Try a horticulture resolution this year

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings

Happy New Year! It’s time for new projects, new resolutions and making plans for another gardening season in Louisiana.

We may not realize how fully blessed we are in this great state to be able to grow some of the landscape plants that are available to us.

Make plans to spend more time gardening, landscaping and planting in 2012.

It also fits in well with those weight loss and exercise plans.

A resolution we should consider for 2012 is to do soil testing.

Most of us have no idea what our soil pH is in our landscape beds and home lawns. Soil pH, simply put, is a measure of soil acidity.

A soil pH of 7 is considered neutral while a soil pH below 7 is acid and a soil pH above 7 is considered alkaline or basic.

Most ornamental plants we grow in Louisiana prefer a slightly acid soil.

Azaleas, blueberries, gardenias and camellias prefer an even more acid soil – normally in the 5.5 range.

When considering lawns, centipede grass likes acid soil while St. Augustine grass prefers neutral-to-slightly-alkaline soil.

Today is a great time to take a soil sample to get analyzed through the LSU AgCenter’s Soil Testing and Plant Analysis Lab in Baton Rouge. It’s only $10 per sample.

You can find information and obtain forms at or visit your parish AgCenter office for assistance.

You can raise soil pH by adding lime and lower it by adding sulfur, but these additions should always be based on the results of a soil test.

In the next month, we also need to properly prune crape myrtles.

There is almost no better horticultural resolution to make. Prune crape myrtles by removing interior wood, also called thinning.

Do not prune crape myrtles by the height-reduction or “topping” method that is unfortunately so prevalent these days.

Pruning this way does not encourage more blooms, contrary to public opinion, and the natural growth habit and beauty of this great plant is lost.

Resolve to control weeds in 2012.

A little time spent hand-weeding landscape beds goes a long way in preventing weeds long term.

Use mulch. Pine straw is an excellent mulch material for weed suppression.

Use two inches on flowers, three inches on shrubs and four inches around trees.

You also can use pre-emergent herbicides in landscape beds two to three times a year. Excellent products are Preen and Amaze.

Read the label prior to application.

These products are safe for you to use and safe for your existing plants.

Try some new plants in 2012. We have talked about Louisiana Super Plants in this column before.

Some of these plants may be new to some people, but they have a proven track record of being excellent landscape performers in Louisiana.

Our next selection of Louisiana Super Plants will be debuted this spring. Be on the lookout.

Attending gardening events is always fun.

It is a great way to see what is going on and to visit with other gardeners and check out plant vendors.

Not to mention, almost every garden show has great educational presentations.

The LSU AgCenter has garden shows, garden days and like events in Hammond, Baton Rouge, Covington, Houma, New Orleans and may other places around the state. Locate some and attend!


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