The Hort Report: Pruning your grapes and brambles, and determining if old seed can still be used

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Balanced pruning on a six-cane kniffen-trained Concord grape vine. Vine was pruned by the 30-plus-10 formula: Leave 30 buds for first pound of one-year removed plus 10 buds for each additional pound of wood removed. | Photo courtesy of University of Missouri-Columbia Guide G06161, "Pruning and Training Grapevines"

The saying about weather in Missouri is true. If you don’t like it, wait a couple of days and it will change. 

We still have time to prune your fruit trees, grapes and brambles. Don’t want to prune after the sap starts flowing for this year. 

When pruning grapes, remember new grapes only grow on new cane. I will stand back like I do before starting any type of pruning fruit. I look for any grape cane that is broken, diseased, and dead and crossing over any other cane on the grape harbor. I also look for any suckers and large groups of 1-year-old cane that appear in a cluster. This is where I prune first.

If you don’t prune your grapes, the new cane that grows this year will produce too many grapes on the new cane, causing the grapes to grow smaller. They won’t taste as good with low sugar content. They’ll be sour to eat, and the color won’t be right. Not pruning your grapes can hurt your grape plants for years to come. 

When pruning grapes, pick up to six cane branches coming off the grape trunk. Having three cane branches on each side, these will be run along three wires I have the cane to run along.

Make sure each of these canes is 2 years old. Prune them back to within about four to five feet of the grape trunk. These six canes will become the canes that all the new cane will grow off of. 

The new cane will run along the wire that we have put between the posts I have set to build my grape harbor on for the new growing season. Once the wire has been ran, let the new grape cane grow on the wire. The wire will let the new grapes produced grow in good sunlight and air movement. The grapes grown on wire are easier to harvest too. 

Let’s talk about pruning your brambles now. Black and purple raspberries can be pruned this time of year to help them produce more fruit. 

When doing this, look for any diseased, broken and damaged cane. By pruning them first, it makes it easier to grow a bigger fruit crop. Prune all the cane down to about 4-8 inches above the ground. If you do it right, you should have fruit for many years to come. Just remember to prune them each year.

The other day, someone asked about using old seed they have had two or more years. I had told people that if you have kept your seed in a cool dry place, away from heat and any moisture, there is a chance that the seed should produce a new plant. Some seed can last 3-14 years.  

Here are the vegetables and how long their seed can last: 

  • Beans: 5-8 years
  • Beets: 6-10 years
  • Broccoli: 5-8 years
  • Cabbage: 4-7 years
  • Carrots: 3-5 years
  • Cauliflowers: 5-8 years
  • Celery: 8-12 years
  • Chard: 6-10 years
  • Sweet Corn: 3-5 years
  • Cucumbers: 10-14 years
  • Lettuce: 3-6 years
  • Melons: 5-8 years
  • Onions: 2-4 years
  • Peas: 3-6 years 
  • Peppers: 3-6 years
  • Pumpkins: 6-10 years
  • Radishes: 5-8 years 
  • Spinach: 5-10 years
  • Squash: 6-10 years
  • Tomatoes: 5-10 years
  • Zucchini: 6-10 years

To check your saved seed, do a germination test. Take 10-20 seeds. Wet some paper towels, use them to wrap the seed and put them in a warm, sunny place. After a couple of weeks, you should see the seed start and sprout.

I really appreciate all you questions in the past and look forward to them in the coming days. Call me at 573-588-2040, come out to see me at Shelby County Implement in Shelbina or email me at

Enjoy this time. Spring is less than 30 days away. 

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