In my column last week I talked about the various apple varieties that have been introduced in Minnesota by the University of Minnesota and how the Honeycrisp apples grown in Minnesota have a better flavor than those grown in Washington State.

In a recent column in TIME magazine I read how for more than 30 years Washington state’s apple growers were fixated on the Red Delicious which made up 70% of the state’s production.

I lived in the Yakima Valley for three years and can attest to how all you saw were Red Delicious apples being grown. Growers finally realized that they better get on the ball and start developing some different varieties.

It is said that it took two decades to develop their latest “prize” apple — Cosmic Crisp — developed by Washington State University.

It is a cross between Honeycrisp (thank you Minnesota) and Enterprise apples. I have never heard of the Enterprise.

The state now has 12 million Cosmic Crisp trees planted and we should start to see them in stores in December. It is said that they are good for 12 months in storage. These trees were developed to excel in Washington state’s climate so probably wouldn’t be as good here.

Washington apple growers have exclusive rights to the Cosmic Crisp for 10 years.

Fall lawn care tips

As I’m writing this, I’m looking out on a snow-covered lawn. We aren’t ready for this!

Assuming that this snow will be gone in a day or two, there are some late fall lawn care tips that I would like to pass along.

Continue to mow your lawn at 3 inches until the grass is no longer growing. Since we are probably going to get our first hard frost with this snow, this would mean that one last mowing should do it — unless you mulch up leaves which are still on the trees today.

This is a good idea if you don’t rake, as chopping up the leaves will reduce the potential for snow mold next spring.

Time to stop applying nitrogen to your lawn.

Houseplants

It’s time to stop fertilizing your houseplants with the days getting shorter. Resume half strength fertilizer when the plants start growing again — usually in February when the days are getting longer. There is an exception if you grow plants under fluorescent lights as they won’t realize there is a change in seasons.

Strawberries

If you grow strawberries, you will need to cover them with clean straw after several nights of temperatures in the mid-20s. This will encourage gradual plant dormancy and prevent cold damage to strawberry crowns. The crown of a strawberry plant can be killed at 15 degrees F.

Pesticides

Last month I attended an educational day sponsored by the University of Minnesota Master Gardener program. One of the topics was about glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and the reason I attended.

As a retired farmer, I have my own opinion of the pesticide, but thought I needed to know the official Master Gardener stance on the product and what we were to advise others about it.

The session was taught by Natalie Hoidal with the University of Minnesota.

After a morning lecture, what I came away with was READ THE LABEL and follow label directions on all pesticides. Use research-based information.

Other information in my notes include:

  • Don’t spray anything when windy.

  • Wear long sleeves, long pants, cover your feet and hands and wear a mask if possible. The gloves should be made of something that doesn’t absorb liquid.

  • Launder contaminated clothing correctly — which means don’t mix it with other laundry.

  • Better yet, consider hiring a professional.

  • I make sure all pets are in the house or not in the area. In other words, use best judgment.

Roundup entered the market in 1994, and in 1996 Roundup-ready corn and beans were introduced. Farmers must take a test and be certified every three years in order to be able to even buy pesticides.

Home gardeners can buy whatever is on the shelf — so READ THE LABEL.

Hoidal made the statement that even a kitchen knife has potential to cause harm if used incorrectly.

She said most at risk to cause cancer is bacon, alcohol and exposure to sun.

No. 2 is glyphosate, being a hairdresser and red meat.

She said control studies vary because there are so many variables. Hoidal said that glyphosate has a lower chronic toxicity than 90% of other pesticides.

She said that homemade solutions can be very unsafe, including ones that use concentrated vinegar — they have no warning labels.

Last week I received the official Master Gardener program’s approach to pesticides:

“Master Gardeners work toward a healthy environment for all Minnesotans. They provide information and strategies to help people achieve thriving lawns, flowers, fruits and vegetables and home landscapes while minimizing or eliminating the use of pesticides.”

(We are always advised to recommend IPM – integrated pest management. Story for another time.) So there it is!