Plant Q & A Texas A&M

Sweet peas are fussy flowers for our area

Q. What is the trick to growing sweet peas? It seems like they should prosper in the winter here, but we have not been able to produce a crop. They are my favorite bloom for cut flowers because of their fragrance and colors.

A. I agree that the sweet peas are spectacular flowers. Unfortunately, they are very fussy about growing conditions. It cannot be too cold or too hot and they must be well irrigated.

You can try my strategy. I plant sweet pea seeds beginning now and reseed every month until a crop makes it to bloom stage. If the November planting survives, you have a relatively long season of bloom. Most years, the February planting survives, and you have a short season before hot weather ends their bloom.

Q. I have slow-release lawn fertilizer left from the spring lawn application. Can I use it for the fall lawn application instead of buying a “winterizer” fertilizer?

A. Yes, that will work. Another option is to use the slow-release fertilizer for your winter vegetables, flowers and roses.

Q. How did the experiment with Heat Wave, Surefire, Tycoon and Early Girl tomato varieties turn out? I have harvested a number of fruit from Surefire, Tycoon and Heat Wave but am still waiting for the Early Girl tomatoes to ripen.

A. Your results are consistent with that of most area gardeners. The heat setters — Tycoon, Surefire and Heat Wave — were able to produce a quick crop in the high daytime temperatures and cool nights in September and October. Early Girl is a classic indeterminate variety that grew lots of foliage before it began to set fruit.

Q. Our acorn crop was huge this year. I didn’t realize that deer ate acorns until I saw them consume them in my front yard every day. Is that unusual?

A. No, it is not unusual. Acorns are a staple deer food in some settings. Squirrels, of course, collect and eat large numbers of acorns. In my neighborhood white-winged doves, woodpeckers and blue jays also consume acorns. Smaller birds will eat the acorn meats smashed on the road and driveways by cars. CALVIN R. Finch, Ph.D. is a Horticulturist and Director of Texas A&M Water Conservation and Technology Center. Do you have a question for him? Write to him at

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