Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Optimal Tree Planting, Cat Exclusion & Excessive Sodium

Japanese Maple.

Japanese maple in fall color. Photo: Buddy Lee, LSU AgCenter

Optimal Tree Planting

Dave of Alexandria is preparing for a change in his home’s landscape, “Is this a suitable time of year to [replace coral bark maples]? If not, when would you recommend?”

Dan Gill, retired AgCenter horticulturist, wrote, “October to March is the prime season for planting hardy trees in Louisiana, and November through early December is an especially suitable time. The soil is still warm, which encourages vigorous root growth, and trees will have several months to get established before next summer’s heat.

At the same time, the weather is cool, and the trees are going dormant, which reduce stress. Generous rainfall during winter makes constant attention to watering unnecessary. Planting at this time is especially beneficial for balled-and-bur lapped trees because they lose so much of their root system when they are dug.”

A cat sitting by some flowers.

A garden cat. Photo: Gary Bachman, MS State Extension.

Cat Exclusion

Shirley is frustrated with cats, “Can you give me any info concerning cats causing problems in a veggie garden -as to how to keep them out!!?? Maybe --what to plant??”

Dr. Brooke Edmunds, a horticulturist with Oregon State University, offers these tips:

  • Though there is no scientific evidence to back it up, some people swear by repellents. They must be reapplied often and can be expensive. The active ingredient in these products varies. The most common are oils (cinnamon, clove, thyme, garlic, etc.), putrescent whole egg solids, dried blood, etc. Whichever you choose, make sure to fully read the label and only apply according to the instructions. Because these products work by using scents that cats prefer to avoid, the product will likely need to be reapplied often. Obviously, you are not going to like the smell either.
  • Motion-activated sprinklers work with an infrared field. When a cat wanders into it, the sprinkler shoots out a stream of water. “But cats are smart,” Edmunds said. “They may figure out how far the water goes and move around it.”
  • To keep from attracting cats, do not feed your pets – or any other animals – outside and keep your grill clean.
  • Secure trash bins.
  • Clear away debris where mice might live.
  • Board up access to structures they may use for refuge.
  • Anecdotal evidence shows that cats dislike the smell of lavender, pennyroyal, rue, lemon thyme and Coleus canina (also called scaredy cat plant).
Salt injury to leaves.

Southern highbush blueberry with salt injury. Photo: Jeremy Kichler, Georgia Extension.

Excessive Sodium

Tom is helping a fellow gardener and sent this question, “A friend of mine wants to plant blueberries on his place and his soil test shows that he has 3,555.63 [ppm] Sodium which is “excessive”. Please ask our blueberry specialist if he should plant them in that soil.”

Dr. Mary Helen Ferguson, an Area Horticulture Agent and blueberry specialist in Tangipahoa Parish, shared her counsel with regards to this sodium problem, “Yes, I cannot imagine that blueberries would do well in a soil with a sodium concentration that high. That [level of sodium] is about 10 times (or more) what would be acceptable. They might consider growing some southern highbush blueberry plants (varieties with a chill requirement compatible with their location) in 10 to 15 gallons pots, with aged pine bark as a substrate. It would take more attention to nutrition (Fertilizing Blueberries in Pine Bark Beds | UGA Cooperative Extension) but at least could allow production at that location (assuming the sodium content of the water isn't too high).

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.”

10/27/2022 2:09:28 PM
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