Are crabapples safe to eat? The short answer is "yes" as long as you don't eat too many of them. Actually, the only difference between crabapples and apples is the size of the fruit. By definition, crabapples have fruit that are two inches or less in diameter and apples are more than two inches in diameter. By this definition, most of the apples grown from seed will be crabapples. The fruiting apples are grafted.

So, did people ever plant crabapples from seed? Of course they did. Just think of Johnny Appleseed. However, those apples were normally used for jelly, applesauce and cider and not for fresh eating. However, there is one other caveat with using crabapples from a tree in the landscape. Make sure the tree hasn't been sprayed as an ornamental with a pesticide that isn't labeled for fruit tree apples. If it has, then the fruit should not be used.

Dividing peonies

Peonies are a favorite perennial of gardeners because of their beauty and low maintenance. In Kansas, peonies provide a beautiful display of flowers each spring before Memorial Day. Though peonies can be left in place indefinitely, many gardeners wish to increase their plantings and use a process known as division to accomplish this. Keep in mind, however, that peonies often take about three years to return to full bloom and size after division.

Fall is the traditional time to divide these plants. The first step in division is to remove the foliage. Peonies are essentially dormant by Sept. 1 even though the foliage is still green. Then dig out the entire plant. Shake and wash off as much soil as possible so that the pink buds or "eyes" are visible. Peony roots are tough, and a sharp knife is needed to cut the roots into separate pieces.

Make sure each division has three to four buds. Make sure the location chosen for planting receives at least a half-day of full sun. However, the more sun, the better. Space the plants so that there is at least two feet between dwarf types and four feet between the standard types.

Follow the same rules for planting these divisions as you do for new plants. Make sure the pink buds are about an inch below the soil surface. If they are set more than two inches deep, flowering may be delayed or completely prevented. As you set the plants, firm soil often as it is added around the plant. If the soil is not firmed, it can settle and pull the plant down with it. Water in well after planting and water as necessary through the fall and winter to keep the soil moist.

It is often a good idea to add mulch to the new planting to protect it from heaving. The alternate freezing and thawing that commonly occurs during Kansas winters can "heave" weakly rooted plants out of the ground. Add a mulch of straw, leaves, compost or other material after the soil freezes. Remember, it is not the cold that harms these plants but the alternate freezing and thawing of the soil.

Tips for beef producers

Dale Blasi, Extension beef specialist, offers the following tips that beef producers should be thinking about in November concerning spring calving cows and cowherd management:

* Pregnancy check (if not already completed): If candidates for culling were not selected in September or October, it should be completed now. Consider feeding cull cows to increase body weight, value and utilize cheap feedstuffs. Value of gain is equal to the difference between the ending value and beginning values divided by the gain. Compare this to cost of gain figures. When cost of gain is less than value of gain, profit will be realized.

* Body condition score: Provide thin cows (body condition score 3's and 4's) extra feed now. Take advantage of weather, stage of pregnancy, lower nutrient requirements and quality feedstuffs.

* Utilize crop residues: Average body condition cows can be grazed at 1 to 2 acres/cow for 30 days assuming normal weather. Available forage is directly related to the grain production levels. The most limiting nutrients are usually protein, phosphorus and vitamin A. Strip graze or rotate fields to improve grazing efficiency. Discontinue feeding tetracycline if used for anaplasmosis control.

* Calf management: Participate in National Level Breed Association Performance Programs CHAPS, and/or other ranch record systems. Finalize plans to merchandise calves or to background through yearling or finishing programs.

* Forage/pasture management: Plan winter nutritional program through pasture and forage management.

* General management: Document cost of production by participating in Standardized Performance Analysis (SPA) programs. Review management decisions, lower your costs on a per unit of production concept. Plan your marketing program, including private treaty, consignment sales, test stations, production sales, etc.

For more information or assistance on this or other topics, please call the Extension office at 272-3670, located at 501 S. Ninth St.