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It's high and dry


Drought stresses trees and plants, elevates fire risks in communities



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Some trees, like these in Mussey Twp., have been tricked into thinking that fall has arrived due to the dry conditions.
August 01, 2007
TRI-CITY AREA — Most residents don't need to consult the National Weather Service to know the Tri-City area is in the grips of a summer drought. Stressed gardens, brown lawns and confused trees are everywhere.

What can be done? Drag out the hose and 'pray for rain,' Kim Willis of Lapeer's Michigan State University Extension office said.

"We've had desert-like conditions for days at a time...it's stressful on all plants," Willis, the county's horticultural aide, said.

All of St. Clair County and most of Lapeer is included in a wide swath of southern Michigan, classified as having a 'moderate drought,' according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. Less than two inches of rain fell in June and July, that's a far cry from the 7 inch average over the same time period.

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Local burning bans are still in effect in most municipalities, weeks after being issued. That means no burn permits are being issued and residents are asked to not start campfires or use burn barrels.

"This is preemptive action," Imlay City Fire Chief Kip Reaves said of the ban that stands in Imlay City and Imlay Twp.

"It won't be lifted until we have some significant rainfall. We take this burning ban very seriously. Those who choose to open burn...will be ticketed."

Mussey Twp. issued their burn ban yesterday (July 31).

For 12 year-old Danielle Gill, the lack of precipitation means she can't cut a break from her daily watering chores.

"It would be awesome if it rained," she said while winding up the garden hose outside her Imlay Twp. home.

Willis said her office has been doling out advice about reviving dead lawns and dying trees.

"The grass needs some mercy water, an inch, so it can continue to live, especially on sandy soil and in the sun," she said.

As for the trees, brown and yellow hues are replacing green leaves while some deciduous varieties have been tricked into thinking it's fall.

For trees and shrubs that looked parched, Willis suggests poking a small hole around the base and letting water trickle in overnight.

"There have been a lot of problems with pines and spruces," Willis said.

The heat only magnifies previous diseases or pest infestation the trees have undergone previously.

As for the garden, even watering is key. Some plants like tomatoes will experience blossom end rot if the soil dries out and then is over-watered, Willis said.

"The best time to water is a couple hours before sundown to let the leaves dry before it gets dark," Willis said.

Of course gardeners don't have to deal with too many fungal diseases or mildew, but some bugs thrive in the dry heat.

"Grasshoppers, leafhoppers and spider mites like stressed plants," Willis said.

Unfortunately, the weather outlook isn't too promising. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures will hover around 90 degrees through the weekend with only a slight chance for rain.

Just one year ago, local growers dealt with flooding rains that destroyed entire fields of onions, zucchini and summer squash in Goodland Twp. when more than four inches of rain fell overnight in early August.

Assistant Editor
Castle Creek
12 - 15 - 17
10:38
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