Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Composting Problem, Freeze-Damaged Plants, Cold Hardiness Zone & Pantry Pests

Failing composter.

A composter with dry materials. Photo: Angela Schoenfeld, Rosepine, LA

Composting Problem

Angela, an aspiring Master Gardener, sent a picture of a composter purchased from a hardware vendor, and it is failing to compost as desired.

Angela had been using this type of composter for a year, and the contents have failed to compost. This type of composter is loaded at the top and then time and weather conditions should produce dark, crumbly organic soil at the bottom. However, this device is malfunctioning because it is receiving afternoon sun and lacks adequate moisture. Relocating this composter to a site with afternoon shade will allow moisture to enable this device to do its job. Also, adding soil to the compost from time to time will add the microbes needs to breakdown these materials.

Frozen plant.

A severely freeze-damaged this tropical cassia tree. Whether it is dead remains to be seen. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Freeze-Damaged Plants

Delphine sent an email about her landscape after a hard freeze, “As you know the recent prolonged freeze in our area left a lot of brown plants in yards. So, I have some questions. All these plants are in the ground.

  • I know I can cut the brown off the sago palms and holly ferns and they usually come back. But do I cut them now or wait a few weeks?
  • Foxtail ferns - cut off at the ground now or wait?

The next three [plants] have brown and green parts. Do I trim out the brown or wait and see what comes back and them trim out?

  • Gardenias.
  • Azaleas
  • Shi Shi [Gashira camellia]
  • Asian jasmine- do I weed eat it down now?
  • satsuma tree and blueberry bushes-do these have a chance of living?

I know this is a lot, so I don’t need step by step instructions. I just need some general guidelines. Thanks for your help.

Dr. Heather Kirk-Ballard discussed freeze-damaged plants in her “Get It Growing” column, “If you did get caught off guard and your plants suffered freeze damage, you can do some things to help them recover. The amount of damage depends on the severity and duration of the freezing temperatures. If you have light freezes for short periods of time, plants can usually recover. After hard, long freezes, there is no guarantee.

After the freeze, you should be patient. Do not go straight for the pruners and cut everything back. It takes several days for plants to show us just how damaged they are. If plants are mushy and slimy, remove this material to prevent fungal infection or disease in the days to come. You may cut out the dead material to clean things up. For woody plants, it is best to wait until spring. You can check for life on woody plants and perennials by scratching the bark of stems and look for green color underneath. If you find green, you’re in luck. Your plant is still alive.”

LA hardiness zones.
Hick, LA is solidly in zone 8b. Image: USDA.

Cold Hardiness Zone

Angie wrote to AHA about tree planting and asked, “What planting zone are we in? I live in downtown Hicks!! Lol”

Angie and Hick, LA is located well inside Zone 8b. The reason it is important to know these cold hardiness zones is to avoid planting unsuitable plants and to purchase plants that will grow in our area. Plant labels should include the cold hardiness of a plant based on this USDA map.

Flour beetles.

Flour beetles, a pantry pest. Photo: Keri Winzor.

Pantry Pests

Frank sent an email on behalf of a family member, “My daughter has a lot of these Beatles entering into her house. House is not old. She had someone spray with no help. Would you know what they are and who to call to get rid of them? (See attached)”

Dr. James Villegas, an AgCenter entomologist, assisted with Frank’s complaint, “Those are flour beetles in general, red flour beetle. I don't think insecticides are necessary. They're attracted to grain products and will not cause structural damage in the house. [She needs] to find the source and clean it thoroughly (or dispose) of the infested food]).”

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits, and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337.284.5188 or

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

1/19/2023 7:31:49 PM
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