Improving Our Properties through Sustainable Landscaping
Specific Benefits of Sustainable Landscaping
Sustainable landscapes are responsive to the environment, re-generative, and can actively contribute to the development of healthy communities. Sustainable landscapes sequester carbon, clean the air and water, increase energy efficiency, restore habitats, and create value through significant economic, social and, environmental benefits.
Watering Guidelines for Home Lawns
- Water Conservation – We can conserve water with optimal planning and distribution of existing water resources to meet current needs while preserving resources for the future.
- Irrigation – Sustainable landscapes require minimal irrigation once plants are established.
- Rainwater Harvesting – Helps reduce fresh water use in a landscape by catching rainwater in a rain barrel or cistern and reusing it for irrigation or water features. Reducing fresh potable water use in the landscape helps to recharge local aquifers.
Managing Rainwater at Home.pdf
- Storm water Management – Sustainable storm water management captures water close to the source, reducing sewer overflows, ponding, and roadway flooding. In the process, rainwater is used as an asset to improve ecology, microclimates, air quality, and the aesthetic quality of the public realm. Vegetated strips and swales filter and reduce sediment and filter pollutants through settling, physical filtration in the soil matrix, biological breakdown by microbes, and nutrient uptake by plants.
- Permeable Pavement – Allows rain water to be absorbed back into the earth via the soil beneath the pavement as it filters through the cracks.
- Plant Health – Properly chosen plants will grow well in a given site’s conditions. They are not invasive and accomplish both the functional and aesthetic goals of the planting. Plants native to the Midwest are successful due to their adaptability and drought tolerance once established.
- Turf Care – Gone are the days of scheduled blanket spraying of pesticides and insecticides. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs attack pests and disease only when identified. Natural lawn care uses organics that refresh the soil without chemicals.
Living with Wildlife in Glen Ellyn
- Source: University of Illinois Extension
Factors such as sun exposure, soil, weather, and management practices all have a role in water needs of lawns. In general, about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week is needed to maintain green color and active growth. Cool season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, and the fine fescues, vary in the amount of water needed for good growth and naturally slow in growth and may go dormant in hot weather.
An important decision you need to make before summer is whether you will water lawns consistently as needed throughout the season, or let lawns go dormant as conditions turn warm and dry. Do not rotate back and forth. In other words, don't let the grass turn totally brown, apply enough water to green it up, and then let the grass go dormant again. Breaking dormancy actually drains large amounts of food reserves from the plant, causing stress and making the grass plant more susceptible to disease.
When is it time to water? The first few warm days of summer does not automatically mean it's time to water lawns. In fact, allowing lawns to start to go under mild drought stress actually increases rooting. You can determine stress by watching for footprinting, or footprints remaining on the lawn after walking across it.
In general, water as infrequently as possible. Water thoroughly so moisture gets down to the depth of the roots. Exceptions to this general rule would be for newly seeded lawns where the surface needs to stay moist, newly sodded lawns that have not yet rooted into the soil of the site, or when patch disease is a problem. Otherwise, avoid frequent watering, which promotes shallower root systems and weeds (i.e. crabgrass). Given a choice, water early in the day when lawns are normally wet from dew. Avoid midday watering. The water evaporates resulting in costing more with less water getting into the soil. Night watering has the potential of an increased chance of some diseases.
Spread the water uniformly across the lawn. Sprinklers vary in distribution patterns, and require spray overlap for uniform coverage. Placing coffee cans or similar straight-sided containers on the lawn can help measure water application rates. Avoid flooding areas, or missing other spots. On heavy clay soils with lower water absorption rates and slopes, watch for excessive runoff; it may be necessary to apply the water in two applications to assure it soaks in.
Finally, there are some measures to conserve water use by lawns. Mow higher, avoid excess nitrogen as warm weather approaches, limit traffic over the lawn, improve turf rooting, control thatch and soil compaction, and avoid pesticide use on drought stressed lawns.
- Mowing Guidelines for Home Lawns
Lawns should be mowed according to the rate of grass growth; remember not to remove more than one-third of the grass leaf in any one cutting. Mowing as the lawn needs it is essential. In the spring, this will likely mean more than once a week. It is never advisable to mow when the grass is wet. For most lawns, a mowing height between 2½ to three inches is suggested; the upper range is best for summer. Lawns mowed at higher heights tend to have deeper roots which aid in drought tolerance.
- Glen Ellyn: Residential Lawn Watering Restrictions
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources mandates that water conservation measures be undertaken between May 15 and September 15. The regulations allow odd-numbered street addresses to water lawns on odd-numbered calendar days, while even-numbered street addresses may water on days that have an even-numbered calendar date. Lawn sprinkling on this odd/even schedule may only be performed from 5 to 8 a.m. and 7 to 11 p.m. Newly sodded or seeded lawns may be watered daily between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. for a period of 30 days. Questions about sprinkling should be directed to the Public Works Department at 630-469-6756.
Birds, Bees, Butterflies & Plants
Source: Willowbrook Wildlife Center -DuPage County Forest Preserve District
The wildlife species found in our village are part of our community and contribute to our ecosystem in many ways. This guide provides information about a few of our furry neighbors.
If you come across a wild animal and are concerned, leave it alone, and call Willowbrook (630) 942-6200 for advice. Recorded messages provide general information for callers when the center is closed.
Foxes and Coyotes
Red foxes are 8 to 15 pounds, about the size of a large cat, and have long, bushy reddish black tails with white tips. They are the only mammals in Illinois with rusty red coats. (Gray foxes are the same size as red foxes and are native to DuPage County but are quite uncommon.)
Foxes are considered carnivores and feed on rabbits, mice, rats and birds, but they also eat fruit. They are nocturnal but also hunt in the early morning or late evening.
Red foxes prefer woodlands but often inhabit urban areas, especially ones that back up to fields or wooded lots. They use dens — usually on the sunny sides of hills or banks, along fencerows or in natural rock cavities — but only to raise their young.
Seeing a fox in a backyard does not necessarily mean the animal is living there. Foxes have home ranges of 1 to 2 square miles, so most of the time they are just passing through. Observing one of these animals is a sign of ecological balance because foxes help to keep populations of smaller animals in check
Coyotes are yellowish gray with bushy black-tipped tails and whitish throats and bellies. At 20 to 40 pounds they’re larger than 8- to 15-pound foxes but smaller than wolves, which can weigh between 50 and 100. Because coyotes are extremely adaptable, they can survive in many habitats, including cities. They are considered nocturnal but are commonly active during the day. Coyotes are vital to ecological balance because they help to keep populations of smaller animals in check. Over 90 percent of their diet is small mammals, but they will eat birds, snakes, insects, fish, fruits, and injured or sick deer.
Coyotes avoid people when they can, but loss of habitat makes it difficult. You can prevent problems in your yard, though, by removing two main attractants: food and shelter.
- Never feed coyotes.
- Keep pet food and water dishes inside.
- Keep grills and barbecues clean.
- If possible, keep garbage cans inside.
- Use sealed compost bins, and never add pet waste, meat, milk or eggs.
- Keep the ground below bird feeders and fruit trees clean.
- Protect vegetables with heavy-duty fences.
- Use welded wire to block access to areas under decks, sheds, patios and porches.
- Clear overgrown shrubs and dense weeds.
- Use deterrents such as sirens or motion-activated lights or sprinkler systems.
- Encourage neighbors to follow these steps.
Coyotes and Pets
Survival for coyotes is difficult, and some may instinctively see domestic dogs — their close canine cousins — as competitors or threats. This can be especially true if a dog is small (smaller dogs tend to be more aggressive toward larger canines) or if a dog’s yard falls within a coyote’s territory. In some cases, a coyote may try to eliminate a perceived threat or take a smaller dog as prey.
There have been reports of coyotes chasing or attacking dogs during the day, even dogs on leashes, but these confrontations are uncommon and are often initiated by the dog and not the coyote. Still, it’s wise to take a few precautions.
- Always supervise your dog and keep it on a leash — even in a fenced backyard.
- Always keep cats indoors.
- Coyotes can be creatures of habit, so if you see one at the same time and place while walking your pet, change your route or timing.
- If you have a small dog and encounter a coyote, pick up your pet.
Like domestic dogs, coyotes test their limits around humans and learn something from each exchange. Unless they associate people with negative experiences, such as loud noises, they can become comfortable walking down streets or sidewalks or near schools, basking in yards or parks, and shortening the distance between themselves and humans. A bold coyote does not necessarily mean an aggressive coyote, but a coyote that maintains its fear of humans will be less likely to cause problems.
- If you’re on a trail that coyotes often use, carry an air horn, whistle, walking stick, cane or other deterrent.
- If you’re followed by a coyote, don’t panic. It’s likely escorting or “shadowing” you through its territory, keeping a calm eye on you to ensure you don’t bother its den.
- If a coyote approaches you, be big, loud and bold. Wave your hands above your head, or hold your jacket wide open. Shout or use a whistle or horn. Don’t turn your back or run; calmly walk away facing the coyote. Keep yourself between coyotes and children.
- If a coyote becomes aggressive — snaps, growls or snarls — throw sticks or clumps of dirt at the ground by its feet. Aim for its body if necessary but never its head.
- Report aggressive behavior on private property to your local municipality. Report encounters in a forest preserve to the Forest Preserve District at (630) 933-7200.
Image (C) Brian Tang
Although raccoons prefer woodlands near water, cities and suburbs provide adequate food and shelter. Raccoons are easily identified by their bandit mask and ringed tailed. By nature they are shy, but they often become bold when living in close proximity to humans. They are very dexterous and intelligent, which often leads to what people perceive as being mischievous. Raccoons are valuable scavengers and help maintain ecological balance.
Living in Your Yard
Raccoon dens are above ground in tree cavities, chimneys, attics and garages or below ground in old woodchuck burrows, storm sewers and crawl spaces or under decks. They do not hibernate during the winter, but raccoons will stay in their dens for prolonged periods of time, especially in inclement weather.
Communal dens are common. Up to 23 raccoons have been reported in a single den with usually only one adult male present. Most only use their homes temporarily March through August to raise their young. If at all possible, consider “living with them” until the young leave the nest at eight to 10 weeks of age.
- Do not encourage raccoons by feeding them.
- Keep pet food and water dishes inside, especially at night.
- Do not allow spills to accumulate below bird feeders.
- Keep grills and barbecues clean. Even small food scraps may attract raccoons.
- If possible, do not keep garbage cans outside.
- Trim tree limbs that provide access to your roof.
- Repair broken, weak or rotted areas on your roof, soffit and fascia.
- Install and maintain chimney caps before animals move into your chimney.
- Use welded wire to prevent animals from accessing openings under decks, elevated sheds, concrete slabs and porches.
- Use welded wire on the inside of attic vents to deny access to the attic if the covers are removed.
- Wrap a 4- to 6-foot-wide piece of aluminum flashing around tree trunks so that raccoons cannot get a foothold on the bark. Make sure the aluminum flashing is a minimum of 4 feet from the ground. This will deny the raccoons access to the tree and your roof. This provides an immediate solution, but you should leave the flashing up for five to seven days.
- Grease downspouts with a mixture of petroleum jelly and crushed red pepper. Raccoons will be unable to climb the downspout due to the slippery surface. This provides an immediate solution, but you should keep the downspouts greased for five to seven days.
- Place lighting, such as bright flashlights, flood lamps or blinking strands of holiday lights, in the den. It is best to leave the lights on 24 hours a day. If this is not possible, the lights must be on during the day to disturb the animal’s sleep.
- Play a radio, portable alarm clock, noisy children’s toy or anything that makes noise repeatedly either in or near the den. It is best to have the sound on for 24 hours a day. If this is not possible, the sound must be on during the day to disturb the animal’s sleep.
- Place ammonia-soaked rags in the den for one week. (Ammonia has an irritating smell.) Over time, the ammonia will dissipate, so it is important to resoak the rags daily. Do not use ammonia-soaked rags March through August; they may injure infant wildlife too young to escape.
- If the animal has established a den site in a chimney, usually on the smoke shelf in the fireplace flue, use the same techniques listed above. Lower a light down into the chimney, place a bowl of ammonia on the fireplace grate, and place a radio inside the fireplace. Do not try to “smoke out” the animals. They can be overcome with smoke, and then you will be faced with physically removing them yourself.
For deterrents to be successful, it is important to use all of the techniques at the same time. To determine if an animal has left a den site, wad up newspaper, and pack it into the den entrance. (This also helps to hold in ammonia fumes.) If the animal is still using the den, the newspaper will be pulled out. If after a few days the newspaper has not been disturbed, securely repair any openings. Failure to do so may result in another animal moving in.
*These prevention and deterrent tips apply to squirrels and skunks as well.
The striped skunk is an interesting mammal with a unique striped black-and-white coat, bouncing walk and an air of confidence. The confidence is the result of a remarkable defense system: Glands beneath the skunk’s tail produce an oily, sulfurous substance that it can spray, with dismaying accuracy, up to 10 feet, temporarily disabling the senses of a potential attacker and allowing the skunk to escape.
Skunks are nocturnal, burrowing members of the weasel family, with a diet that includes insects, other small animals, fruits and carrion. Many of the insects skunks eat are bothersome to humans.
Living in Your Yard
Skunks are at home in a variety of habitats but prefer forest borders where water is nearby. Cities and suburbs provide adequate food and shelter. Common den sites include abandoned woodchuck burrows, hollow logs, and wood or brush piles; openings under buildings, elevated sheds, concrete slabs and porches; and crawl spaces under houses.
Prevention/Deterents …see ‘Raccoons”
For more information visit Willowbrook Wildlife Center’s website where you’ll find additional animals including the following:
Gems of Glen Ellyn - A Guide to Beautiful Trees
As you look forward to spring and summer gardening, look to native plants. This plentiful selection of perennials, shrubs and trees are beautiful, easy to care for and support wildlife including beneficial insects.
A few specifics about this group of plants:
Native plants (also called indigenous plants) are plants that have evolved over thousands of years in a particular region. They have adapted to the geography, hydrology, and climate of that region. Native plants occur in communities, that is, they have evolved together with other plants. As a result, a community of native plants provides habitat for a variety of native wildlife species such as songbirds and butterflies.
Native plants do not require fertilizers. Vast amounts of fertilizers are applied to lawns and beds. Excess phosphorus and nitrogen (the main components of fertilizers) run off into lakes and rivers causing excess algae growth. This depletes oxygen in our waters, harms aquatic life and interferes with recreational uses.
Native plants provide shelter and food for wildlife. Native plants attract a variety of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife by providing diverse habitats and food sources.
Native plants promote biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage. In the U.S., approximately 20 million acres of lawn are cultivated, covering more land than any single crop. Native plants are a part of our natural heritage. Natural landscaping is an opportunity to reestablish diverse native plants, thereby inviting the birds and butterflies back home.
Listed here are a few plants to consider. These plants are well suited to the scale of a home garden.
Perennial Grasses and Flowers:
Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)
Little Blue Stem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Northern Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)
Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea pallida & purpurea)
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnate)
Sand Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
Blazing Star (Liatris aspera & pycnostachya)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Goldenrod (Solidago speciose & reddellii)
Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)
Smooth Blue Aster (Aster laevis)
Phlox (Phlox paniculata & pilosa)
Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinum corymbosum)
Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris)
Wild Black Currant (Ribes americanum)
Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)
Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
Serviceberry (Amelancheir laevis & grandiflora)
Pagoda Dogwood (Cornum alternifolia)
American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana)
Oaks such as Bur, Red, White, Swamp White & Shingle for use as shade trees
The Gems of Glen Ellyn is a PDF book that offers detailed glimpses of 28 trees commonly found in Glen Ellyn. To download this book CLICK HERE