Q. I've been a gardener over 40 years. This year has been a loser. Last week I covered the whole garden with horse manure. What would be the best thing to do until next year? I have a lot of people to get garden vegetables to.
-- S.M. of Collinsville
A. With the weather we have had this fall, there is still time to work the horse manure into the soil with a roto-tiller and mix this into the first 6 to 8 inches of soil. This will help some of the manure to break down and give nutrients right away next spring. This roto-tilling also will allow any rain and snow to infiltrate the soil deeper and prevent the soil surface from getting waterlogged.
This would also be an ideal time to take a soil sample of your garden soil to find out the pH level and the amount of phosphorous and potassium in the soil. The soil test will also give organic matter, but if you have been adding horse manure over several years, that level should be good. You should get the results quickly at this time of year. Alvey Laboratory at 1511 East Main St. in Belleville (618-233-0445) does a great job on this testing. If there are any deficiencies, you can still start correcting them this year.
Q. For a month now, I have had what appears to be dark millipede infestation, which I have never had for the 40 years I have lived here. I use mulch and always have. These wormy things are in my house, basement, garage, deck and I suck them up in my vacuum in the house. They are annoying. Any idea why they are so bad this year? Is there any way to get rid of them?
-- L. W. of Red Bud
A. Two weather conditions cause millipedes to show up in large numbers -- heavy rains and very dry conditions. This year being very dry caused the millipedes to become big problems. Ordinarily, they would have stayed in your mulch and not been a problem at all. But with the moisture lacking in the mulch, they began searching for moisture and relief from the heat in homes just as you described. Now in the fall, they are trying to overwinter and the warmth leads them inside.
Roach bait, slug bait and sowbug bait are effective on millipedes. Baiting a 2- to 4-foot band around the base of your home would be a good control. Another is spraying Diazinon around the perimeter of the house.
Fortunately, millipedes do not move too quickly and, as you have already found, a vacuum cleaner does a great job of picking them up. So does sweeping them with a broom.
Be ready next year as they will be hungry and will try feeding on root crops, bulbs, vegetables and annual flowers.
Do it now
TREES: Continue planting trees as the soil has not frozen. Add more water to the hole if it is extremely dry.
SPRING BULBS: You can still plant them.
LAWN: During halftime of the weekend football games, you can apply a winterizer fertilizer to your lawn.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.