Ask the gardeners

We have some vegetable seed left over from last year. Should we try to plant it this year?

If the seed has been kept dry, the chances are that most of it is viable and can be used.

It's a good idea to do a germination test now. Place 10 seeds on a paper towel in a shallow dish and add enough water to moisten the towel. Now cover the seed with another piece of towel and moisten.

Keep in a room temperature of 72 degrees F. both day and night until sprouting occurs.

If 8 out of 10 of the seeds germinate, then that's 80 percent germination. This isn't too bad at all. Seeds that aren't usually good after one or two years include corn, leek, onion, parsley, parsnip, and salsify. Other seeds are moderately long-lived and often are good for 3 to 5 years. These include asparagus, beans, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, kale, lettuce, peas, okra, pepper, radish, spinach, turnip, and watermelon.

It always pays to get fresh seed from reputable seed houses. Please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope in care of the gardening page of the Monitor for a free copy of our bulletin, ''How to Start Flowers and Vegetables From Seed.''

I love to make bouquets from everlasting flowers. Could you please tell me the names of some everlasting types and where I can get the seeds so I can grow my own?

Helichrysum, or strawflower, is the most common and the most showy of the everlastings, but there are many others, both annuals and perennials.

Gomphrena (globe amaranth) comes in pink, white, and purple ball-shaped flowers; and statice sinuata has masses of tiny stray blooms of pink, purple, yellow, peach, and white on graceful stems about 21/2 feet tall. Acrolinium has double and semi-double daisylike flowers with strawy petals coming in pink, white, rose, and chamois on 15-inch stems.

Don't forget the ornamental grasses, most of which are perennials coming up year after year. They can be cut for bouquets, or their beautiful plumes can be left on all winter to add interest to your landscape.

Two seed companies offering excellent everlasting flower selections are: Geo. W. Park Seed Company, Greenwood, S.C. 29617, and Burpee Seeds of Warminster, Pa. 18991.

I have a small garden, and each year I have trained cucumbers on the fence surrounding it. Last year the vines suddenly wilted completely. What can I do to prevent this from happening again?

It sounds to us like common blight or anthracnose.

Try to plant your vines in a different spot of ground each year (called crop rotation). Also, order seeds of the varieties that are resistant to this problem , such as Sweet Slice, Liberty, Burpless, Gemini, and a bush type called Spacemaster.

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