Robin Hill varieties, work well in foundation plantings with Knock Out roses, Indian hawthorn, loropetalums and other popular shrubs. They are also great for use in beds underneath trees as a companion plant with hydrangeas and native shrubs. Including small-growing trees, such as redbuds and Japanese magnolias, add appeal to an azalea planting, and Japanese maples go great in azalea gardens as a smaller, signature, focal tree. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 10/06/11 When asked what Halloween means, kids usually put candy at the top of their list.
(Video 10/10/11) Louisiana Super Plants are outstanding plants for landscapes throughout the state. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains how the Super Plant Redbor kale is an ornamental plant as well as an edible vegetable. (Runtime: 1:38)
News Release Distributed 09/30/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Cool-season bedding plants continue to be popular in Louisiana. Most home gardeners do more warm-weather than cool-weather flower gardening, but we all need to realize that we have many great cool-season flowers that will do well in our climate from mid-fall through late spring. Home gardeners need to consider the following practices to ensure they get the desired performance from cool-season flowers: – Prior to planting, properly prepare the landscape bed to allow for good internal drainage and aeration. – Incorporate fresh, nutrient-rich, finished compost or landscape bed builder soil into beds to provide nutrients. – Apply a slow-release fertilizer at planting. For extending the season, fertilize again at half the recommended rate in late February to early March. – Manage irrigation properly. Many times cool-season flowers need less irrigation than we think. Warmer days of spring will increase irrigation demand. Monitor rainfall. Overwatering leads to many problems with cool-season bedding plants. – Remove old flowers from plants in spring to extend the bloom season. Most cool-season bedding plants are planted in October through November, but if you did not get the opportunity to add some cool-season flowers to your landscape, planting can continue through December, January and February. Most plants will last until May or even June in some years if properly cared for. Pansies dominate the cool-season flower market and are available in a wide choice of colors, including blue, rose, pink, yellow, white, purple, red and scarlet. Flower sizes come in large, medium and small. Some varieties have solid color ("clear") flower petals, and others have blotched flower faces. Normally, clear-faced flowers are the most popular for landscape use, but some folks like the colors of the blotched flowers in mixed plantings. Violas, also called johnny jump ups are smaller versions of pansies and are equally impressive in landscape beds and containers. Petunias are all the rage as a good, cool-season bedding plant in south Louisiana. Plant petunias from mid-September through mid-October for the best fall results. Other cool-season annuals include alyssum, dianthus, ornamental kale, ornamental cabbage, stock and snapdragon. You also can try biennial and perennial flowers such as foxglove, columbine and hollyhock. You should definitely include the Camelot series foxgloves and Amazon series dianthus in your cool-season planting plans. These two plants were fall Louisiana Super Plants last year. Cool-season flowers add color to landscapes at a time of the year when we have fewer trees and shrubs in bloom. If we have improved growing conditions the next couple months, your cool-season bedding plants will shine in late winter. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Video 10/3/11) There are many different types of crape myrtles scattered across Louisiana lawns and landscapes. But as LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains on this edition of Get It Growing, the new Delta Jazz has a notable feature not found on other crape myrtles. (Runtime: 1:39)
News Release Distributed 09/23/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings September begins the transition to cool weather and fall activities in the Louisiana landscape. It is important to get started with cool-season flowers and bed preparation, assess your lawn status, consider mulching for trees and shrubs, and more. The season for cool-season plants starts in September. Although it may be most ideal to plant most cool-season bedding plants in October, petunias would not mind being planted now. Late September is a great time to start planting petunias, which can be continued into early to mid-October. Try the Wave, Easy Wave and Tidal Wave petunias if you really want to make an impression. Some other bedding plants recommended for fall planting in Louisiana include pansies, violas (johnny jump ups), dianthus, calendula, snapdragons, stock and flowering kale or cabbage. Check your local garden centers for bedding plant varieties that are available. Most of these do best when planted mid-October through November. But September is the time to start by cleaning up any debris from your warm-season flowerbeds and preparing the beds for planting in October. Do a soil test if you suspect pH problems. Ideal pH for many bedding plants is 5.5–6.0. This is considered to be an acid soil and is similar to the pH preferred by azaleas and gardenias. September is an important month in home lawn care. Many of us may want to apply additional fertilizer to the lawn to "keep it going" through fall – but this needs to be avoided. Putting nitrogen fertilizer on warm-season lawn grasses after early September is not recommended. The nitrogen will stimulate growth that will be prone to disease during fall and cold damage during the coming winter. Many times a fall application of a “winterizing” fertilizer is recommended. This is a good idea in some cases. A winterizing fertilizer for home lawn use in Louisiana has a low amount of nitrogen (the first number on the fertilizer bag), a low amount of phosphorus (the second number on the fertilizer bag) and a high amount of potassium (the third number on the fertilizer bag). Never use a winterizing fertilizer that has more nitrogen than potassium. Fertilizers with these ratios are recommended for fall application to cool-season grasses and are not for use in Louisiana (even though these fertilizers are sold here). A potassium application in the fall is recommended only when a soil test of your home lawn area indicates low or medium levels of potassium in the soil. If you have high or very high levels of potassium, a fall application of potassium is not needed. If you apply potassium, do it at the rate of 1-2 pounds of actual potassium per 1,000 square feet of lawn area. You may notice brown patch disease on your lawn during September. This disease is characterized by circular, brown patterns that will green back up on the inside as the circle extends outward. Contact your local LSU AgCenter county agent for current fungicides recommended for this disease. Controlling brown patch in the fall yields improved green-up in the spring. If you are considering overseeding your lawn with a cool-season grass, such as ryegrass, wait until late October through mid-November, depending on where you are located in the state. Many of us want to do some pruning in the fall. When you prune, use thinning-type cuts instead of topping your plants. Wait until later in the fall or even until winter to prune most trees, such as crape myrtles. Sometimes pruning stimulates new growth, which we need to avoid in fall due to the possibility of cold damage. September also is an ideal time to add a new layer of mulch to your landscape beds. What does mulch do for our landscape plants? It minimizes soil temperature fluctuations, controls weed seed germination and subsequent growth, adds organic matter to the soil and plays a major role in moisture conservation. Mulch also insulates the lower stem and root system of the plant from cold winter temperatures and hot summer temperatures. The best mulch is pine straw. Mulch trees to a depth of 3 inches and shrubs to a depth of 2 inches. Avoid piling the mulch around the base of the stems. Working in your landscape in September will properly prepare your plants for the rest of the fall. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Video 9/26/11) Are you afraid to grow roses because you heard it was difficult? LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains there’s no need to have any fear about growing Belinda’s Dream roses. They’re the latest Louisiana Super Plant selection. (Runtime: 1:35)
(Video 9/19/11) Some herbs are hardy, and you can plant them during cold months with no problem. Others are less tolerant of the cold and should be planted now. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill helps you choose the best garden herbs for your particular needs. (Runtime: 1:37)
News Release Distributed 09/16/11 By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings As we head toward fall, you may want to consider ground covers for those problem areas in your landscape. You may have shady areas that can no longer support lush turfgrass. Maybe you have a sloping area where mowing is difficult. Planting a ground cover may be an option. The term ground cover is applied to low-growing plants, other than turfgrass, used to cover areas of the landscape. Perennial, evergreen plants having a sprawling, or spreading, habit are most often used. The plants used for ground covers generally are 1 foot or less in height, but taller plants can be appropriate in certain situations. In addition to the beauty they provide, ground covers have many practical uses. They provide barriers to foot traffic and can guide movement through a site. Some ground covers are effective in erosion control. Because they don’t have to be mowed, ground covers reduce landscape maintenance and are especially useful in problem areas such as on steep slopes, under low-branched trees and shrubs, where large tree roots protrude and in confined areas where mowing is difficult. They also are the best solution to areas under trees that have become too shady for grass to grow. You must carefully consider the characteristics you would like the ground cover to have – height, texture, color and so forth – when making your selection. You also need to think about the growing conditions where it will be planted – such as sunny or shady, dry or moist. Then look at the size of the area to be planted. Only the most reliable, fast–spreading and reasonably priced ground covers should be considered for large areas. Monkey grass or mondo grass, creeping lily turf (liriope) and Japanese ardisia are good choices for shade-to-part-shade areas, although many liriope perform well in full sun also. Asian jasmine is excellent for sun to part shade. Whatever type of ground cover you choose, proper preparation of the planting area will help ensure good establishment and faster growth. Ground covers provide several functions in the home landscape, including: – Erosion control on slopes. – Vegetative growth where grass is difficult to grow. – Reduced temperature and glare. – Less lawn maintenance. – Filling in of narrow or oddly shaped areas in the landscape where mowing is difficult. Give careful consideration when selecting ground covers. Selection will depend on the location where it will be used. Consider the amount of sunlight present, irrigation availability, height, growth habit and growth rate. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Video 9/12/11) Bugs have been multiplying during the summer. In most cases, you’ll have to use some type of insecticides to protect your vegetable and fruit plants. But as LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains, it’s important to use the safest, most appropriate insecticides for your particular needs. (Runtime: 1:39)
News Release Distributed 09/09/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Planting palms in home landscapes has gained considerable interest in the past few years for several reasons. For one, many new, exotic palm species and varieties are more readily available. But because cold temperatures the past couple winters damaged some of the species, people are searching for the most reliable palms 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. The soil is warmest this time of year, and warm soil is one of the most necessary criteria for palm root growth. Rough handling of palm trees or severe vibrations during transport 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 removing it from the soil. Never allow the roots to become dry, although this would not be a problem with container-grown plants. Louisiana is located in USDA hardiness zones 8 and 9, and many palms will do well for us. Keep in mind, though, that there is a large difference in average minimum temperatures between these zones. Climate is without a doubt the single largest limiting factor in selecting palms. Some palms will do fine in zone 9a (New Orleans, Lafayette, Lake Charles) but may be damaged in zone 8b (Alexandria, Baton Rouge) and will definitely exhibit damage in zone 8a (Shreveport, Ruston, Monroe). Reliable palms for some of these areas include: Needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) Probably one of the most cold-hardy palm species, the needle palm forms a clumping, understory palm with many palmate leaves. This palm is native from South Carolina to Florida and west to Mississippi. Foliage is dark green with silvery undersides. Plants are typically slow-growing and reach heights and spreads of about 5 feet. Needle palms need light shade and adequate moisture. Dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor) This palm is native to Louisiana and is found from Texas to Florida and northward to South Carolina. Mature height is 6 to 8 feet with leaves 1 to 3 feet wide. It produces white flowers May to June. A subterranean trunk makes transplanting these palms difficult. They are also slow-growing. Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) Windmill palms are very popular all over Louisiana. These trees have average heights of 10 to 20 feet but can be as tall as 40 feet. Trunks are slender. 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. Windmill palms are relatively slow growing. Cabbage palm (Sabal palmetto) Florida has an abundance of cabbage, or palmetto, palms, but they are becoming increasingly popular in the central Gulf Coast. This palm can reach heights of 80 to 90 feet, but most only reach about 20 feet or so tall. Leaves are fan-shaped and 3 to 6 feet in length. These palms are adaptable to wet, poorly drained soil and have a moderate growth rate. Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) This clumping palm forms thickets and is native from South Carolina southwest through Florida and westward to Louisiana. Common height is 3 to 4 feet. Saw palmetto does very well in the southern part of Louisiana. It is not common in the nursery trade. Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) This is a clumping fan palm and is slightly less hardy than the windmill palm. Mediterranean fan palms tolerate a wide range of growing conditions. Cocos or jelly palm (Butia australis or Butia capitata) Cocos or jelly palms (also known in the nursery trade as butia palms) are becoming better known and are the most cold-hardy of the palms with feather-shaped foliage. A popular palm-like plant for Louisiana is the sago palm. These plants are actually not palms but cycads. The sago is a native of Japan and is hardy to 15 degrees. Its leaves are 2-3 feet long. They can be even larger on older plants and are divided into many narrow, needlelike segments. The primary problem with sago palms in south Louisiana is a fungal, leaf spot disease to which they are especially susceptible during periods of high humidity. Sago palms, however, are highly recommended and should be planted in the late spring and early summer, just as true palms should be. LSU AgCenter horticulturists Severn Doughty and Dan Gill conducted an extensive survey of palms growing in south Louisiana a number of years ago. They found 14 genera comprising 21 species of palms. Of these, less than half have been found to be statistically reliable for planting due to climate limitations. So you can see that species selection is important. Realize that many home gardeners, nursery growers and landscapers use palm species that may not be reliable for long-term performance due to cold weather. The desirable characteristics and fast growth rates of some overcome the necessity to replace them once every 10-20 years due to winter damage. Washingtonia species of palms are hardy to about 15-22 degrees and will be damaged extensively by several consecutive days of temperatures in the teens. For palm success, select for cold hardiness. It is also important to consider vertical and horizontal space limitations. As mentioned earlier, plant in May through September for best establishment. Once established, palms should be maintained under a moderate fertilization program. During late spring and early summer, remove old leaves and flowering parts of the plants as they become unsightly. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Video 09/05/11) The desert rose – as the name suggests – is a tough, hardy plant. It doesn’t need much water in the summer, produces beautiful flowers and has an interesting sculpture-looking trunk. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill introduces you to this unique container plant that looks like a miniature tree. (Runtime: 1:41)
News Release Distributed 09/02/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings The LSU AgCenter has been promoting research-based best management practices in the home landscape for several years to inform residents on how to properly manage their landscape plants. Many problems associated with landscape plants can be overcome easily if proper practices are maintained. Inadequate preparation of landscape beds frequently tops the list of problems with ornamental plants. But home gardeners also need to be more aware of soil pH and related issues in addition to how to use fertilizer properly. Improper bed preparation leads to many of the problems with home landscape plants in Louisiana. With high annual rainfall and poorly drained native soils around much of the state, proper bed building is critical. Even with dry weather patterns these days, Louisiana still receives considerable rainfall. We need to make raised beds – normally 6-8 inches high. Anything that can be done to improve internal drainage of soil and help with aeration and oxygen exchange in the root zone will aid in landscape success. Raised beds help overcome root rot and related disease issues. Make sure your beds are adequately prepared before planting to help avoid problems later. Soil testing is an important tool in home landscapes. We often see problems with ornamental plants due to improper pH. Most of the ornamental plants grown in Louisiana prefer a soil pH of 5.5-6.5. And some of our common landscape plants actually prefer soil pH in the lower end of this range. Examples include azaleas, gardenias, petunias, blueberries and vinca (or periwinkle). Now is a good time to take soil samples and have them analyzed by the LSU AgCenter’s Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Lab in Baton Rouge for $10 per sample. You can find more information online at www.lsuagcenter.com/soillab. Soil pH is raised by adding lime and lowered by adding sulfur, but these additions should always be based on the results of a soil test. Proper fertilization is one of the key factors to be considered in combination with managing soil pH. It is helpful to know if your native soil has low, medium or high levels of fertility. Do you tend to fertilize less than recommended or more than recommended? What are the fertility requirements of the different ornamental plants you grow? The answers to these questions need to be considered to properly employ sustainable management practices in a residential landscape. Many times newer landscape beds need more fertilizer than older beds. Spring is the generally accepted “best time of the year” to fertilize the vast majority of established ornamental plants, and it is better to broadcast fertilizer uniformly over a bed than to treat individual plants. So getting your soil tested now will put you in a position to get started on time next spring. Preparing a landscape bed, checking and monitoring soil pH and correctly applying fertilizer go a long way in home landscape success. Consider all of these as you return to your landscape activities after a long, hot summer. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Distributed 08/31/11) Louisiana rice farmers are helping Texas ranchers by providing rice straw to be used as cattle feed in the drought-stricken Lone Star State. The Texans are baling the rice straw for hay and hauling it back to Texas.
(Distributed 08/31/11) Tropical storm season is about the worst time of year for a marsh to burn because of the possibility of a tropical storm surge flooding the soil, according to Andy Nyman, LSU AgCenter associate professor in the School of Renewable Natural Resources.
News Release Distributed 08/31/11 A bowl of cereal can be a great way for school children or anybody to start the morning. “Studies show that cereal eaters have better nutrient intakes because cereals provide an important selection of nutrients,” said LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. Studies also suggest that cereal can help with weight control. “Cereal eaters have better weights compared to those who don’t eat breakfast or perhaps eat other breakfast items that might not be as healthful,” Reames said. Choose the cereals your children will want to eat, but try to pick those that give you the most health benefits. “It’s important to read the nutrition facts label,” Reames said. “That helps you compare products.” It’s best if the first ingredient is something like whole-grain oats or whole-grain wheat, said Denise Holston, LSU AgCenter nutritionist. “The food companies are using more whole grains in their cereal products,” Holston said. “Some cereals that didn’t contain whole grains before, now do. “Parents should look for cereals with the ‘whole grain stamp’ developed by the Whole Grains Council,” Holston said. “The stamp is a quick and easy way to determine if a product has a minimum of 8 grams of whole grains per serving.” Because the Dietary Guidelines for the United States recommend less sugar in the diet, choosing cereals that do not have added sugars would be a good choice. Other names for sugar on labels include fructose and high fructose corn syrup. “If you choose a cereal without added sugar but add three or four teaspoons of sugar, this would be worse. Manufacturers have reduced the amount of added sugar in many cereals, and some studies have found that consumers added more sugar to unsweetened cereals than is in presweetened. One teaspoon sugar would be 4 grams, so you can look at the nutrition facts and determine approximate amounts of sugar,” Reames said. Eating a presweetened cereal for breakfast is better than not eating any breakfast at all, Holston said. “Research shows that kids who eat breakfast can concentrate better, are less likely to miss school because they’re sick, and they’re less likely to have a weight problem,” Holston said. If they’re not starving by lunchtime, they’re less likely to overeat at lunch, which can lead to obesity. Check the fiber content on the cereal label, Reames said. Cereals should supply at least 2.5 grams of fiber. Whole-grain cereals generally supply more. “Many Americans don’t get enough fiber,” Reames said. “Eating whole-grain cereal can help.” While most cereals contain little fat, Reames said to avoid those with trans fat. “Trans fats raise LDL-cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease,” Reames said. Also check the serving size listed on the nutrition facts label. “A big bowl may have more nutrients but also more calories, more sodium and more sugar,” Reames said. When you add milk to cereal, you get the added boost of calcium, and it’s critical that growing children get enough calcium, Holston said. “We recommend skim milk. But if your children won’t drink skim milk, then go for low-fat,” Holston said. She doesn’t recommend whole milk because of the higher fat content. Adding fruit to the cereal gives a nutritional boost, Holston said. Bananas add potassium. Strawberries add fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants, which help prevent cancer and heart diseases. “Any kind of berry is good,” Holston said. “Blueberries and blackberries are especially rich in antioxidants.
(Distributed 08/31/11) Three LSU AgCenter administrators have been selected to receive the Honorary American FFA Degree.
(Radio News 08/30/11) A bowl of cereal can be a great way to start the morning. LSU AgCenter research reveals the healthful benefits of eating cereal. AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames says the study suggests that cereal can help with weight control. (Runtime: 1:25)
(Distributed 08/30/11) Louisiana’s sub-tropical climate can present numerous challenges to agricultural producers. Numerous insects thrive in this environment and can prove difficult and costly to manage.
(Distributed 08/30/11) Reading to the Heart, the Louisiana sustainable community project, is a five-year literacy program in its final year, but in search of ways to continue helping students increase reading skills.
(Distributed 08/29/11) OAK GROVE, La. – Researchers from the LSU AgCenter’s Sweet Potato Research Station showed growers how to optimize production at a field day on the Lee Jones and Sons Farm on Aug. 24.
(Distributed 08/29/11) LAFAYETTE, La. – Louisiana’s First Lady honored a Lake Charles woman Aug 25 for her volunteer work with 4-H.
(Distributed 08/29/11) FOLSOM, La. – Come out to the LSU AgCenter’s first polo tournament on Oct. 2 and watch a few chukkers of this equine sport and help raise money for extension horse programs.
(Distributed 08/26/11) BATON ROUGE – The LSU AgCenter will conduct an eight-week Master Horseman program for adults in the Baton Rouge area, with the first class Sept. 27 at Parker Coliseum on the LSU campus.
News Release Distributed 08/26/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings The new Drift series roses were created in response to increased consumer demand for smaller, everblooming plants. Drift roses fit a special niche in the shrub-rose market. These roses are from Conard-Pyle/Star Roses, the same folks that gave us the Knock Out series of low-maintenance landscape roses. Drift roses are a cross between full-size groundcover roses and miniatures. From the former they kept toughness, disease resistance and winter hardiness. From the miniatures, they inherited their well-managed size and repeat-blooming nature. The low, spreading habit of Drift roses makes them perfect for small gardens and combination planters. The first colors available in the Drift series were Coral, Pink, Red and Peach – all these varieties have been evaluated in LSU AgCenter plantings at the Hammond Research Station and Burden Center since 2009. Pink has been the best landscape performer, followed by Peach, Coral and Red. The newest colors released are Apricot (double apricot blooms), Sweet (clear, pink double blooms) and Icy (pure white, double blooms). These seven varieties bloom from spring to early frost. Ranging from scarlet red to bright soft peach, they provide a complete range of color solutions for landscape use or in containers. We find that Drift roses have about five flower cycles yearly. The spring bloom in April and the fall bloom in October, like with most other roses, are the peak times for best performance. The late-spring-to-early-summer second bloom is also impressive. Plant Drift roses in a well-prepared landscape bed. Fall is a great time to plant. Space individual plants a minimum of 3 feet apart. It would be best to plant them 4-5 feet apart if you are thinking long term. The soil pH for roses needs to be between 6.0-6.5. As with other roses, plant Drift roses in a location that gets full sun. Eight hours of sunlight daily is recommended. These ground-hugging, ever-blooming shrubs are perfect as a border or bedding plant. Drift roses should be fertilized in spring with a good dose of slow-release or timed fertilizer, which releases nutrients to the plant when it needs it most, and you're set for the season. Another application in late summer would help plants bloom better into the fall, especially in new landscape beds where nutrients may be lacking. Mulch is very important for roses. Mulching helps to buffer the cycle from wet to dry, keeps the feeder roots from drying out and helps to establish the roots more quickly. And you water less. Make no mistake; these are not finicky miniature roses. These hardy groundcover roses are true, low-spreading, dwarf shrub roses that grow only 2-3 feet tall by 2-3 feet wide and are covered with blooms that open to 1-1/2 inches. Drift roses are perfect in small gardens, splashing your landscapes with visual delight. Appealing to today's busy gardener, these low-maintenance roses are highly disease-resistant. They require no spraying. Blackspot disease has been very minimal on plants grown in Louisiana. Bed preparation, irrigation and proper fertilization management are the keys to success. This fall try planting some of the new Drift series roses in your landscape. They combine wonderfully with flowering perennials, ornamental grasses and more. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Video 8/29/11) On this edition of Get It Growing, we look at a climbing vine that displays a wonderful profusion of large, colorful flowers. It’s the Alice Dupont mandevilla, and it blooms abundantly during the summer. LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill offers some tips on growing this graceful, colorful, trellis vine. (Runtime: 1:33)
(Distributed 08/24/11) The Louisiana Jump$tart Coalition in partnership with the LSU AgCenter will host the 2011 Financial Education Summit at the Crowne Plaza hotel Sept. 15-16 in Baton Rouge.
(Video 08/22/11) Many plants don’t perform well in poorly drained areas. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill introduces you to one that will not only thrive in soggy areas, but will also grow to towering heights while showing off giant, beautiful blooms. (Runtime: 1:31)
(Distributed 08/23/11) John W. Finley, head of the LSU AgCenter Department of Food Science, has been named a fellow of the American Chemical Society.
(Distributed 08/23/11) BOSSIER CITY, La. – Natural deer food may be in short supply this year because drought is causing acorns to drop early, and hogs are competing for them.
(Distributed 08/23/11) SHREVEPORT, La. – The Food Initiative Taskforce (FIT) for Kids taught 20 youth ages 11 to 16 how to eat healthful this summer.
(Distributed 08/22/11) A two-day workshop on developing outdoor recreation on agricultural lands has been scheduled for Sept. 28-29 at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Monroe, La.
(Distributed 08/19/11) LAFAYETTE, La. – A $10,000 donation by the TransCanada pipeline company will help fund construction of a multi-purpose building at the LSU AgCenter Grant Walker 4-H Educational Center near Pollock, La.
News Release Distributed 08/19/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Late summer through fall when temperatures begin to moderate and growing conditions become more favorable is one of the best times of the year to plant flowering perennials. This includes plants such as purple coneflower, Shasta daisies, gaillardia, rudbeckia, daylilies, verbena and more. Of these, you need give rudbeckia a try if you have not already done so. Rudbeckia is what we also call “Black Eyed Susans.” The best of the rudbeckia is the Goldsturm variety. It is widely available in Louisiana. Normally, this variety flowers twice during the year. A good bloom occurs in late spring through midsummer, and you also can get some fall flowers. This is the most reliably perennial rudbeckia variety for Louisiana. Divide them every three years to keep your planting vigorous. Indian Summer is another popular variety. It is a former All-America Selection winner and also has been named a cut-flower-of-the-year by the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Indian Summer produces gorgeous, golden flowers. Many of the flowers can have diameters of 7-8 inches, but 6 inches is probably the average. Plants reach between 3 and 4 feet tall. Mass plantings of these combined with purple- and blue-flowered plants are a real winner in Louisiana landscapes. These plants typically behave as an annual in Louisiana, but they may be perennial in north Louisiana. Bloom time of 3-4 months is common in late spring and summer. You have many other popular rudbeckia varieties to consider. These include Prairie Sun, Becky Mix, Toto and Cherokee Sunset. Prairie Sun is an All-America Selections winner from a couple of years ago, while Cherokee Sunset was an All-America Selections winner in 2002. Cherokee Sunset has rich autumn-like flower colors, and flowers are semi- to fully double. Plants reach about 30 inches tall. Prairie Sun has 5-inch, golden yellow flowers that have light green central cones. This makes the flowers very eye-catching. Toto is more compact-growing – it reaches only about 12 inches in height. It is early-blooming and tends to support itself better than other varieties. Toto is available in lemon, rustic and gold colors. Becky Mix is another compact grower with very uniform growth and flowering habit. Plants reach 12 inches tall and flowers are about 4-5 inches across. Colors vary from golden yellow to red with chocolate-colored centers. Rudbeckia are ideal for mass plantings in sunny locations. They need occasional irrigation but generally are considered fairly drought tolerant. Heat tolerance is also there. Seeds can be readily germinated in a couple weeks under ideal conditions. If you prefer, plants of many of these varieties are readily available at your local garden centers in 4-inch, quart and one-gallon containers. Rudbeckia are recommended for Louisiana landscapes. Give them a try this fall, or add some to your landscape next spring. You should be very pleased with the landscape color and low maintenance. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Distributed 08/17/11) With blueberry production increasing at a rapid rate in southeastern states, the LSU AgCenter and other land grant universities are providing much-needed information for producers and consumers through All About Blueberries, a webpage on the website, eXtension.org.
News Release Distributed 08/17/11SHREVEPORT, La. – Just because a tree has turned brown or dropped leaves during a drought does not mean it is dead. “Before you cut, make sure the tree is dead,” LSU AgCenter forester Hallie Dozier said. “If it is alive, irrigate and protect the root zone.” LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Denyse Cummins concurs with not cutting down trees that have defoliated. “It happens in very dry summers, and it’s looking like fall in some areas right now,” Cummins said. Drought in Louisiana has lowered the soil water content to the point where plants, including trees, cannot extract enough water to support normal growth and maintenance, Dozier said. Trees under drought conditions lose the ability to grow normally, Dozier explained. Stressed trees essentially shift their energy and resources to survival rather than growth. Taking actions that redirect the tree’s energy to heal or grow hampers its efforts to survive. Trees will shift some of their energy to closing stomates on its leaves to help retain water, but that shuts down normal growth. They also shunt energy to grow more roots to capture limited water resources in the soil, and they tap into their food reserves – or stored starches – needed for future growth. As conditions get dryer, roots cease growth and function, leading to death. This may save the tree energy in the short term, but it severely restricts the tree’s ability to recover and resume growth once water again becomes available. Finally, the tree starts shedding fruits, leaves and branches. This is when most tree owners notice that the tree is under stress – long after drought stress-related changes have begun. During a drought, irrigation is necessary, Dozier said. “Water the tree deeply and slowly, roughly 10 gallons per inch of tree diameter at breast height.” To water deeply, lay a soaker hose in the critical root zone – between trunk and edge of canopy or the “drip line” of the tree. “But do not wrap the hose against the trunk or directly water the trunk,” Dozier said. “Turn the hose on low and let it run slowly.” Dozier offers the following tips for irrigating trees: – Check your flow rates after a few hours. If water is running off the surface, turn the hose lower. Slow water application allows you to water the tree roots without loss to runoff or evaporation. – If your tree is mulched, push mulch aside so water reaches the soil. Avoid disturbing the soil because doing so may disrupt root tissue and hamper the tree’s ability to absorb moisture. – Similarly, avoid digging or otherwise disturbing the soil during drought. “Limit mower, vehicular and pedestrian traffic under the tree during periods of extended drought,” Dozier said. Trees may need two or three days to be watered deeply, depending on soil conditions and tree size. Large trees should be irrigated every two to four weeks during drought. Smaller trees and new plantings may take less time to irrigate, but they need watering at least once a week. Be sure your irrigation plan complies with local water restrictions, if any. “The LSU AgCenter does not recommend pruning of live branches during drought unless necessary to correct immediate structural or safety issues,” Dozier said. She added that leaves are a tree’s food manufacturing center, and pruning basically removes some of a tree’s ability to make its own food. From the tree’s standpoint, pruning is “wounding,” and removing live branches forces the tree to direct energy to closing the wound against pathogens and insects. “When the tree is under drought stress, it needs to use all of its resources just to survive,” she said. “Sometimes it is necessary to prune a tree, and we do so to create and maintain strong structure of the tree, increasing the tree’s chances of survival, and to reduce potential hazards,” Dozier said. But removing live branches can retard the tree’s recovery from stresses such as root damage, wind and drought. Because of this, pruning should be done only for reasons that improve or maintain its health and safety, Dozier explained. “If you have potential hazards such as dead wood or diseased limbs, you can prune anytime during the year. Otherwise, wait until the dormant season to prune live branches,” Dozier said, “especially during times of stress, such as high heat or drought. “Trees under extreme drought may take several years to recover completely after rains resume,” Dozier said. Avoid unnecessary pruning and soil disturbance for a few growing seasons after the drought ends. “When water is plentiful, young trees may benefit from fertilizers that help them put on growth,” Dozier said. Larger trees rarely need fertilizing unless soil tests show a lack of necessary nutrients in the soil. Fertilizers are salts and may harm a drought-stressed tree by pulling water away from the roots. Hold off fertilizing trees until water is plentiful, and then fertilize only when there is a lack of nutrients in the soil or rapid growth is desired, Dozier said. “If the branch or the whole tree dies, you need professional help,” Dozier said. “Always hire licensed workers.” Louisiana has a state license that requires testing, continuing education and proof of insurance. “Do not hire anyone without first confirming that they are licensed by the State,” she said. To check, call the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry at 225-952-8100. By hiring someone who is not licensed, you are putting yourself at risk for poor work and liability in the event that something goes wrong, Dozier said.
(Distributed 08/17/11) MANSURA, La. – The Louisiana 4 H Hall of Fame now has 12 additional members after an induction ceremony held Aug. 13 at the Louisiana 4 H Museum.
(Distributed 08/15/11) Vadim Kochergin, a researcher with the Audubon Sugar Institute, has been named the director of the Louisiana Institute for Biofuels and Bioprocessing, effective Aug. 15. Both institutes are part of the LSU AgCenter.
(Video 8/15/11) It seems there’s no escape outside from the hot temperatures – except for the shade. So, on this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill suggests doing some work in your shade garden. He offers some tips for properly selecting and growing shade plants. (Runtime: 1:26)
(Distributed 08/12/11) OAK GROVE, La. – Ways to enhance tourism resources and create new ones in rural areas of Louisiana and Mississippi were featured at the 2011 Miss-Lou Regional Tourism Summit held Aug. 9-11.
(Distributed 08/15/11) NEW ORLEANS – Young chefs from four southern states recently competed in the second annual Louisiana 4-H Seafood Cook-off, with the Mississippi team taking top honors.
(Distributed 08/12/11) Cristina Sabliov, associate professor in the LSU AgCenter Department of Biological and Agriculture Engineering, has received the 2011 New Holland Young Researcher Award.
News Release Distributed 08/12/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Copper plants are great foliage plants for the landscape. These go by the scientific name of Acalypha, and they really put on a fantastic show in late summer and fall. You can choose from a tremendous number of these varieties – some old, some new. Proven Winners has introduced several the past few years, and we also have a number that are industry standards in Louisiana – such as Louisiana Red and Opelousas Red. The LSU AgCenter is working on collecting and evaluating copper plants. We have about 20 varieties thus far. Bourbon Street, Jungle Dragon, Tahiti, Curly Q and Bronze are some of the variety names you will see at garden centers. Copper plants that are planted early in the year can be in 4-inch pots. But if you plant them in late summer and early fall, try to get 1- to 3-gallon containers. Ornamental peppers are a unique, specialty-type plant for home landscapes. These are mostly sold in the fall and have appealing characteristics such as colorful berries and foliage. Ornamental peppers produce colorful fruit (which actually are peppers) in a wide range of sizes, forms and colors. Purple, orange, yellow, red, brown, blue, and white are common. Multiple colors can appear on the same plant. Flowering on ornamental peppers is not obvious – the fruit are the desirable feature. Plants can reach heights of 8 inches to 3 feet depending on the variety. Green foliage is common, but variegated foliage and plants with purplish-black leaves are also available. Popular varieties of ornamental peppers available at garden centers in late summer and early fall include Chilly Chili, Purple Flash, Black Pearl and the Explosive series. These are not cold-hardy. They are warm-season annuals usually used for 3-4 months of foliage and berry color in the landscape, containers or patio garden setting. Marigolds can also be called meri-mums and are used in fall even more successfully than in spring. They are a great replacement for garden mums in the fall landscape. You get eight-10 weeks of flower power with marigolds but only a month of flowers with garden mums. Select African types for larger plants with big flowers or select French types for shorter, smaller plants with smaller flowers. It is best to plant marigolds from mid-August through mid- to late September. Marigolds prefer full sun and do best when irrigation is minimized. Zinnias are another good fall-weather bedding plant that we normally think of for spring. Try the Profusion or Zahara zinnias. These are smaller-plant, smaller-flower varieties. Try the Dreamland or Swizzles, when available, if you want larger flowers. It’s getting late to sow zinnia seed in a landscape bed, so purchase plants already started for you. Plant them in the August-to-September window. Zinnias love the dry weather of fall. Typically by this time of year, your spring-planted zinnias are not performing very well, so replacing them may be in order. The new plants will last until killing frost arrives. Petunias can be planted a little bit later in the fall than the other plants previously mentioned. When planted early enough in the fall (October), they will bloom and give one to two months of nice flowering prior to a frost or freeze. Typically, petunias will live through winter in Louisiana, but they’re more prone to cold damage in north and central Louisiana than in south Louisiana. Petunias usually will not bloom through winter, but plants will produce new foliage as weather warms in February and perform well through May or June. Plants in the Wave series are popular varieties. If you want more of the old-time petunia look, try the Madness series. Try some color plants in your landscape the next few months. Whether color from foliage or color from flowers, all of these will perform well for you if you follow proper horticultural practices. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 08/11/11Raw and undercooked meat may contain harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illness, and cooking meat and poultry to recommended temperatures will kill bacteria and decrease the risk of foodborne illness, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist and food specialist Beth Reames. “Bacteria are everywhere in our environment,” Reames says. “Any food of animal origin can harbor bacteria that cause foodborne illness, such as Salmonella and E. coli. These bacteria cannot be seen or smelled.” Using a food thermometer is the only sure way of knowing if your food has reached a temperature high enough to destroy foodborne bacteria. Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees as measured with a food thermometer before removing the meat from the heat source, she says. And cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. “Ground meats require higher cooking temperatures than whole or cuts of meat or poultry,” Reames cautions. “When meat is ground, more of it is exposed to harmful bacteria that may be present.” Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, and ground turkey should be cooked to 165 degrees. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. Meat and poultry may be cooked to higher temperatures as a matter of personal preference. Reames offers these additional tips to ensure that food is safe to eat: – Wash hands, utensils and work surfaces often, both before and after preparing foods. – Don't allow raw meats, poultry or seafood (or their juices) to contact and contaminate other foods. Keep raw food separate from ready-to-eat or already-cooked foods. – Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood. Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold tap water or in the microwave, not on the counter. – Place leftover food in shallow containers and immediately put them in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling. – Use cooked leftovers within four days. – Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees. – Discard any food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature was above 90). “You can become sick anytime from 20 minutes to 6 weeks after eating food with some types of harmful bacteria,” Reames says. “For some people who are at high risk — young children, pregnant women, people over 65 and people with chronic illnesses — getting sick from foodborne bacteria can cause serious health problems.” The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.
(Distributed 08/10/11) A new chemical for stink bug control on rice has been given federal approval on a limited basis for Louisiana farmers. The chemical Tenchu, made by Mitsui, will be available to treat up to 50,000 acres in Louisiana, according to LSU AgCenter entomologist Natalie Hummel.
(Distributed 08/10/11) Louisiana corn farmers are wrapping up a difficult year. Dry conditions throughout most of the growing season put stress on the crop.
POLLOCK, La – Ask any geologist, and they will tell you their job rocks. Chesapeake Energy Corporation’s geologists feel the same way. Their passion for geology, coupled with a companywide education program, created the This School Rocks interactive presentation, which introduces geology and mineral development to students from elementary to high school.
(Distributed 08/09/11) Two LSU AgCenter researchers recently received more than $87,000 in grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support economic opportunities for agricultural producers and businesses.
(Video 08/08/11) Flowers are not the only way to achieve beautiful color in your landscape. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill introduces you to a dependable, tall-growing plant with beautifully colored foliage. (Runtime: 1:28)
(Distributed 08/08/11) MANSURA, La. – Exhibit enhancements are under way at the Louisiana 4-H Museum. “The new pieces will create a dynamic, self-guided experience for museum visitors,” said museum coordinator Rose Anne St. Romain. “They will be completed by September 30.”
(Distributed 08/05/11) BOSSIER CITY, La. – LSU AgCenter wildlife specialist Don Reed will conduct a deer management meeting Aug. 22 in Bossier City.
News Release Distributed 08/05/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Late August and early September are the time to begin preparing for fall blooms on your roses. Rose flowering and overall performance aren’t great during Louisiana summers, but each year we have the potential to have great fall blooms due to the cooler conditions and typically drier weather. During summer the flower colors on roses are less intense and the blooms are smaller. This is simply a function of summer heat. The best flower color on roses occurs at first bloom in spring and at peak bloom in fall. Size is also best at these times of the year. You will see foliage color become darker green, too, especially if roses are maintained with a good fertilization program. Hybrid tea roses can be pruned back to a height of 30-36 inches. Remove crossing and competing canes, and remove canes in the center of the plants. This thinning-type of cane removal is generally recommended for late-winter pruning, but it’s beneficial in late summer, too. Floribunda, grandiflora and landscape shrub roses are typically pruned in late summer to reduce plant height by one-third. In north Louisiana, finish rose pruning by the end of August. In south Louisiana, complete pruning by the first or second week in September. Fall blooms normally will peak 45-50 days after pruning, although this somewhat depends on growing conditions. In conjunction with pruning, clear debris from rose beds and pull any weeds that may be present. Add a granular, pre-emergent herbicide for weed control and mulch with a 2- to 3-inch layer of baled or shredded pine straw. Any new mulch can just be added on top of old mulch already in the beds. Pine bark and other mulch materials can be used if pine straw is not available. Be sure to fertilize, too. Most people fertilize when they prune and mulch. A recommended rate of a slow-release fertilizer will produce nice, uniform foliage growth through September and promote October flowering. Rose beds that have been regularly fertilized and contain soil high in phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium may need less fertilization than newer beds or beds that have not been regularly fertilized. Liquid feed also can be included to encourage larger bloom size in early October. If your soil pH is wrong, fall is a good time to address this issue. The ideal soil pH for roses is 6.2-6.5. Irrigation also needs to be maintained during droughty periods. We have been dry many times this year and wet at other times. Roses need 1 inch of irrigation weekly when rainfall is lacking. Although it’s possible insects will appear on roses in the fall, they are more of an issue in spring and summer. Examine your roses once weekly. Spider mites, aphids, flower thrips and cucumber beetles are usually the main problem insects. A new insect causing major problems on roses in Louisiana is chilli thrips. These are foliage-feeding thrips instead of flower-feeding thrips. They are hard to identify and hard to control once a population is established. It’s important to continue disease control on roses in late summer and fall. If weather is dry, foliage diseases may not be a major problem. But if we have significant rainfall or overwater, have plants in partial shade or have air circulation issues, disease will be present. The amount of disease you have on roses largely depends on the kind of roses you grow. Landscape shrub roses rarely need regular fungicide applications, but the roses most susceptible to black spot fungus – hybrid teas – need spraying on a 10-day schedule until the first killing frost. Late summer also is a good time to plant new roses. Try low-maintenance landscape shrubs like the Knock Out varieties and Home Run. Good floribundas include Cinco de Mayo, Hot Cocoa, Julia Child, Easy Does It and Easy Goin’. You also can select lower-maintenance hybrid tea roses, but these are more available at garden centers in spring. The LSU AgCenter will be naming a Louisiana Super Plant rose variety this fall. Watch for the announcement in September. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Distributed 08/04/11) Twenty-three youth from around the state participated in the 2011 Louisiana Young Ag Producers Program Summer Institute held July 18-22 on the LSU-Baton Rouge campus, according to LSU AgCenter program coordinator Bradley Leger.
(Distributed 08/04/11) Cathleen Williams, an associate professor in the LSU AgCenter School of Animal Sciences, has been named the 2011 winner of the Land O’Lakes/Purina LLC Teaching Award in Dairy Production, which is presented by the American Dairy Science Association to recognize outstanding teaching of undergraduate students in dairy science.
(Distributed 08/04/11) The LSU AgCenter will host an on-farm sweet potato field day Aug. 24 in northeast Louisiana.
(Video News 08/02/11) Weather delayed planting of this year’s Louisiana sweet potato crop, but farmers managed to get it in the ground. The demand for sweet potatoes has been on the rise in recent years. LSU AgCenter correspondent Tobie Blanchard reports that Louisiana growers and a new processing facility are working to meet that demand. (Runtime: 1:25)
(Distributed 08/02/11) HOMER, La. – The LSU AgCenter’s Hill Farm Research Station has scheduled a field day for Thursday, Sept. 15.
(Distributed 08/02/11) ST. JOSEPH, La. – With help from a grant from the United Soybean Board, the LSU AgCenter is looking at best management options to maximize soybean yield in Louisiana.
(Distributed 08/01/11) ARCADIA, La. – Jurors Empowering Teens, a Bienville Parish program the LSU AgCenter oversees, completed its fourth year July 29 as 12 youth who are employed by the police jury completed their summer jobs.
(Distributed 08/01/11) The U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared Aug. 7-13 as Farmers Market Week.
(Video 08/1/11) If you haven’t already planted your caladiums a few months ago, you can still find a great variety of them in your local nurseries at this time. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill explains the proper way to care for this highly reliable summer plant. (Runtime: 1:23)
News Release Distributed 07/29/11Food is a necessity for life, and as a result, a three-day emergency food supply is something you hear a lot about when a hurricane approaches. But just what is a three-day emergency food supply? LSU AgCenter nutritionist and food safety specialist Beth Reames says it involves more than just food. “People often stock up on the food they need and then forget to have a can opener on hand,” Reames says. “Or they don’t think about how they’ll prepare foods that really need to be heated or store foods that ordinarily would need refrigeration.” The nutritionist stresses that safely feeding yourself and your family after a storm means you also need to have some way to prepare food or keep it safe – on top of having ample food and water on hand to last the first few days after a storm or other emergency. “When making your plans and storing what you may need, keep in mind you may be without power, which means you may not have a way to heat things up or refrigerate them,” Reames says. “Make sure the foods you have on hand are adapted to those conditions.” Some of the foods you could have in your emergency supply include: –Ready-to-eat canned or packaged meats, fruits and vegetables. –Canned or powdered juices, milk and soups. (Be sure to store extra water if they’re powdered!) –Staples such as sugar, salt and pepper. –High-energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix. –Foods for infants, the elderly or people with special diets (for example, people with diabetes or food allergies). –Comfort foods or stress-relief foods such as cookies, candy, sweetened cereals, lollipops, instant coffee and tea bags. Reames also recommends storing at least one gallon of water per person and pet per day for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. Consider storing at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your family. If you are unable to store this quantity, store as much as you can. “Choose commercially bottled water or store water from your household system in clean containers for brief time periods when you think you might need it,” she says. The LSU AgCenter nutritionist also offers these tips to keep in mind when choosing the foods for your emergency supply: –Choose nonperishable foods that require little or no cooking and no refrigeration. –Purchase foods in can or jar sizes appropriate for one meal with no leftovers. Once opened or prepared, many foods lose their shelf-stable character and will go bad. –Select foods you like and normally eat. –If you don’t have a way to boil water when the power is off, do not include instant foods that require hot water. Keep in mind foods that require water also will consume your water supply more quickly. –Keep a supply of disposable plates, bowls, cups and utensils on hand. Otherwise, you could use far too much of your water supply washing dishes. –Don’t forget baby food, special dietary requirements and food for your pets. Reames says to buy – and practice using – a hand-crank can opener if you don’t have one already. “You’ll need it to open that can of tuna when the power goes off,” she says. As you assemble your food and other disaster supplies, keep them in a central location – above potential flood level. “You also want to store food in the coolest cabinets or a pantry away from appliances that produce heat,” she says. “Use metal, glass or rigid plastic containers to store food that comes in cardboard boxes, thin plastic or paper to avoid insect and rodent damage.” You can acquire and store your three-day food supply early, then rotate and use this food and water every six to 12 months – or as recommended on the food labels, Reames says.
News Release Distributed 07/29/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings It’s the time of the year, or at least one of the times of the year, when home gardeners have crape myrtle questions. We will answer a few here. Crape myrtles are battling Cercospora leaf spot. In addition, aphids and the resulting sooty mold can be prevalent this time of the year. And finally, it’s time to practice sucker control – do you need to cut them off and can you spray them with something to keep the suckers from growing or coming back after they are pruned off? Leaf spot The weather was hot and very dry this spring and this past fall, but Cercospora leaf spot can still be found on crape myrtles, especially in south Louisiana. This fungal disease usually begins appearing in late May to early June and continues into fall. Initial symptoms are the appearance of dark brown spots that develop first on the lower leaves and progress upward in the canopy from midsummer through fall. In most instances, infected leaves develop a yellowish to orangey red coloration due to the production of a toxin by the Cercospora pathogen. These leaves then fall prematurely, particularly in highly susceptible cultivars, and serve as a source of inoculum for spreading the pathogen and further disease development. Because of this, raking and destroying the fallen leaves should be a routine practice. Older varieties of crape myrtles are more susceptible than the newer varieties to this disease. Hybrid crape myrtles are also less susceptible. The crape myrtle varieties that are most tolerant to Cercospora leaf spot are Natchez, Muskogee, Basham’s Party Pink, Sioux and Tonto. Long term, this disease is not detrimental to the plant. It will slow down growth on younger plants, and if plants are growing in conditions that are not ideal, the leaf spot will weaken individual plants more than if the growing conditions are ideal. The use of fungicides to control this disease has not been very effective because they would have to be applied repeatedly throughout the growing season. Getting adequate coverage on larger crape myrtles is also problematic. Aphids Another problem that is frequent on crape myrtles is insect damage. Actually, most insects do not do much damage except for aphids that may feed on the new shoot growth in spring. White flies also are sometimes a problem on crape myrtles. Left unchecked, these insects will release bodily fluids onto the foliage, and the resultant honeydew leads to sooty mold on the leaves. This black discoloration occurs normally in early summer through fall. If you control the insects, no sooty mold will develop. Most insecticides control aphids. You can apply a systemic material early in the spring to control aphids before they appear or spray a contact insecticide once aphid problems become apparent. Sucker control Tired of suckers on crape myrtles? Many home gardeners and landscape professionals ask about sucker control on this popular tree. Suckers are more prone on juvenile, young trees. In addition, mechanical damage by weed trimmers to the lower stem and upper portion of the root system can cause sucker development. Trees with surface roots also have more suckers. When removing suckers by pruning, use sharp pruners and do not leave a stub. Most sucker control products work best when suckers that are present are cut off, then the sucker-control product is sprayed on the cut-over areas. You can spray napthaleneacetic acid (NAA - an organic auxin) to control suckers. Products available with this active ingredient are Sucker Stopper from Monterey Lawn and Garden Products and Fertilome Prune Smart Sprout Inhibitor. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Audio 08/01/11) August begins a transitional time in home vegetable gardens in Louisiana. Gardeners can plant fall crops that enjoy warmer weather as well as cool-season vegetables. (Runtime: 60 seconds)
News Release Distributed 07/26/11Hurricane season is a reminder that every family should have a family disaster plan, says LSU AgCenter child and family development specialist Becky White. A disaster plan can help save the lives of your family in the event of an emergency such as a hurricane or flood, White says. It also can help children cope with fears and worries they might have about safety or getting separated during the disaster. “To create a family disaster plan you need information about disasters that may occur in your area,” she says. You can do this by contacting your local emergency management office or going to the Federal Emergency Management Agency website at www.fema.gov. Then hold a family meeting and develop your plan. “In the event of a disaster, everyone in your family should know what to do, where to go and who to call,” White says. She suggests establishing two family meeting places in the event of a disaster. One should be a designated place outside your house. The other meeting place should be somewhere outside your neighborhood in case you are away from home or must leave your home when a disaster happens. “If you must evacuate, identify your evacuation routes and places where your family can go,” White says. Also, select an out-of-state relative or family friend as a point of contact for your family in case you get separated. Make sure each family member knows two ways to contact that person – phone numbers and address.” As you develop your plan, be sure to think about family members who may have special needs, White says. “Someone may need a cane for walking or a wheelchair,” she says. “For others, eyeglasses may be essential. In some cases special medical equipment or medicines are important to remember in planning.” If you have pets, plan for their safety as well. Remember, if you have to evacuate to a public shelter, you may not be able to bring your pets. “Family members may not always be together when disaster strikes, but families can get back together if they have a plan and it is followed,” White says.
(Video 07/25/11) Some once-popular plants have faded from common use today. But occasionally one of those plants will make its way back into marketplaces and landscapes. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill introduces you to one of these comeback kids. Some people call them “pepperoni plants.” (Runtime: 1:39)
News Release Distributed 07/22/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Vinca is the most popular, most sold and most planted warm-season bedding plant in Louisiana. We sometimes call this plant periwinkle. Many home gardeners and landscape professionals claim that vinca is the only summer flower they want to plant. When asked, “Would you like to plant the Louisiana Super Plants Serena angelonias or Butterfly pentas this year?” people usually usual answer – “Oh no! I plant vinca.” Vinca is very drought-tolerant and has an extremely long blooming season. It can also tolerate the highest temperatures we face during the summer growing season. Great improvements have been made in vinca flower colors and varieties during the past 25 years. In the 1980s, gardeners had few choices in terms of vinca growth habits, flower colors or disease resistance. In the 1990s, new forms and new flower colors arrived with rapid expansion occurring between 2000-2005. Vinca flower colors now include pink, deep rose, red, blush, scarlet, white, white with a red eye, lavender blue, peach, apricot, orchid, burgundy and many others. You can have vinca varieties that are upright and vinca varieties that are spreading. Plants generally grow 18-20 inches tall with a spread of 12-14 inches. Spreading types, though, have more trailing or ground cover habits and reach only 6-8 inches tall (at the most) with spreads of 18-14 inches. We do have vinca problems in the landscape, and based on the number of calls with vinca issues this spring, this is a bad year for vinca. This is surprising considering we now have disease-resistant varieties and we had a very dry spring and early summer. The main disease culprit is a fungus called Phytophthora, which always is present in our soils. It is often responsible for root rots and crown rots, and it attacks many types of plants. This fungus causes a disease seen shortly after planting, but it also can be found later in the year. Rhizoctonia is another disease common on vinca in Louisiana. It normally shows up in the summer after plants are established. Plant pathologists can also find Botrytis (gray mold) and Alternaria (leaf spot) on vinca in summer and fall. To get the best performance out of vinca in your landscape, consider the following LSU AgCenter recommendations: – Begin with good quality plants. Inspect plants obtained from the greenhouse grower or retail garden center for healthy roots. – Select a full-sun location. Vinca need at least eight hours of direct sun daily for optimum performance. – Properly prepare the landscape bed to allow for drainage and aeration. Raise the bed at least 6 inches if drainage is questionable. If beds are already established, all debris from the previous planting needs to be removed. Possibly, mulch should be removed also and add another couple inches of landscape soil prior to planting. – Although late April through early May is the ideal first planting date for the spring, you can continue planting vinca through the summer. The main thing to remember is that vinca love warm soil. – Plant so that the top of the root ball is level with or slightly higher than the soil of the bed. Proper spacing also is important because a crowded planting limits air circulation and can create conditions more favorable to disease development. Space transplants at least 8-10 inches apart. The more quickly plants grow together, the higher the likelihood of disease moving through foliage later in the year. – Mulch to decrease splashing of rainfall and irrigation water from soil onto the lower stems and foliage of the plants. Bedding plants should be mulched to a depth of about 1 inch. Pine straw is the preferred mulch material. – Manage irrigation properly. This is the main culprit in plant decline in commercial landscape beds. Vinca need very little irrigation once they’re established. Avoid regular overhead irrigation. Even if the landscape bed drains very well, an adequate volume once a week is the most water that should be applied. – Don’t plant periwinkles in the same bed year after year. Rotate them with other summer bedding plants that like sunny locations, such as blue daze, lantana, pentas, angelonia, scaevola, verbena, melampodium or sun-tolerant coleus. Varieties of vinca available in Louisiana include Pacifica, Cooler, Mediterranean, Victory, Titan, Nirvana and Cora series. Cooler and Pacifica are older varieties that still perform well with correct care. Mediterranean vincas spread and should be planted only in hanging baskets and containers. Titans have the largest flowers of all the vinca groups. The newer and more expensive Nirvana and Cora vincas have genetic resistance to Phytophthora. A few other vincas we have evaluated at the LSU AgCenter recently are not being sold in any significant quantities in Louisiana. It is late in the bedding-plant season, but pay attention to vinca in landscapes. Are you noticing them looking good or looking bad? Try to figure out why a particular planting is performing well or not performing well. Vinca can have trouble through the summer and fall if proper practices are not followed, so consider the above options to improve your success. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 07/19/11The onset of hurricane season is an important time for families to get ready for disasters, and parents can enlist their children to help get ready by assembling a family disaster preparedness kit, says LSU AgCenter child and family development specialist Becky White. “People – including children – cope best with disaster when they work together to prepare for emergencies and disasters,” White says. “All family members should know what to do in the event of a hurricane or other emergency.” The American Red Cross suggests every family develop a disaster supply kit that should have enough supplies for three days and include a family disaster plan and emergency contacts list. “Parents should talk to their children about the importance of being prepared for a disaster like a hurricane and discuss what their family would do,” White says. She suggests parents and children work together to assemble a family disaster supply kit that should contain the following: – Family disaster plan. – Family emergency contacts list. – Maps. – A three-day supply of nonperishable foods. – A three-day supply of water, including 1 gallon per person per day for drinking, washing and preparing food. – First aid supplies, including bandages, antibiotics, first aid manual, thermometer, pain relievers and prescription medication. – Simple tools and supplies, such as a radio, flashlights, can opener, utility knife, batteries and scissors. – General supplies to stay comfortable, safe and entertained, such as games, books, children’s favorite toys, paper, pencils, blankets, hygiene supplies, matches, toilet paper, garbage bags and disinfectant. – Pet supplies if needed. “Developing and having a family disaster supply kit ready in the event of a disaster is a proactive way to teach your children about family safety and may give your child some sense of comfort and control,” White says.
News Release Distributed 07/15/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings July is Smart Irrigation Month across the country. It’s a program of the Irrigation Association to inform industry professional and homeowners about proper irrigation in the landscape. In order for an irrigation system to be effective, it needs to be designed right, installed right, water right. What does all this mean? In the landscape, watering at the right time of day is important. It is best to irrigate when the sun is low, the winds are calm and temperatures are cool. This will save water – as much as 30 percent – by reducing evaporative losses. The best time to water is from early morning a couple hours before sunrise until midmorning. When irrigating, saturate the root zones. Roots are generally within the top 6 inches of soil. Let the soil dry between irrigations. Watering too frequently results in shallow roots, weed growth, disease and fungus. Water in a way that runoff is reduced. It is best to irrigate at a rate so the soil can take in the water being applied. You don’t want irrigation water to go into the parking area or down the street. Water a couple times weekly instead of watering a little bit every day. Where is water being applied? Take careful aim. Conserving water doesn't have to involve a lot of trenching and plumbing. Whether you own an automatic irrigation system or not, you have many ways to save water in a landscape. These tips can be implemented as part of your normal landscaping and gardening routine: – Aerate your lawn and around trees at least once a year to ensure good water penetration. Turn and cultivate soil, adding compost or fertilizer when planting. This helps the soil hold moisture and produces healthier plants that require less water to remain strong. – Mulch well around flowers, shrubs and trees. Using 2-4 inches of mulch reduces evaporation, moderates soil temperatures, improves water penetration and helps control weeds that compete for water. Pine straw is the best mulch in Louisiana. – Landscape to suit your lot. Evaluate conditions like sun and shade, dry and damp areas, the size plants you want now and at maturity, and how you want to use each section of your landscape. – Purchase turf or plant species that have low water requirements and are well-suited to the environment and the location where they’ll be planted. – Hydro-zone your yard. This means grouping landscape plants with similar moisture needs in the same area. Separate them from turf areas, which have different water requirements. – Plant in spring or fall when less water is needed to establish new plants. Smaller plants also need less water to become established. – Create functional turf areas, for example, play areas. Avoid using turf where it's difficult to irrigate properly, such as on steep slopes. Good alternatives for hard-to-irrigate areas are ground covers, perimeter plants and mulch. – Plant shade trees to lower the air and soil temperatures. This will reduce soil moisture loss, too. – Maintain your yard by mowing, weeding, pruning and irrigating as needed. A well-maintained yard requires less water. All of this is important information for using your irrigation system and watering your plants properly. Irrigation will continue to be important as we move through the rest of the summer in Louisiana. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Video 7/18/11) Plants in containers or pots help liven up patio areas. Rather than just putting one type of plant in the container, you can use plant combinations. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill provides ideas for combining container plants for very nice effects. (Runtime: 1:37)
News Release Distributed 07/05/11Summer is cookout time, and perfectly grilled Louisiana seafood is moist and flavorful. Seafood is also fast and easy to grill because it has smaller percentages of skeletal and connective tissues than equal portions of red meats or poultry, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. “Louisiana seafood is safe, nutritious and tastes great,” Reames says. “It’s an excellent source of protein, low in fat and saturated fat, and contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.” Reames’ tips for perfectly grilled seafood include: – Preheat an outdoor gas or electric grill for at least 10 minutes. If you use a charcoal grill, start the fire about 30 minutes before cooking, let it burn until the coals are white-hot, and then spread the coals out in a single layer. “A moderately hot fire of 375 to 425 degrees F is best for cooking seafood,” Reames says. – Make sure that the grill grates are clean and then lightly brush them with vegetable oil to prevent the delicate skin of the fish from sticking. – Place the oiled grate on the grill and adjust the grill height to 4 to 6 inches above the heat. “Prepare seafood for grilling by very lightly spraying both sides of it with olive oil or vegetable oil (away from direct flames) and then sprinkle it with desired seasonings,” Reames says. “Avoid brushing or rubbing the seafood with your hands to prevent cross-contaminating other foods.” Marinating fish an hour before grilling also helps keep it moist. Remove excess marinade before grilling to avoid flare-ups. If you are going to use the marinade as an extra sauce on top of the cooked fish or seafood, boil the marinade at a rolling boil for 5 minutes to prevent foodborne illness. – Finfish and large shrimp may be placed directly on the grate. Put smaller varieties in an oiled fish basket, on a small-mesh seafood-grilling screen or on perforated aluminum foil for easier handling and to prevent sticking. – Cook small whole or butterflied fish, fish steaks, fillets, kabobs, crabs, shrimp and shellfish directly over the heat source. To estimate cooking time, measure the seafood at its thickest part, Reames says. Grill for 10 minutes at approximately 400 degrees F for each inch of thickness. Fish is done, but still moist, when it turns opaque and just starts to flake when tested with a fork. “Most seafood needs to be turned halfway through cooking,” she says. “Fish fillets less than 1 inch thick don’t need to be turned. Avoid turning fish more than once because this will break the fish apart.
(Video 7/11/11) Compact flowering bedding plants are typical in summer flower gardens. But taller, wilder looking flowering plants are coming back to the garden landscape. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill introduces you to a new plant that fills spaces with color, while exerting its freedom to grow up and out. (Runtime: 1:34)
News Release Distributed 07/01/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Louisiana has many great plants that thrive in summer and fall. Some are tropical-like in appearance. They include cassias, princess flowers (also called tibouchinas) and durantas. All are low-maintenance. Cassias are among the popular plants that flower from late summer through fall and can be found at many retail garden centers. These plants are sometimes called sennas. They produce yellow flowers on prolific plants and are a landscape “showstopper” in September and October. Several cassias are common in Louisiana. Probably the best that fits a mostly tree-like description is Cassia splendida. Other species are Cassia alata (which we may know as candlestick tree) and Cassia corymbosa. Cassia splendida is usually the tallest-growing – making a 10- to 12-foot-tall tree. Cassia corymbosa is most often a medium to large shrub, and the candlestick tree can vary greatly in size depending on age and location. It is common to see them 12-15 feet tall in the more southern portions of the state with a 6- to 8-foot height common in the Florida parishes. Candlestick trees have more herbaceous-type growth, and the other species have more woody-type growth. All species have a tendency to need trimming and pruning occasionally to keep the plants in a manageable growth pattern. Although the best time to remove dead wood is right after new growth commences in the spring, you also can prune slightly during the growing season to manage growth. But don’t get carried away with pruning after early summer or you’ll sacrifice fall flowers. Cassias are trouble-free and easy to grow. Plant them in full to partial sun and fertilize them regularly. Cassias need minimum irrigation once established. These are perennial in south Louisiana and can return in other areas of the state after a mild winter. Princess flowers (Tibouchina) include several species. One of the lesser known species is glory flower (T. grandifolia), also known as big leaf tibouchina. It has much larger foliage and larger flowers than the other commonly grown princess flowers. Considered a tropical or tender perennial, the plant is winter-hardy most years in USDA hardiness zone 9A, which is generally south of I-10/I-12. Purple flowers start in late summer and continue through the fall. Plants can be easily rooted using softwood cuttings. A few garden centers in Louisiana sell this plant, which needs to be used more. Another great species is T. urvilleana. It is also called Athens Blue tibouchina or dwarf tibouchina. We have been growing it at the LSU AgCenter the past three years, and it is a great landscape performer with profuse blooms from late spring through fall on 18- to 24-inch-tall plants. A variegated-foliage form of this plant is now available. Dewdrops is a common name for durantas, which also are called sky flowers. One dwarf variety is Cuban Gold. It is low-growing, reaching only 16-20 inches tall in the landscape by fall. Durantas prefer full sun. Because chartreuse foliage color is its main characteristic, it can be a great substitute for chartreuse-foliaged ornamental sweet potatoes. It is recommended as a perennial in south Louisiana and is a great annual elsewhere. The variety Gold Edge produces few if any seed pods or flowers and grows to a height of 5 feet each year. Other varieties available in Louisiana include Lemon Drop, Variegated, White, Purple and Silver Lining. As we move into the heat of midsummer, try some cassias, tibouchinas or durantas if you can find them at your garden centers. You will be pleased with having some great plants that really will be showstoppers through fall. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
(Video 07/04/11) You can find all types of daisies at your local nurseries now. They’re known for their colorful and distinctive flowers. But don't think that just because you’ve seen one daisy, yo've seen them all. On this edition of Get It Growing, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill introduces you to these diverse and prolific summer flowers. (Runtime: 1:34)
(Video News 06/20/11) Consumers lining up at a farmer’s booth at a Saturday morning market aren’t just looking for fresh produce. LSU AgCenter correspondent Tobie Blanchard reports that farmers markets offer consumers locally grown food and a chance to connect with growers. (Runtime: 1:59)
(Distributed 06/24/11) BATON ROUGE, La. – Members of 4-H clubs from across Louisiana were named state winners and alternates in 43 contests on June 23 at the closing session of the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H University.
News Release Distributed 06/24/11Enjoying fresh Louisiana berries is a treat that many people look forward to each year. Blueberries are delicious and provide important nutrients that make them a healthful choice to enjoy at meals or as snacks, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. A recent study reported by researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge found that consuming 2 cups of blueberries a day lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes for people who have prediabetes and a family risk of diabetes, Reames says. Prediabetes is a condition that occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Several studies show that many people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. A 2010 study funded by the Agricultural Research Service in Little Rock, Ark., on laboratory mice found that blueberries may help fight atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries. The research provides the first direct evidence that blueberries can help prevent harmful plaques or lesions, symptomatic of atherosclerosis, from increasing in size in arteries. A 2009 study by researchers at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center found that rats that ate a diet rich in blueberries gained health benefits that may lower their risk for heart disease and diabetes. These included lowered cholesterol levels, improved glucose control and decreased abdominal fat. Lowering cholesterol reduces risk of heart disease while glucose control – the body’s ability to convert sugar to energy – is related to diabetes risk. Increased abdominal fat is linked to increased risk for both heart disease and diabetes. More research is needed to confirm these results in humans, Reames says. Blueberries also are being studied to determine if they can slow aging and improve brain function. Blueberries pack high levels of health-promoting antioxidants, Reames says. Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells against damage by free radicals that form in the body. Uncontrolled free radical formation can cause cell damage that may lead to cancer, heart disease, inflammation and other health problems. “Blueberries also are a good source of vitamin C and fiber,” she says. “One-half cup of blueberries has only 42 calories.” When it comes to selecting berries, Reames offers these tips: – Look for berries that are plump and firm with a dark blue color and a frosty bloom. – Blueberries do not ripen after harvest, so as soon as you buy them, you can eat them. – Sweetness varies by variety. One pint of berries will provide four to five servings of fresh, uncooked fruit. Reames also has these tips for storage and preparation: – Handle fruit gently to avoid bruising. Bruising shortens the life of fruit. – Sort berries carefully and remove any that are too soft or decayed. – Store berries loosely in a shallow container to allow air circulation and to prevent the berries on top from crushing those underneath. – Do not wash berries before refrigerating because they’ll get mushy. Store covered containers of berries in a cool, moist area of the refrigerator, such the vegetable crisper, to help extend the usable life of the fruit. Recommended storage time is three to five days, but unwashed berries may keep up to two weeks when stored properly. – Before eating berries or using in them your favorite recipe, remove stems, wash berries gently in cool running water and drain. You can freeze blueberries without washing, Reames says. When washed before freezing, blueberry skins become tough. To freeze, remove stems and and trash, and package them tightly in freezer bags or containers or glass jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Then, seal the container airtight and put it in the freezer. When you remove blueberries from the freezer, rinse them in cold water and use them immediately. “You can use frozen berries directly from the freezer,” Reames says. “There’s no need to thaw them if you use them in baked products, except for pancakes. Pancakes may not cook thoroughly in the center if the berries are frozen. Microwave the amount you need for a few seconds to thaw.” Loose-pack frozen blueberries are available year-round, and you can use them in any recipe that calls for fresh blueberries. Because they are washed, they can be used right from the package.
News Release Distributed 06/24/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Home gardeners around Louisiana frequently have fruit trees in their landscapes, and the fig is certainly one of the most popular. Ficus carica is a native of Asia and was imported into the United States in the 16th century. The fruit is tasty and can be eaten fresh, made into preserves and jams, or used in baking. Figs make nice additions to landscape plantings. Figs are commonly grown in all of Louisiana and have the potential to produce an early crop, called the breba crop, on last year’s wood in the spring, a main crop on the current-season wood during the summer and a third crop in the fall. These different crop productions vary from one variety to another. Proper variety selection is important. Frequent rainfall and high humidity in Louisiana make many varieties unsuitable because of fruit splitting and souring. Varieties with “closed eyes” have fewer problems with fruit souring. The eye is the opening at the end of the fig opposite the stem. Figs are either open-eyed, less-open-eyed or closed-eyed. We prefer a closed eye because bacteria, fungi and moisture are less prone to enter the fig. Winter injury has killed plants of the cold-sensitive varieties in some years. Selecting varieties with cold tolerance is critical in north and central Louisiana. Figs are one of the easiest fruit trees to care for in the home orchard or home landscape. With little care, they will produce crops of juicy, sweet figs every year. Popular fig varieties in Louisiana include Celeste, LSU Purple, LSU Gold and Brown Turkey. Celeste produces small- to medium-size fruit that is resistant to splitting and souring. The fruit is violet to brown with a light strawberry-colored pulp. LSU Purple has been out for a few years and has medium-size, dark purple fruit and good resistance to foliage diseases. Its tendency to produce three distinct crops – a light crop in early spring, a heavy main crop in early July and a later crop sometimes lasting into December – makes it popular. LSU Gold is a new yellow-fruited variety that may still be hard to find, but it is well worth growing. The LSU Purple and LSU Gold cultivars were developed from crosses made by Ed O’Rourke in the 1950s. New figs released by the LSU AgCenter recently include Tiger, O’Rourke and Champagne. Fig trees need room. They can reach heights of 10-15 feet with an equal spread. Plant them in a sunny location away from large trees with overhanging branches. Figs will not produce well unless they receive at least six hours of direct sun daily. Pruning established figs is best done by late February. Yearly pruning helps to maintain vigor, create the desired shape of the tree and control its size (which makes harvesting easier). It is better to cut a fig tree back a moderate amount every year or two than to let it get to the point where severe pruning is required. Most of the branches cut back should be no larger than 1 inch to 2 inches in diameter. Newly planted figs definitely will need to be watered their first summer as they become established. During dry spells in summer, water young trees weekly. Also, mature, fruit-bearing-age trees need irrigation regularly during dry spells. Fig trees may drop fruit if they are drought-stressed. And once the crop is damaged, supplemental watering will not correct the problem. Mulch with pine straw or leaves to conserve soil moisture. 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 or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.