Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: More Mystery Seed, Soil Temperatures & Smelly Nuisance Wildlife

Keith Hawkins, LSU AgCenter Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), answers questions for home gardeners.


Chinese pistachio seeds.

A couple of weeks ago, Mara of Alexandria sent an image of seed and asked what kind of seed they were.

AHA consulted with a couple of AgCenter horticulture agents, and they were unable to identify the seeds. AHA asked RSFF readers if they could name those seed. Mara persisted and shared her discovery regarding the mystery seed.

Mara shared the image above and sent this message, “I got two seeds from neighbor's pistachio tree. It's obvious now, where my mystery seeds came from. Perhaps you can enlighten me, what a pistachio tree is, that grows in central Louisiana.” AHA has firsthand experience with the Chinese pistachio or pistache tree because one grows in front of the AgCenter office in DeRidder. The Chinese pistache (CP) tree is a nice shade tree with an attractive fall color. This fall a couple stopped by the AgCenter to ask the name of the tree in front because they enjoyed its appearance. CP makes seeds instead of nuts so expecting pistachio nuts from this tree will result in disappointment. Unlike the Chinese tallow tree (CTT), the CP avoids the bad habit of CTT to spread invasively.


Soil thermometer.
Picture from Ohio SU.

Dean asked an important question for his spring garden:

“What is the best way to determine ground soil temperature? I am looking to plant items and it says do not plant until the ground temp is 65 degrees or higher. This will be a spring planting. How can I accurately determine when that would be without spending thousands of dollars on equipment?”

Dean has several options for measuring soil temperatures. A meat thermometer will suffice if it shows a reading down to 40 degrees F. A gardening writer shared these commonsense comments, “Push the thermometer into the ground so that at least four inches of the probe is below ground. Keep it in the ground for at least five minutes and then read the temperature gauge.” Gardeners may be able to buy a soil thermometer from a garden center for around $8. A compost thermometer with a 20’ stem is available online for about $25.

Dean is correct about soil temperatures. Most plants will start growing when soil temps are in the 60’s. Even if the air temps are warmer, a plant will likely show no growth until the soil warms up.



A homeowner came by the AgCenter to find a solution to a skunk infestation under her home.

Her home is setting on piers and has open space enabling any animal to establish a den. Installing a skirting material will discourage any animals from settling in under her home.

Mike R., a Master Gardener in northeast Louisiana, shared these comments about removing skunks in a MG newsletter. He writes from the perspective of a gardener, but his comments will help homeowners with smelly nuisance wildlife.

How to Get Rid of Skunks:

  • Skunks eat insects, grubs, garbage, bird seed, fruits, vegetables and small mammals. [Removing food sources will prevent attracting nuisance wildlife.]
  • They make their homes in ditches, under wood piles and rocks. Skunks are nocturnal and are rarely seen during the day and have babies in mid-spring between April and May.
  • Skunks love to eat [the grubs of] Japanese Beetles so if skunks are digging up your yard, you may have beetle problems too. [There are dry granular insecticides to help with controlling grubs.]
  • Skunks are poor climbers and a fence will keep them away from your garden. You need to bury the fence 12 inches because skunks are good diggers.
  • Skunks hate bright lights and if they are a problem under your home, you may want to light it up at night to keep them out.
  • Skunks are known to be one of the leading carriers of rabies and are not allowed as pets in Louisiana.

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006. Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

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

12/2/2019 8:39:52 PM
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