Q: I am going to the annual seed swap at Old Salem. Do you know how long can you expect stored seeds to last? I have some beans from several seasons ago and want to share them at the seed swap.

Answer: The Ninth Annual Sown and Grown Seed Swap Weekend will be Jan. 24 and 25 at Old Salem Museums and Gardens. It will include a keynote presentation, dinner, demonstrations and the swap itself, which will be from 10 a.m. to noon Jan. 25 in the Old Salem Visitor’s Center. The $5 entrance fee covers everything but the dinner, which has a separate $25 ticket.

Storage life of seeds varies widely and can be affected by the stage of maturity at which the seeds were harvested, how they were stored and how strong the seed’s genetic material was in the first place. In general, seeds which can be expected to stay viable or alive for 1 to 2 years are considered short lived seeds. These include corn, onion, parsley, parsnip and pepper. Intermediate seeds will live for 3 to 4 years and include asparagus, bean, broccoli, carrot, celery, leek, pea and spinach. Long lived seeds will live 4 to 5 years and include beet, chard, Brassica family plants like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, kale, turnip, radish, cucumber, eggplant, lettuce, muskmelon, pumpkin, squash, tomato, and watermelon. There is an easy germination test you can use to determine the viability of your saved seeds. Moisten several layers of paper towels. Place the moist pieces on a flat surface. Place 10 of the saved seeds in a line from one edge of the paper towel to the other. Then roll up the paper towel loosely and place inside a plastic bag which can be sealed tightly. Store the plastic bag in a warm location. Check it at the end of the germination period for the particular seed you are testing. Once germination begins, make note of how many of the 10 seeds germinated. This will give you a germination percentage for your stored seeds. Continue to check the paper towel at 2 day intervals until all of the seeds have germinated or you give up your test. Use this information to help you determine how many seeds to sow to reap the harvest you want this year. For more information on germination times for selected vegetables, visit https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/starting-seeds-indoors. For more information on the Seed Swap Weekend, visit https://www.oldsalem.org/events.

Q: When should grapes be pruned? Are all types of grapes pruned the same way?

Answer: February is a great time to prune existing bunch-type grape vines that have been in the ground at least three years. Before three years, pruning will involve cuts to train the vine into your chosen production system. Pruning mature grape vines consists of three steps. The first step is to prune last season’s growth. In the dormant season, prune back all canes that grew during the previous summer to 4 or 5 inches in length. Thin cluster spurs that will have formed each year along the vines. The second step is to remove suckers or shoots growing from the trunk and any damaged arms. The third step is to remove all tendrils that attach themselves to the trunk or fruiting arm of the vine. You will also prune off or thin grape clusters during years of heavy fruit set. For mature vines, a good rule of thumb to follow is to prune all but two clusters of grapes per shoot in early May.

Not all grapes are pruned the same way. When first planted, the grower will focus on pruning cuts to train the vines into the desired production system. The main training systems for bunch-type grapes are the mid-trellis cordon for use with the French hybrid vines and vinifera vines and the high-trellis cordon for use with the American bunch grapes and Muscadine vines. For detailed information and diagrams visit this link: https://go.ncsu.edu/bunchgrapesinhomegarden.

Mary Jac Brennan is the agent for fruit and vegetable horticulture for small farms and local food for the Forsyth Cooperative Extension. Contact Mary Jac about commercial production, local foods, and sustainable agriculture questions. For information on home and gardening issues, contact the Forsyth Cooperative Extension office at maryjac_brennan@ncsu.edu or call 336-703-2850.

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