Pine Community Connector

October 2021

University of Minnesota Extension

We've moved!

The Pine County Extension office recently moved to a new location. We’re still in the Pine County Courthouse located at 635 Northridge Drive NW, Pine City, we just have a new more efficient space. To find us at the courthouse, come in the main courthouse doors, turn left and go almost to the end of the hallway, our office is on the right.

Please call 800-657-3813 to schedule an appointment to visit with Extension office staff.

4-H’ers Show Learning at County, State Shows

Over the last several weeks, Pine County 4-H’ers participated in the Pine County Fair, Minnesota State Fair, State 4-H Horse Show, and State 4-H Dog Show. These county and statewide opportunities allow youth to showcase their learning from the year with projects of the 4-H’ers interest.

The Pine County Fair was held August 3-8. 4-H was happy to be back at the Pine County Fair following the 2020 virtual showcase; 97 young people grades Kindergarten through one year past high school exhibited 4-H projects at the 2021 County Fair. The most popular projects at the fair were crafts, horse, rabbit, and beef.

The Minnesota State Fair was held August 26 – September 6. Seven youth represented Pine County 4-H in livestock and static project areas ranging from swine, beef, photography, and food and nutrition. To participate in the Minnesota State Fair, youth must have completed 6th grade and earned at least a blue ribbon at the local county fair.

Five Pine County 4-H youth participated in the Minnesota 4-H State Horse Show, held September 17-20. The youth participated in a variety of classes and each did very well. Camella W. took home top honors in pole weaving and jumping figure 8.

The Minnesota 4-H State Dog Show took place at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds September 25-26. Four youth from Pine County participated. Classes that dog show participants can take advantage of include obedience, rally, and agility.

For more information about 4-H, visit or contact the Pine County Extension Office at 320-591-1650.

4-H NE Region Catalog of Opportunities

Minnesota 4-H NE Region is excited to announce the fall catalog of virtual programming. Gross Science? Arts and Crafts? Wild About Wildlife? We have it all! Open to youth in Kindergarten through one year past high school.

Master Gardeners raise produce for area food shelves this summer

The University of Minnesota Extension Pine County Master Gardeners have grown and donated over 946.5 lbs. of fresh produce from locations in Hinckley and Pine City to the Sandstone and Pine City Food Shelves this summer.

The idea for this project came to Master Gardener President Kim Metz when COVID restrictions prevented the master gardeners from doing face-to-face activities for the past year up until July 1. Vegetables were grown in 20 raised beds in the Hinckley School garden with permission from the school. Vegetables were also grown at the Pine City Library gardens and in raised beds at the Pine City Community Garden.

At the Hinckley School Garden, the master gardeners hauled in four pick-up loads of compost in the spring into the raised beds from the Pine City recycling site and mixed in peat and perlite. They donated the seeds and plants were all started at home. They planted, trellised, mulched the plots, and watered them daily during this hot and dry summer. In Pine City, peat, compost, and perlite were added to the raised beds at the library and Community Garden. They planted, mulched, weeded, and watered daily.

The Hinckley project was not without challenges. The master gardeners ended up doing a lot of hand picking of Colorado Potato Beetles, Japanese Beetles and even did surgery on squash vines to remove Squash Vine Borers. In addition, some vegetables mysteriously disappeared. Hopefully, they found a home with someone who really needed them.

Hundreds of hours were donated by the gardeners to make all this possible.

The master gardeners involved at Hinckley were led by Julie Kroschel with help from Deborah Konieska, Chris St. George, Kim Metz, Ben Wiener, Kari Holmberg, and Kathy Cedarleaf. The master gardeners involved with the Pine City gardens were led by Kim Metz with help from Lori Peters, Diana Waschenbecker, Roxanne Beavers, Karen Jansen, Kathy Cedarleaf, Tom Rolf.

Donna Wichner, Manager of the Sandstone Food Shelf said, “The fresh produce helped so many of our clients this year who would not have or been able to get produce weekly from a garden that is fresh. We serve 200 clients weekly.”

Harvesting and storing melons, squash, and pumpkins

The tendril on this watermelon is beginning to dry up. It will be ready to pick soon.

Melons are one of the trickiest plants to grow, because the guidelines around harvest are confusing and often contradictory. Gardeners often struggle to pick melons at the right time, and find that they are either flavorless, or mushy and overripe.

This is a quick guide to harvesting ripe and delicious melons. It also covers squash and pumpkins, which are in the same family as melons, and seem to be ripening ahead of schedule this year.

Some ripening basics

Fruit and vegetables are typically assigned to two categories that define their ripening behaviors: climacteric and non-climacteric.

Ripen off the vine
Fruits and vegetables that can ripen off the vine are referred to as “climacteric.” You can harvest these fruits and vegetables before they are fully ready, and they’ll continue to ripen on your kitchen counter. Common examples of climacteric fruit include apples, bananas, peaches and tomatoes.

Ripen on the vine
Fruits and vegetables that have to be on the vine to ripen are referred to as “non-climacteric.” Once removed from the vine, the sugar content will not increase, and so picking at exactly the right time is important for flavor. These fruits and vegetables can still go bad if left out, but they will not get sweeter. Examples include grapes, strawberries and watermelon.

However, sometimes the lines between climacteric and non-climacteric are a bit blurry, and this is especially true in melons. Ripeness is determined by a variety of traits including sugar content, how easily the fruit detaches, ethylene production, and firmness of the skin.

The yellow spot on the ground will become more pronounced as the watermelon ripens.

Watermelons all belong to the same species, Citrullus lanatus. They were likely domesticated in the area around Libya and Egypt. All watermelons are non-climacteric, meaning they should be left on the vine until they are fully ripe. Signs of ripeness include:

  • The spot where the fruit touches the ground becomes more prominent and changes color (typically yellow).
  • The tendril closest to the fruit becomes brown and dries up.
  • Ripe melons have a hollow, dull sound.
  • The sheen of the rind tends to change slightly with maturity, but this is variety dependent.
  • Watermelons do not reach “full slip.” This is a term you might see in seed catalogs, which refers to the time when a melon can easily be slipped from the vine.

Watermelons are sensitive to ethylene, and so they should be stored separate from ethylene producing crops like tomatoes, bananas, apples, or cantaloupe in order to extend the shelf life.


“Melon” is a vague word in English; many other languages have distinctly different terms for the fruit belonging to the species Cucumis melo subspecies melo, and for watermelon, bitter melon, and other related but distinct cucurbits. Melon in this article refers to the Cucumis melo subspecies melo, which contains hundreds of distinct cultivars including cantaloupe and honeydew.

There are both climacteric and non-climacteric varieties within this species. While this is not a comprehensive summary, these are my main takeaways for farmers:

"Full slip" is the point where cantaloupes slip easily from the vine. This melon is not quite ready.

The primary varieties of cantaloupe-style melons often have netted rinds, but not always, and they vary from lobed to smooth. They all have a relatively high sugar content.

  • Cantaloupe style melons have been consistently bred over time to be fully climacteric, meaning they will continue to ripen off the vine.
  • They can be harvested at “full slip,” meaning they are ripe when they easily pull away from the vine.
  • Sometimes it’s easy for melons to become over-ripe in gardens. Cantaloupe can reliably be harvested a little bit early (before “full slip”), and left to ripen on the kitchen counter.

Honeydew Group

Honeydew are the most well-known type of melon in the subspecies Cucumis melo spp. melo var indorus. This group also includes common melons like Piel de Sapo. These melons have an even higher sugar content than cantaloupe melons.

  • These melons are, for the most part, non-climacteric. This means they will not continue to ripen or become sweeter after they are harvested.
  • They will not reach “full slip”, so this should not be used as an indicator of ripeness.
  • Indications of ripeness vary across varieties, but common indications include rind color changes, and the presence of a sweet smell.
  • These melons should be fully ripe when you harvest them.

Makuwa, Chinensis, and Conomon Melons (And other melons from China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines)

This group is a bit less defined than the cantaloupe and honeydew groups, because there is more genetic variation between varieties.

  • They tend to range from non-climacteric to “weakly climacteric”, meaning they usually will not ripen or get sweeter once harvested.
  • Since this group is variable, read the variety descriptions in your seed catalog, and check on these melons more often in storage.

When reading variety descriptions, check for terms like “harvest at full slip,” “cut from vigorous vines when the skin begins to yellow,” and “cut from vines when the skin becomes soft.”

All types of melons should be stored at 95% relative humidity. Cantaloupe should be stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and honeydew can be stored in slightly warmer conditions, between 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. The crisper drawer in a refrigerator is a great place to store these melons once they are ripe.

Winter Squash and Pumpkins

Winter squash is ready to harvest when the vine has hardened and becomes woody, and the flesh doesn’t dent with pressure from a fingernail.

Winter squash and pumpkins fall into three main species groups: Cucurbita maxima (kabocha, hubbard, arikara squash, some pumpkins), Cucurbita moschata (butternut and some other winter squash), and Cucurbita pepo (pumpkins, zucchini, acorn, delicata, pattypan, and summer squash).

All types of pumpkins and squash are non-climacteric, and so they should be allowed to ripen to full maturity on the vine. As pumpkins and squash ripen, the rind will become increasingly firm, and they should not dent when you press a fingernail into the skin. The vines usually also begin to decline when squash are ready, and the part of the vine immediately attached to the fruit (which will become the stem) should become hard and woody.

Winter squash and pumpkins should be stored at 50% relative humidity, and around 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit. They can last 1-6 months in storage, depending on the variety. Outdoor will decrease the shelf life.

Read more about Postharvest handling of fruit and vegetable crops in Minnesota.

This article was adapted from a more in-depth version for Fruit and Vegetable News. Avid gardeners who want to learn more can read the article here.

Take care of your garden soil this fall

Keeping the soil covered for winter is important. You can do this in a few ways during the winter. You can cover your soil with mulch after your crops come up. Another solution is to plant a cover crop. Another is to apply compost.

Here is the scoop on compost. The end of the summer growing season is a common time to add compost to your garden. Soil with compost, and improving your soil's organic matter can: Hold onto nutrients, absorb more water, withstand forces like wind and flooding, sustain microbial communities. It's important to take regular soil tests when you're adding compost to avoid over-fertilizing.

Now is the time to take a soil test, soil sample bags and instructions are available at the Pine County Courthouse in Pine City. Call 800-657-3813 or email to have one sent to you, or pick one up from the courthouse outside the Extension office.

Read more about building and maintaining a compost pile by visiting

Wake Up Wednesdays

Catch up on some of the latest research and insights coming from the leadership and civic engagement team and the University of Minnesota. A new Wednesday Wake Up topic will be presented each month via Zoom from 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. These sessions are free but registration is required.

Upcoming dates and topics include:

  • October 20, 2021; Oppressive civility with Dr. Gloria Gonzalez-Morales
  • November 10, 2021; Race, equity and misinformation in the media with Dr. Danielle Brown
  • December 15, 2021; Affordable housing and the impact on our communities with Dr. Ryan Allen
  • January 19, 2021; TBD

Two for You

Looking for positive psychology tips and tools to fuel your leadership? Check out the monthly two-minute video-cast called Two for You.


Rod Greder, Ag Educator, 320-591-1662
Kate Holland, 4-H Interim Educator, 320-591-1654
Terry Salmela, Master Gardener Coordinator, 320-591-1653
Roxanne Orvis, Administrative Assistant, 320-591-1651

Susanne Hinrichs, NE Regional Director, 218-828-2286

© 2021 Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved. The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer.