News Release Distributed 05/31/11As dry weather persists across much of Louisiana, landscapes are threatened. “Spring droughts like we are experiencing now are especially harmful to lawns and landscape plants because this is the time of year when growth is most active and plants need nice spring growth to support them for the remainder of the growing season,” said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings. “Water is essential for healthy plant growth, but it can be costly to apply depending on your water source,” Owings said. “Remember, it is important to get water to plant roots efficiently and effectively and keep the moisture in the root zone area.” How often we need to water varies, depending on such factors as temperature, rainfall, humidity, season, plants and light intensity, said LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. “You need to irrigate more frequently, for instance, when temperatures are high, plants are growing in full sun and a lot of plants compete for the water in the soil – when a tree is nearby, for instance, or in a thickly planted bed,” Gill said. “Proper watering is a function of applying the right amount of water at the appropriate times.” Many gardeners tend to water lightly every day during dry weather, but the water doesn’t penetrate deeply into the soil, he said. Because roots only grow where there is adequate moisture, this results in a shallow root system. “Shallow-rooted plants are unable to tap reserves of water deeper in the soil and are prone to drought stress in even brief dry periods,” Gill said. “Eventually, your plants become dependent on you to water them constantly. And watering every day also increases the chances of foliar diseases and root or crown rots.” People have a tendency to water by using the calendar, Owings added. Once a week or twice a weekly is common, and some even irrigate plants daily. “We all need to learn how to recognize drought stress in plants,” Owings said. Monitor soil conditions in containers and landscape beds. When one plant in a bed needs irrigation, all plants in the bed may not need irrigating. Many factors determine how fast a particular soil or potting medium will dry out. To irrigate thoroughly, enough water should be applied to penetrate about 6 inches into the soil, Gill said. Applying about an inch of water to medium-textured soils generally will accomplish this. A thorough watering should not be necessary for established landscape plants more often than once a week. “Early morning is the preferred time to irrigate,” Gill said. “This provides plants adequate moisture going into the hottest time of the day when they need it most. And sunlight helps the foliage to dry rapidly, reducing the possibility of foliar disease problems. And wetting the plants while the sun is shining on them will not burn the leaves. If sprinklers are used, watering in the early morning when it is cooler and humidity is high reduces water lost to evaporation. 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, Owings suggests 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 for shrubs and roses,” Owings said. “For bedding plant areas, spray stakes that attach to micro-irrigation system are nice, but be sure to direct the irrigation water underneath the foliage or downward toward the mulch or soil.” Underground systems are effective and very convenient, but they’re expensive to purchase and generally must be installed professionally, Gill said. “Professional landscape irrigation system installers in Louisiana must be licensed by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry,” Gill said. “Ask to see a copy of their license to make sure the company or individual that installs your system is reputable and knows what they are doing.” To figure out how long to leave your sprinkler on to apply one inch of water, first, place several empty cans in the spray pattern of the sprinkler, Gill said. “Turn on the sprinkler and check the time,” he said. “When about an inch of water has accumulated in most of the cans, check the time again. That’s how long it takes your sprinkler to apply an inch of water – and about how long you should leave it on to thoroughly irrigate an area.” The best check of how thoroughly an area has been watered is to go back about 15 minutes after watering and dig into the soil with a trowel. “Find out if the water penetrated 6 to 8 inches into the soil,” Gill said. “Check several places.” This procedure also works to calibrate an installed irrigation system or hose-end sprinklers. In some situations, such as on slopes and heavy clay soils, the water may need to be added even more slowly to reduce runoff. It takes water longer to penetrate heavy clay soils than light sandy soils. Run the sprinkler on for 10 to 15 minutes and off for 15 to 20 minutes until you’ve applied an inch of water. “In the long run, organic matter in landscape beds helps to maintain soil moisture,” Owings said. “For best results, mulch all landscape beds twice a year.” The horticulturists recommend pine straw and pine bark as excellent mulches along with 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.
News Release Distributed (05/27/11) June is National Dairy Month, a time to promote and enjoy milk and other dairy products.
News Release Distributed 05/27/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings The end of May means summer is here, even though summer does not “officially” begin for a few more weeks. Summer in the Louisiana landscape usually begins in May and can run through October. We have many activities to keep in mind during this four- to five-month busy time in the home landscape. Keep all of the following items in mind to be more successful in your landscaping efforts. Control thrips, aphids, cucumber beetles and spider mites on roses by using a recommended insecticide or miticide. There have been an abundance of insect problems with roses so far this year, so monitor your plants and take care of harmful insect populations before their numbers increase. Also on roses, continue blackspot control by using a recommended fungicide at seven- to 10-day intervals. When irrigating this summer, water the soil area thoroughly. Try to irrigate less often, but irrigate well each time. Light, overhead sprinkling is not the best way to water. Continue to plant warm-season bedding plants. Our spring Louisiana Super Plants (Serena angelonia and Butterfly pentas) are hot-summer survivors and can continue to be planted throughout the summer. Lantanas can still be planted. They thrive in Louisiana’s hot summers. Try lantanas in containers where their drought tolerance is an advantage. Watch for lace bugs on lantanas. If your established lantanas are not performing well, prune and fertilize them. They do best in full sun and under limited irrigation. Dig and store gladiolus corms in a well-ventilated, freeze-proof place for planting next spring. Gladiolus perform well for us February-May. It is normally too hot and humid in summer for gladiolus to perform well. Plant sunflowers during late summer for fall flower arrangements. Flower colors include yellow, orange, red, bronze, white and combinations of these. It usually takes about 60 to 80 days from sowing seed until first flower color. Prune azaleas no later than mid-July. Pruning azaleas after early to midsummer may remove next season’s developing flower buds. This applies to many spring-flowering shrubs as well as hydrangeas and gardenias. During early summer, gardenias may have aphids, whiteflies and the associated black sooty mold. For optimum plant performance, control the insects with the insecticide acephate or a summer horticultural oil spray. Camellias and azaleas need care to set a good crop of flower buds for next year. Healthy, vigorous plants will set buds, but weak plants may not. If plants lack vigor, fertilize them, provide moisture during stressful periods and control pests. Remember that these acid-loving plants may have problems if soils are too alkaline. Submit a soil sample to your parish LSU AgCenter extension agent if you are unsure of your soil situation. Louisiana irises are semi-dormant during late summer. Prune off seedpods and yellow or brown foliage to help keep the plants more attractive. You may transplant or divide Louisiana irises beginning in August. Cut faded flowers from flowering annuals and perennials to encourage new growth and more flowers. Old blooms and seed heads left on the plants can retard flower production. These are just a few things to keep in mind as you garden over the next month or two. 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 05/25/11To help Louisiana residents determine if they’re ready for a hurricane, LSU AgCenter housing specialist Claudette Reichel developed a 20-question quiz. “The answers you give can help you evaluate whether you’re well-prepared or whether you need to take some action now,” Reichel says. The quiz covers everything from whether your family has a written emergency plan to supplies you have on hand. As hurricane season kicks off, Reichel and other experts say it’s a perfect time to evaluate where you stand and what you can do to be better-prepared if a storm heads your way. “Even if you’ve been through a hurricane before, it’s easy to forget some of the preparations that can protect your property and family, so it’s a good idea to review your plans and make sure you haven’t left anything off,” Reichel says. “Taking the right precautions before a storm has the potential to save time, money, hassles and even lives if a hurricane strikes.” LSU AgCenter experts say the following hurricane quiz can help you gauge whether you’re prepared. They recommend you take action if you answer “No” or “I don’t know” to any of these 20 questions: –Do you have a disaster survival plan? –Have you planned an evacuation route and destination? –Do you have an emergency communication plan for staying in touch with or getting messages to friends and family? –Is your homeowner's and flood insurance coverage up-to-date and sufficient to replace your home and belongings if they are damaged or destroyed? –Do you have an inventory of your property and belongings? –Do you have copies of your insurance policies, household inventory and other important papers, as well as other valuables, in a safe place – one that’s waterproof and fireproof? –Do you know how to turn off your utilities (electricity, gas and water)? –Do you have a plan and supplies on hand to protect and secure your home and outdoor items (and your boat and pool, too, if you have them)? –Has your roof been inspected within the past six months? –Have you trimmed the trees and shrubs around your house? –Has your car been maintained, and are the tires, including the spare, in good condition? –Do you have a plan of what to do with food in your refrigerator and freezer in the event of a possible power outage? –Is your emergency phone list up-to-date and handy? –Do you have emergency survival supplies such as batteries, a battery-operated radio, flashlights, lanterns, fuel, nonperishable food for three days, water/water jugs, manual can opener, medicines, traveler’s checks or cash, and other necessary items on hand? –Do you have an emergency supply kit for your car? –Do you have a plan of how to take care of family members with special needs (those with disabilities, infants or the elderly)? –Have you decided what you will do with your animals if you must evacuate? –Have you budgeted for the added expenses to protect your home, buy supplies, evacuate, clean up and recover? –Have you discussed your emergency plans, duties and rules with your family? –Do you know the LSU AgCenter offers publications and other free information on disaster cleanup and recovery on its website (www.lsuagcenter.com) and through its parish offices across the state?For more information on preparing for a disaster or recovering from one, contact your parish LSU AgCenter office. You also may find the online publications such as “There’s a Hurricane Forming” in the publications section of the LSU AgCenter's website at www.lsuagcenter.com and more information by going directly to www.lsuagcenter.com/hurricanes. One other resource is the LaHouse Resource Center near the LSU campus in Baton Rouge and its online website www.lsuagcenter.com/LaHouse for information and exhibits of hurricane-resistant building systems, methods and products.
News Release Distributed 05/25/11Just in time for Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial kickoff to the summer grilling season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has updated its recommendation for safely cooking solid cuts of pork. USDA has lowered the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160 degrees to 145 degrees and added a three-minute rest time, said LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. “USDA recommends cooking all whole cuts of meat to 145 degrees as measured with a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, then allowing the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming,” Reames said. The safe temperature for cuts of beef, veal and lamb remains unchanged at 145 degrees, but the department has added a three-minute rest time as part of its cooking recommendations, Reames said. “Cooking raw pork to 145 degrees with the addition of a three-minute rest time will result in a product that is both microbiologically safe and at its best quality,” she said. “This change does not apply to ground meats – including beef, veal, lamb and pork – which should be cooked to 160 degrees and do not require a rest time.” The safe cooking temperature for all poultry products, including ground chicken and turkey, remains at 165 degrees, she added. “Consumers now have to remember only three cooking temperatures – 145 degrees for whole meats, 160 degrees for ground meats and 165 degrees for all poultry,” Reames said. A "rest time" is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature after it has been removed from a grill, oven or other heat source. This time is important because during the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys disease-producing microorganisms. “USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has determined it is just as safe to cook cuts of pork to 145 degrees with a three-minute rest time as it is to cook them to 160 degrees with no rest time,” Reames said. The new cooking suggestions reflect the same standards that the agency uses for cooked meat products produced in federally inspected meat establishments, which rely on the rest time of three minutes to achieve safe pathogen reduction. "Consumers often have viewed the color pink in pork to be a sign of undercooked meat,” Reames said. “If raw pork is cooked to 145 degrees and allowed to rest for three minutes, it may still be pink but is safe to eat. The pink color can be due to the cooking method, added ingredients or other factors.” As always, cured pork (e.g., cured ham and cured pork chops) will remain pink after cooking. Appearance in meat is not a reliable indicator of safety or risk, Reames said. Only by using a food thermometer can consumers determine if meat has reached a sufficient temperature to destroy disease-causing microorganisms. Any cooked, uncured red meat – including pork – could be pink even when it has reached a safe internal temperature.
News Release Distributed 05/20/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Buddleias, known by most home gardeners as butterfly bush, are becoming increasingly popular in the home landscape. These perennials are highly regarded by butterflies as a nectar plant. Butterfly bushes are available in an increasing array of sizes, flower colors and foliage characteristics. They have fragrant blossoms and can be used for cut flowers. Buddleias are winter hardy in Louisiana and can be used for annual color in the landscape. A recent resurgence in buddleias at retail garden centers can be partially attributed to new varieties that have been released over the past 10 years. And many more varieties are in the works. Among the newer varieties, Sungold and Honeycomb produce golden-yellow flowers. Another newer variety is Royal Red, but the flowers are not truly red – more of a dark purplish. The newest of the new is the dwarf, lavender-blue flower-producing Blue Chip from Proven Winners. The new Flutterby series from Ball Horticulture are being grown and sold in Louisiana. White, pink, blush, and purple (with varying shades of these colors) constitute the flower availability, but these newer varieties offer some bi-color combinations and size diversity as well. Plant site selection is somewhat important, as it is with many ornamental plants. Although people have long thought of buddleia as a hardy, herbaceous perennial, it makes a significantly sized shrub. Tall-growing plants can easily reach 8 to 10 feet with a 5- to 6-foot spread. Plants have an arching type of growth habit. Dwarf varieties, however, may be no more than a couple of feet tall. Buddleias should be planted in well-drained soil in full or partial sun. Consider the plant’s mature size when spacing between plants. Most people plant butterfly bushes too close together. Most varieties need at least 6 to 8 feet between plants because they’re larger-growing than we realize and need more space than this. Soil pH should be in the 6.5-7.0 range. Fertilize at planting with a slow-release fertilizer, such as StaGreen or Osmocote. Plants that have been in the landscape for several years can be fertilized once in spring when new growth commences. The main pest problem of buddleias is spider mites. Pruning plants back in spring will encourage new growth, maintain a more manageable growth habit and provide an opportunity to remove dead wood. New growth in the spring yields the blooms we are seeing in landscapes now. Blooms will continue until first frost. Tip-pruning terminal shoots during the season also encourages more continual bloom. Give butterfly bushes a try to attract more butterflies in your home landscape. And 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 05/13/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings If you’re looking for a tough plant that will keep blooming throughout summer and into fall, consider gomphrena. This very tough plant likes really high temperatures. Sometimes called globe amaranth, legend has it that the original planting was at the gates of Hades. Known botanically as Gomphrena globosa, gomphrena has relatively few pest problems. It produces flowers from early summer to first frost. The flowers look like clover, seem to last forever and have a straw-like texture. The flower heads are actually bracts, which are leaves resembling petals. The small, inconspicuous flowers are noticeable only when the yellow stamens poke out. Flower colors range from white to purple and red. All-Around Purple gomphrena was named a Mississippi Medallion plant in 2008. This 2-foot-tall plant attracts loads of butterflies to its purple flowers all summer long. We have had good performance with this variety in LSU AgCenter landscape trials. In addition, Fireworks gomphrena was a Mississippi Medallion selection in 2010. It is a large plant that can reach 4 feet tall. Its iridescent pink bracts feature yellow stamens resembling tiny, exploding firecrackers. This variety is incredibly impressive. It blooms nonstop in Louisiana from spring planting through fall. Nothing slows it down, and butterflies swarm the plant constantly. The new Audray series gomphrena were nice last year at the Mississippi State University trial grounds at Crystal Springs and at the LSU AgCenter’s landscape trials at the Hammond Research Station. Gomphrena can be big, flowering annuals in the landscape. Some gomphrena are suitable for smaller garden or patio spaces. The Gnome series are compact plants that grow 10 to 12 inches tall and have white, pink and purple flowers. This compact selection makes a fine container plant or can be used as a border along a sunny path. Gomphrena needs full sun. It sometimes will tolerate a partial-sun to partial-shade location, especially when we start getting into late summer. Flower production is best in full sun. Plants need well-drained planting beds. Once established, they are somewhat drought-tolerant. Watering is needed only when they go one to two weeks with little rain. Gomphrena makes a great cut flower and has a long vase life. Cut stems early in the morning and pair them with other flowers from your garden. The new varieties are wow factors in the landscape. Try some if you have not already. 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 05/06/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings If you like the flowers of shade-loving impatiens, you’ll be excited to know about a new type of impatiens that thrive in our Louisiana summer heat and humidity – SunPatiens. You get the best of both shade-loving impatiens and the larger-flowered, variegated foliage of New Guinea impatiens with SunPatiens, a hybrid bred by Sakata Seed that thrives in full sun in our summer landscapes. SunPatiens not only survived and performed well the last couple of summers around the state, but they were one of the few varieties of summer bedding plants that seem to have the potential to excel from midspring through fall. This low-maintenance annual is available in three distinct series – seven compact varieties, two spreading varieties and five vigorous varieties. The compact group is the smallest-growing and reaches 2-3 feet tall with an equal spread. Colors in this size range are blush pink, deep rose, coral, white, orange, magenta and lilac. The spreading group only includes two colors, but both have variegated foliage – white and salmon. The spreading types get 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide. The tallest and widest growth on SunPatiens comes in the vigorous-growth varieties. Colors are coral (with variegated foliage), lavender, magenta, red, white and orange. These plants can get 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide by the fall. In our growing conditions, the spreading and vigorous types grow up to 24 inches tall and a bit larger in width. The compacts are a bit smaller all around, but one plant will fill an entire container. And you can add a trailing, flowering plant with it to cascade over the side. Overall plant size is influenced by soil fertility, irrigation and light exposure. Choose the appropriate plant height for bedding, containers and hanging baskets. Regardless of the variety or size, flowers of all the SunPatiens are large and showy and are easily seen above the dark, green, glossy foliage. They will bloom from May through the first hard frost. These plants perform best when they receive full sun. If they’re grown in semi-shady conditions, prune them in midsummer to maintain a bushy growth habit because they will otherwise become lanky and produce fewer flowers. In fact, if you have shade, consider growing regular impatiens instead. Allow SunPatiens to wilt slightly between watering, and mulch them 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 and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.