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Ornamental sweet potatoes
Q.I really like the ornamental sweet potatoes as a groundcover, but understand they require full sun.
A. I also like them as full-sun groundcovers. If you have mottled sun, they may work with less than full sun. At least one Master Gardener I know uses both the purple and light green versions in partial shade. She says they work fine. Try a few.
Q. My Tycoon tomatoes are doing fine, except they are producing large, flat tomatoes. Is there something I am doing wrong?
A. My Tycoon tomatoes are doing the same thing. Based on questions I receive on the “Gardening South Texas” radio show, we are not alone. A number of Tycoon growers have plants where the first fruit set are very large and flat. As far as I can tell, it is a varietal reaction to the weather. Later fruit seems to be large, but shaped as we would expect. We will do more research on the issue.
Q. What is a good replacement tree for mesquite? We do not like the thorns and beans.
A. Mesquite are interesting trees that do well as a lawn tree, as long as you do not over-water the lawn. Texas red oak is also a good lawn tree. It grows fast, is long-lived, and sometimes has good fall color. It does drop leaves every fall and has acorns. The mesquite leaves are so small they disappear quickly. Mexican white oak is another species to consider. It is tough and generally evergreen.
Q.What are the sparrow-size birds that visit the thistle feeder and have a reddish color? They are not as showy as cardinals, but are attractive.
A. It sounds like you are describing a house finch. They are a native bird that nests in cavities, like chickadees or titmice. As the name implies, they do have some habits that approximate those of English sparrows (house sparrows) and are often seen at bird feeders.
Q. Which butterfly lays its eggs on passion vine? They have nearly stripped my vine of leaves, but it is still blooming. For the sake of my passion vine, should I kill the caterpillars?
A. Gulf fritillary butterflies favor passion vine. It is common for them to eat the leaves as you describe. Most passion vines grow through it and recover fine. To help the vine, provide some extra irrigation. You do not need to kill the caterpillars.
Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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