Practice sustainability in your landscape

Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.

Protecting pond water and properly using water resources are major parts of sustainable landscaping. Photo by Allen Owings

News Release Distributed 07/02/15

HAMMOND, La. – Several years ago the LSU AgCenter developed a program called Louisiana Yards and Neighborhoods to inform home gardeners about sustainable landscaping and home horticulture practices.

The program is focused on seven landscape principles:

– The right plant for the right place.

– Water efficiently.

– Maximize mulch and recycle organic materials.

– Fertilize efficiently.

– Manage pests.

– Protect surface water and wetlands.

– Provide for beneficial wildlife.

The “right plant, right place” motto is frequently heard in horticultural circles these days. This simply advocates matching the plant to the planting location. Consider sun exposure at the planting site and the sun/shade recommendation of the plant going there.

The same holds true for soil drainage, soil pH and other factors.

We also need to seriously consider mature plant height and spread. Many times people plant shrubs and trees too close together, and they become overgrown in a short time.

Watering efficiently is another yards and neighborhoods principle. We need to know the irrigation requirements of all the plants in our landscape, including the needs of our different lawn grasses. Centipede grass is less drought-tolerant than others. During dry spells, water centipede deeply and infrequently instead of shallowly and frequently.

Using mulch in the landscape is one of the best things we can do to suppress weed growth and replenish landscape beds with new organic material. Mulch bedding plants to a depth of 1 inch, shrubs to a depth of 2 inches and trees to a depth of 3-4 inches. Go out with mulch – do not go up with mulch. The best mulch for Louisiana is pine straw.

Fertilizing efficiently follows the watering efficiently concept. Know the nutrient requirements of all the plants in your landscape. It’s best to use slow-release fertilizers instead of quick-release and water-soluble products.

The best place to start is by knowing the fertility of your native soil. Get your soil tested by taking samples to your LSU AgCenter parish office or local nursery or garden center and have them sent to the AgCenter for testing. Your soil may have enough nutrients present so you can reduce fertilizer use. Then apply only the fertilizer you need at the time of the year when the plants can take maximum advantage of it.

It’s tough to know where to begin managing yard pests. We need to remember that we have more beneficial insects than damaging insects. Know which is which. Insect problems in Louisiana include azalea lace bugs, scales, white flies, aphids, thrips and more. Scout your landscape plantings once a week to check for problem insects.

Protecting surface water and waterways involves the concept of urban storm water management. Be careful when applying fertilizers and pesticides. Do not allow these products to move into water bodies. Also, when mowing grass, do not blow leaves, grass clippings and debris into the street from where they will be carried into storm drains.

Proper landscaping and lawn maintenance can help reduce these pollution problems.

We can do much in a landscape to provide for beneficial wildlife. Native plants frequently can attract wildlife. Selecting plants to attract birds to your landscape is popular. Many of us are interested in attracting hummingbirds and butterflies to our gardens, and we can select plants for this purpose.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.

Rick Bogren

7/2/2015 8:10:33 PM
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