Towns battle lack of rain as ‘drought effect’ intensifies
Updated: July 22, 2012 7:46PM
To compensate for the lack of rainfall, extra watering has become part of the daily routine in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff.
“There are big cracks in the soil,” said Rick Belding, director of the Garden at Elawa Farm. “We’re obviously watering a lot more than we would normally do. We’re coming in every day to water.”
Long-term, Belding expects little damage.
“We should be okay, because we’re being proactive. We’re not letting anything get too dry,” he said.
Flowers, vegetables and fruits are planted in the garden at the historic Elawa Farm in Lake Forest.
The City of Lake Forest ball fields and open areas aren’t faring as well.
“We’re are watering pretty heavily on our spring seeding and sodding projects,” said Chuck Myers, Lake Forest’s superintendent of parks and forestry.
Crews also are irrigating city ball fields, he added.
“It has been a little more taxing on us this season than normal,” he said.
At Lake Forest Open Lands, which manages some 750 acres in preserves and conservation easements throughout the city, said the double-whammy of early hot weather and lack of rain has made the invasive weed population flourish and not as easily remedied.
“The garlic mustard and cattails are flowering up to three weeks early,” said Jim Tunney, LFOLA senior restoration ecologist. “We’re behind because of that.”
The LFOLA restoration crew also has been watering some 20 oak trees and 15 Easter red cedar trees planted this spring.
“We have to keep them soaked. When you get this dry, you really have to keep up on it,” he said
While the native plants and prairie grasses on the open lands are generally drought-tolerant, further lack of moisture could impact them, too.
“Sustained heat puts everything under stress,” Tunney said.
In Lake Bluff, Public Works Superintendent Jake Terlap and his crew are watering more than 20 new trees planted in parkways throughout the village in the spring.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed for rain,” Terlap said.
Michael Schmechtig, president of Schmechtig Landscapes of Mundelein, which provides landscaping services for homeowners in Libertyville, Mundelein, Vernon Hills and many North Shore communities, said the drought-like conditions are exacerbated by the warmer-than-normal conditions in the spring, which caused many flowers and plants to bloom early.
“The more plants grow the more water they need,” he said. “When you have below normal rainfall conditions, it kind of magnifies the (drought) effect.”
Schmechtig said the best way for homeowners to maintain a healthy lawn during drought-like conditions is to begin a regular watering and fertilizing program. He said newly sodded lawns are in greater need of watering than lawns that were originally seeded. “A sodded lawn, if you don’t water it, may not come back because it doesn’t as deep a root system,” he said.
Schmechtig said homeowners who fail to maintain their lawns with a regular watering program during dry conditions will typically start to see weeds and cracking in the earth.
“The weeds can start to take over,” he said. “The weeds seem to be able handle drought conditions better than the lawns.”
To conserve water, Schmechtig encourages homeowners to water early in the morning between the hours of about 4 and 10 a.m. or in the evening from 5 to 9 p.m. Automatic irrigation systems also can help regulate water usage, he said.
In the event communities begin enacting watering restrictions, Schmechtig suggests residents focus any watering efforts on their plants or flowers and certain trees first before their lawns.
Mundelein and Libertyville receive Lake Michigan water through the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency. Vernon Hills receives its water supply through Lake County Public Works, which also uses Lake Michigan water. As of yet, no water restrictions have been announced in those towns.
“We have not had any restrictions at this stage,” said Libertyville Public Works Director John Heinz.
David Brown, director of public works/village engineer for Vernon Hills, said he’s heard June is set to be one of the driest Junes on record in the Chicagoland area.
Because of the dry conditions, Brown said public works crews have been spending extra time filling the green water bags that are used to supply water to newly planted trees in parkway areas of Vernon Hills. “We’re trying to provide extra water for those trees because Mother Nature is not,” he said.