So dry, it's a drought

By Anna Yee

June 21, 2012 Updated Jun 21, 2012 at 10:31 PM CDT

CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- Soaking up the sun.. Feels like summer, right?

But, too many rays and not enough rain can be deadly, at least for plants.

Most of Central Illinois is in a moderate to severe drought, keeping growers like Franklin Susen busy.

"It's a constant battle trying to keep everything wet," said Susen, "and it's just tough."

Susen says he waters plants at the Green View Garden Center in Dunlap up to three times a day.

He advises anyone at home to generously water their plants at least once a week.

The first sign of drought stress is wilting or falling leaves on both plants and trees.

And if you notice tree leaves already changing to fall colors, that's a sign to start watering.

For Susen, the dry spell is also putting a damper on sales.

"It slows down to next to nothing," said Susen, "because people don't want to plant anything when it's so hot and dry."

The dry weather is also affecting the local produce business.

Thursday kicked off the Pekin Main Street Farmers' Market, where growers say good weather means better quality and better business.

Joyce Frank has been selling her family's homegrown produce here for years.

She says her crops will suffer in a drought.

"It's hard on it," said Frank. "Sometimes it dries up and the plants don't get as big as they're supposed to be."

"This drought's really bad, but fortunately I live on a well, so I get all the water I can get," said Dennis Hilst, another local grower who sells at the Pekin Farmers' Market.

Hilst says he's battling a different Mother Nature threat, Japanese beetles.

"They would wipe me out pretty good," said Hilst. "They're pretty dangerous, for a little bitty bug that don't hurt nothing, they could wipe out plants and vegetables real quick."

Fortunately, Susen says you can control them with insecticides or other natural methods.

But, he says all these dangers tend to come and go in cycles, so the best thing to do is to get to work.

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