The 2018 Long Range Weather Forecast for Peoria IL from the Old Farmer's Almanac:
"April and May will be warmer and slightly drier than normal. Summer will be hotter and drier than normal. The hottest periods will be July and mid-August. September and October will be warmer than normal. Rainfall will be below normal."
The last frost is predicted for May 2 and the first frost October 3 or translated to a growing season of 153 days. Any of the long range predictions from the OFA has a 30% chance of being correct. Gardeners play the odds more than gamblers in LasVegas.
The Weather Network is predicting normal amounts of precipitation for spring and a dryer than normal summer. The north/west edge of the severe drought plaguing the Plains and southwest is around the Mississippi River. For the last several years, the drought conditions have worsened and edged East.
Here's what you might take into consideration:
If you plant water demanding annuals, you will probably have to water at least once a week - probably daily in the fall.
If you're planting trees, bushes and other perennials, plant early so they can get natural moisture from spring rains. Expect to have to water them throughout summer and fall and possibly the next three years.
If the perennial plants you're choosing demand lots of moisture all their life, will you be able or do you desire to give them that much attention - forever.
If you're considering a pond, make sure it's deep. Shallow ponds of any size can go dry or get boggy when they don't get ample rainfall.
Consider water features that recycle water such as fountains or recirculating water falls.
|Ballerina fountain by Malgorzata Chodakowska|
Now might be the perfect time to consider replacing the water hogs in your yard. Turf grass being a BIG hog. You don't have to give up green lawns, but there are now drought tolerant grasses that don't take as much care. Here's a clue: If you're using irrigation of any kind on your grass lawn just to keep it green, you need to replace it with something more drought tolerant. Nature is telling you it's not the right plant for your yard and you're wasting water.
As a side note, golf courses use more water and chemicals than any other entity. If you're a member of one of these, consider suggesting they start adapting a more drought tolerant landscape. Look at the old European golf courses and note how they're landscaped. It might make the course more of a challenge but isn't that the point - overcoming challenges on the course?
Consider replacing some water hogs with an area just for specific drought tolerant plants.
|Drought resistant Sedum "Autumn Joy"|
If you're able, use rain barrels to catch water from your downspouts. This is an old method and why most old homes had cisterns. Then don't forget to use the water in the rain barrels. Many local extension offices or our local NAGS, have rain barrels for sale.
Cement (drives - patios - walks) cause large quantities of rain to flow away from your plants. In town, it goes into the storm sewer and serves no drought relief purpose. Consider using other surfaces for these hardscapes: Stepping stones instead of walks. Wood or poly decks and patios allow water to seep through the cracks. Gravel, if used right, causes water to percolate slowly into the soil.
Check out the internet or call your favorite landscaping firm to learn all the methods to redirect rain into your garden beds.
None of the drought relief measures for your gardens/yard need be expensive or all encompassing. It's all about the little things that adds up to big things. Oddly enough, most drought relief measures need to have water in it's initial stages to get a plant's roots established. Now is the time to begin.
Consider using plants that are native to your area - they survive much better than introduced varieties. A native plant area can be a wonderful habitat for native insects, birds and animals. AND, it can be beautiful and more drought tolerant.
|Drought resistant Native Coneflower "Great Yellow"|
Do not put any plant that become highly flammable in the fall close to buildings. Native or ornamental grasses should always be well away from buildings. Evergreens with high sap content (such as yews) are highly flammable any time of the year.
|"Big Bluestem" Native Grass|
Soooo: how about starting with one thing in your yard that makes it less of a water hog and less work for you. You may find you absolutely love the look.