Illinois drought: Plants in peril as below-average precipitation persists into June

Watering restrictions could be enforced if drought continues into summer, experts say
NAPERVILLE, Ill. (WLS) -- We may be past the unofficial "safe" planting date on Mother's Day, but as we get deeper into a months-long drought, it's not just the new plants that need attention.

You've probably noticed the drought in one way or another: either your plants have been suffering, or your water bill has!

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Nursery manager Eric Gundersen said to water your plants thoroughly, you need to get about an inch of water on the ground. He suggested setting out a rain gauge while you run your sprinkler to know how much water your plants are actually getting.

And if you've been trying to stay on top of it, you sure have been running your sprinklers because Mother Nature has provided us with almost nothing to work with.

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Since March, the Chicago area has received under 4 inches of rain, a deficit of over 8 inches compared to normal. Illinois State climatologist Dr. Trent Ford puts that into perspective for us.

"Because of the heat over the past couple of weeks, we're starting to see vegetation impacts: trees, lawns, shrubs are starting to show water and moisture stress," Ford said. "If we continue to have dryness - even not the same magnitude that we saw in the spring, but continued below average precipitation through the summer - as demand for water increases, we'll continue to see worsening impacts, including perhaps water restrictions and burn bans and things like that."

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So what plants should you be most concerned about? It may not be those new ones you just bought.

"Well most people are aware that the newly-planted plants are definitely going to really need the water, but what they're not thinking about the two, three and 4-year-old plants that are still getting established," Gundersen said. "We get into this drought and they're going to be struggling because their root systems really haven't spread out as much as they should for the amount they're growing. So you're really going to have to water those thoroughly."

It's important to know your town's watering ordinances heading through the next few weeks, because they're sure to be looking a lot closer at your watering habits as the drought looks to worsen. The good news is, the water managers ABC7 spoke with are not considering harsher watering restrictions at the moment.

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