News Release Distributed 04/29/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Midspring is here, and it’s time to mow, mow, mow. Mowing has a measurable effect on the way a grass plant grows. The ability of grass to sustain itself through frequent close clipping is one factor that distinguishes a grass species as a turfgrass. Grasses such as wheat, corn and oats, for example, cannot tolerate the harsh treatment of frequent mowing. The rate of growth and the height of cut determine the frequency of mowing. The rate of growth depends on the type of grass, soil fertility (especially nitrogen content) and weather. Lawns in Louisiana are made up of warm-season grasses. These grasses grow fast and need to be mowed frequently in the hot summer when moisture is adequate. A general rule is to mow before the grass becomes one and a half times as tall as the cutting height of your mower. Or another way to say this is: Do not remove more than one-third of the grass at any one clipping. For example, if the height of cut is 1 inch, mow when growth reaches 1 1/2 inches in height. If you continually allow your grass to grow too tall between mowings, you may end up with a thin, weedy turf. You can decrease the frequency of mowing by choosing a slower-growing turfgrass, reducing the rate of nitrogen fertilization and raising the cutting height of your mower. The rate of nitrogen fertilization and the frequency and height of cut are major factors that determine the quality of turf. Mowing height depends on the type of grass you have, your objectives and your willingness to work. Most people mow with rotary mowers that have horizontal blades that flail the grass and fray the leaf blades. A rotary mower becomes noticeably duller after a few cuts and should be sharpened as needed. Some tough grasses like the zoysia will dull a blade quickly. Reel mowers have clean, scissorslike cuts and produce a better-quality turf than rotary mowers do. A reel mower is more difficult to sharpen, but it should require less frequent sharpening. A reel mower may be more expensive, but it is normally more rugged and uses less fuel. Most reel mowers are particularly recommended for Bermuda grass and zoysia. A smooth turf, free of sticks, stone and other debris, is necessary when using a reel mower. Removing grass clippings isn’t necessary if you mow as recommended. Research has shown that moderate amounts of small clippings decompose rapidly in warm weather with good moisture. Nutrients in the clippings are recycled without contributing greatly to the thatch layer. And if you don’t remove the clippings, you can get by with less nitrogen fertilizer. Clippings should be removed, however, if they leave clumps on the grass surface. This normally occurs only if the grass is allowed to grow too high before mowing or if it’s mowed when wet. Zoysia and centipede grass leaves do not decay as readily as leaves of other grasses, so clippings need to be collected and discarded when growth is rapid – especially with zoysia. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 04/21/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings We are approaching the time of spring to get your heat-loving, warm-season bedding plants into the ground. Anytime from mid-March through May in Louisiana is a great time to add new flowers to your landscape beds. Some bedding plants prefer early-spring planting; some prefer April planting, and some even prefer to be planted after nighttime temperatures warm and soils really warm up in May. Among these, angelonias, vinca, caladiums and pentas are a few plants to consider. The Serena series of angelonia, also called summer snapdragon, is a Louisiana Super Plant for this spring and is best planted in April. This outstanding summer bedding plant can be relied upon for dependable garden performance though the hottest summer weather. Four soft colors in the Serena series blend together beautifully – Serena Purple, Serena Lavender, Serena Lavender Pink and Serena White. A new Serena Blue will be available soon. All of these plants are compact, growing 12 to 14 inches tall and about as wide. Masses of flower spikes cover these plants from late spring to frost. Plant them in sunny beds from early to mid-April in south Louisiana or from mid-April through early May in north Louisiana. You also can continue planting them through early summer. Caladiums are actually best planted in mid-April through May, although most home gardeners plant them early. If you want a great foliage-type bedding plant for shady locations, caladiums are the perfect fit. Some caladiums will perform well in full sun, but all aren’t reliable in locations with more sun than shade. You can purchase caladiums as corms (tubers), or you can buy them already growing in 4-inch containers. Either way is fine. Don’t plant them too deep. And avoid over-watering caladiums during summer. Butterfly pentas are distinctive for their compact growth habit, large flowers and excellent garden performance. Superb heat and humidity tolerance make this summer bedding plant a reliable choice for Louisiana gardeners. Clusters of five-petaled flowers are produced continuously all summer from spring to first frost. The series includes a variety of colors – Butterfly Deep Rose, Butterfly White, Butterfly Blush, Butterfly Deep Pink, Butterfly Light Lavender, Butterfly Lavender and Butterfly Red. The flowers are rich with nectar and are highly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant them in full sun, partial sun or partial shade. The Butterfly pentas are another Louisiana Super Plant for this spring. Vincas are reliable for summer-through-fall landscape performance. Plant them in May. Vincas, also called periwinkles, need well-drained, acid soil. They do best in a full-sun, dry location, so limit irrigation. There are many vincas to select from. New series include Cora and Nirvana. Another relatively new one is the Titan series, which has larger flowers. You can also plant the Pacifica and the Cooler series. These are just a small sampling of great flowers for Louisiana summers. You also can consider melampodium, blue daze, perennial salvias, coleus, lantana, zinnias and more. You’ll be pleased with any of them. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 04/15/11Although dyed Easter eggs may look like decorations, they are a perishable food. Improper care of perishable foods can trigger foodborne illness, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. Hard-cooked eggs spoil faster than fresh eggs because the protective coating is washed away, Reames says. This leaves the pores in the shell bare for bacteria to enter and contaminate the egg. “Hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated within two hours of cooking and used within a week,” she says. Reames offers these additional tips for Easter egg safety: – Only use eggs that have been refrigerated, and discard eggs that are cracked or dirty. – Store eggs in the carton in the refrigerator with the large end up to help maintain quality. According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, fresh, uncooked eggs in the shell can be kept refrigerated in their cartons for three to five weeks beyond the “sell-by” date. – Wash your hands thoroughly before you handle eggs at every step, including cooking, cooling and dyeing. – When cooking eggs, place them in a single layer in a saucepan. Add water to at least 1 inch above the eggs, cover the pan, bring the water to a boil and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Let the eggs stand (18 minutes for extra large eggs, 15 minutes for large, 12 minutes for medium), then immediately run cold water over the eggs. When the eggs are cool enough to handle, place them in an uncovered container in the refrigerator where they can air dry. – When decorating eggs, be sure to use food-grade dyes. It is safe to use commercial egg dyes, liquid food coloring and fruit-drink powders. When handling eggs, be careful not to crack them. Otherwise, bacteria could enter the egg through the cracks in the shell. – Keep hard-cooked Easter eggs chilled on a shelf inside the refrigerator, not in the refrigerator door. – If you hide eggs, hide them in places that are protected from dirt, pets and other potential sources of bacteria. – Remember the two-hour rule, and make sure the “found” eggs are back in the refrigerator or consumed within two hours. – Don’t forget that hard-boiled eggs are only safe to eat for one week after cooking. Eggs supply high-quality protein, are an excellent source of minerals and vitamins and are low in calories, Reames says. One large egg provides only 72 calories. “Eggs are low in saturated fat but are high in cholesterol – 186 milligrams in one large egg,” she says. “The cholesterol is found in the egg yolk, not the egg white. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend keeping dietary cholesterol to less than 300 mg a day.” Enjoy your leftover eggs by making egg salad using mostly the whites of your Easter eggs, Reames says. Use three whites to one yolk, add plenty of diced celery or green pepper and use fat-free or reduced-fat mayonnaise. Some people enjoy pickling their leftover eggs in vinegar and pickling spices, spicy cider or juice from pickles or pickled beets. USDA recommends that home-prepared pickled eggs be kept refrigerated and used within seven days. Home canning of pickled eggs is not recommended.
News Release Distributed 04/15/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Who knows how much rain we’ll get during spring and summer? We need to keep in mind that many areas of Louisiana are experiencing below-average rainfall amounts. And it’s common to get significant rain events followed by three to four weeks of dry weather. How do we irrigate our landscapes under these conditions? This is a question that comes up often and is sometimes hard to answer. “How much water do I need to apply?” and “How often do I need to water this plant?” are common questions from many home gardeners. Water is essential for healthy plant growth, but it can be costly to apply, depending on your water source. Remember, it’s important to get water to plant roots efficiently and effectively and keep the moisture in the root zone. Too many gardeners have a tendency to water by using the calendar. Once a week or twice a week is a common practice. Some people even water plants daily. Gardeners need to learn how to recognize drought stress in plants. You do this by monitoring soil conditions in containers and landscape beds. When one plant in a bed needs water, however, all plants in the bed may not need irrigating. Many factors determine how fast a particular soil or potting medium will dry out. When plants are dry, water them thoroughly. For lawns, water at a rate so that the moisture penetrates the soil to a depth of several inches. This encourages deeper root growth and also aids the plants in being able to handle droughty conditions that may come later in the year. Try to eliminate the desire to “sprinkle” a lawn or landscape bed for a few minutes every day. This is not very helpful and actually discourages the plant from being able to withstand dry conditions later. Gardeners often wonder what kind of sprinklers to use on their lawn or what kind of hose or sprinklers to use in their landscape beds. For lawns, an efficient type of sprinkler is called an impact sprinkler. These are commonly seen on athletic fields and golf courses. In landscape beds, use short-length soaker hoses, or use a micro-irrigation drip system that has individual emitters on shrubs and roses. For bedding-plant areas, you may use spray stakes off a micro-irrigation system, but be sure to direct the water underneath the foliage or downward toward the mulch or soil. Irrigate trees by running a hose very slowly for a couple of hours. The hose should be placed within the tree drip line of mature trees or at the edge of the planting hole for newly planted trees. Do not let excess water run off. The best time to irrigate plants is during the early morning. Avoid wetting the leaves – this encourages disease. Roses and bedding plants are most susceptible to problems with water accumulation on flowers and foliage. Organic matter in landscape beds helps to maintain soil moisture. Apply mulch in all landscape beds twice a year. Pine straw and pine bark are excellent mulches. You can use hardwood mulch around many trees. Mulch flowers to a depth of 1-2 inches, shrubs to a depth of 2-3 inches and trees to a depth of 3-4 inches. Irrigation is an important consideration in home landscapes. By following these hints, you can help your plants through droughty periods so they’ll be more productive for you. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 04/08/11 By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen OwingsMost Louisiana gardeners are familiar with Knock Out roses. They have introduced roses to many home gardeners who otherwise never would have grown them. And they fit perfectly into a sustainable, low-maintenance landscape. Knock Out is classified as a landscape shrub rose. This type of rose doesn’t make great cut flowers, but it will give a landscape an abundance of flowers for 75 percent of the year. They practically bloom nonstop from March to November in south Louisiana and April through October in north Louisiana. In warm winters, they may even flower in December, January and February. Knock Out roses are less prone to blackspot disease than traditional hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses. Although they may be promoted as blackspot resistant, that’s not necessarily true. You don’t need to spray fungicides on the majority of the Knock Out roses, and the double forms have great disease resistance. Double forms of Knock Out roses are available with pink or red flowers. Most of the Knock Out roses have single flowers with six to eight petals per flower. The double forms feature 18-22 petals per flower. This produces a pronounced visual impact when the double forms are compared with the single forms in the landscape. The petal count and flower color are best during spring and fall blooms. Summer blooms are usually smaller with fewer petals and less intense color. Plant these roses where you would plant other roses. They need full sun, minimum irrigation and well-prepared, well-drained landscape beds. They prefer a soil pH between 6.0-6.5. Although most gardeners plant roses in late winter through spring, Knock Out roses can be planted almost anytime of the year. Double Knock Out and Pink Double Knock Out are advertised to grow to a height of 4-5 feet with a spread of 4-5 feet. Space individual plants 4-5 feet apart. If left unpruned, these plants can easily reach 8 feet tall. Double Knock Out roses, like all roses, do best when pruned in mid-February and in late August to early September. A number of home gardeners, though, who are serious about their roses, lightly prune and/or remove old flowers constantly during the growing season. Try some Double Knock Out roses in your home landscape. You’ll be amazed with the blooms and easy care for these great rose varieties. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 04/01/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen OwingsLantanas continue to be one of the most popular herbaceous perennials for Louisiana landscapes. Many varieties – some old and some new – offer a multitude of growth forms and flower colors. Lantanas can be added to the landscape from now through summer for great color into late fall. Lantana growth habits include trailing, mounding and upright. Trailing types are scientifically called Lantana montevidensis and typically reach a height of 18 inches. Foliage texture is finer, and flower colors are white, lavender and purple. Common older varieties of this type are Trailing Purple, Imperial Purple, Trailing Lavender and White Lightnin. Trailing-type lantanas are normally evergreen in Louisiana. They also flower in late winter and early spring when you wouldn’t expect lantanas to be in bloom. Trailing lantanas don’t set fruit like the mounding and upright varieties. Mounding-type and upright-type lantanas are primarily classified as Lantana camara. Mounding lantanas reach 30-36 inches tall while upright growers, including the old “ham and egg”-type lantanas, can reach 4-5 feet tall in one growing season. Mounding and upright growers are reliably perennial, as are the trailing types. You need to occasionally prune these varieties to encourage repeat bloom and discourage fruit (berry) formation. Older lantanas include the mounding varieties New Gold and Gold Mound with gold-colored flowers, Silver Mound with white flowers and Lemon Drop with yellow flowers. An older upright variety is Dallas Red with red flowers. Newer groups of lantanas include the Patriot series, which come in about 15 varieties and are broken down into even more diverse growth habits. You also can find Landmark, Lucky and Bandana series lantanas at garden centers in Louisiana. All of these are introductions from the last five years or so. The Lucky series has always performed very well in LSU AgCenter landscape evaluations. The new Bandanas also excel and have flower colors not found in smaller-growing mounding types. The Sonrise, Sonset, and Sonshine lantanas from Mississippi also are great plants. You can also find Chapel Hill Yellow and Chapel Hill Gold at garden centers this year. Lantanas are great landscape plants and also do well in containers. They perform best in full sun. Lantanas are very drought-tolerant. Irrigation is needed only in very droughty situations. Fertilize these plants often to encourage growth – once at planting and again in late summer in a landscape bed. If you have old lantanas that are stagnant in their growth or are not blooming well, prune them back about halfway and fertilize them. New growth will produce new flowers. Also, watch plants for lantana lace bugs. This is the only main pest on lantana in Louisiana, but it has become more of a problem in recent years. Besides providing landscape color most of the year, lantanas attract butterflies like crazy. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.