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:

Right plant for the right place — “This simply advocates matching the plant to the planting location,” says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings. Match the sun exposure at the planting site with the sun recommendation for the plant going there. Also consider mature plant height and spread, Owings says, noting that shrubs and trees are often planted too close together, and they become overgrown in a short time.

Water efficiently.

Maximize mulch and recycle organic materials — Using mulch is one of the best things to do to suppress weed growth and replenish landscape beds with new organic material, Owings says. 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.

Fertilize efficiently — Know the nutrient requirements of all the plants in your landscape. 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.

Manage pests — “It’s tough to know where to begin about managing yard pests,” Owings says. “We need to remember that we have more beneficial insects than damaging insects, and scout your landscape once a week to check for problem insects.”

Protect surface water and wetlands — Keep fertilizers and pesticides out of water bodies, and keep leaves, grass clippings and debris off of streets where they will be carried into storm drains.

Provide for wildlife — Incorporate native plants that can attract wildlife, such as songbirds, hummingbirds and butterflies, into your landscape.

Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.