GARDEN Q

The Baltimore Sun

Can vegetable seeds from last year still be used?

The life expectancy of vegetable seeds depends on the species and the conditions under which you saved them. Ideally, cucumber seed can last five years; tomato and eggplant, four years; bean, three years; corn, two years; and so on. Test your seeds by sprinkling 20 on a moist paper towel. Roll it up and place in a plastic bag in a warm place. After five to seven days, check for germination. Adjust sowing rates accordingly. If the rate is as low as 50 percent, discard the seeds and buy fresh seed.

After an ice storm, fallen tree branches sat on my shrubs for a month. Now the shrubs are bent over and awful-looking. Will they straighten by themselves?

Some shrubs and trees have a remarkable ability to spring back into shape, even when bent double. Give them time to recover on their own. If they're still flat in a couple of months, tie them to a stake tall enough to pull them upright. Wide shrubs may require a cord around the entire shrub, or weave a cord through the interior of the shrub to pull up a few key shoots. Remove the cord within a year.

Checklist: : Test soil every three to four years for changing fertilizing and liming needs.

Ellen Nibali, a horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and Jon Traunfeld is the director of the Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers free gardening information. Call 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions at hgic.umd.edu.

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