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Here at Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary we have gone through almost the whole month of May with only .3 inches of rain and it has also been very windy. These kinds of conditions can be hard for many of our plants. What to do?

We have numerous gardens over a 75 acre parcel on the Sanctuary – although this is a small part of the Sanctuary, it is what we consider our “public area” and we want it to look nice for visitors on the trails. We do water in some areas, but it is not possible to thoroughly water all the gardens, nor would I want to do that. I know that once the soil dries, it is very difficult to get it wet again and whatever rain we may get will mostly roll off the surface rather than soak in. So, we try to water the gardens to add some surface moisture to help the gardens be more receptive to any natural rain that we may get. Mulch also helps our gardens retain moisture that is present in the soil. Therefore, almost all of our gardens are well mulched.

I find that the best way to handle most weather anomalies is to plant appropriate native species in their proper habitats. Woodland wildflowers are found in woodland settings with rich organic soils that hold additional water in periods of drought. Sandy soils around the pond garden contain plants found on Cape Cod which are used to dealing with poor conditions throughout the year. Bog plants are found in areas that are seasonally wet (even during a drought).

Our native plants are used to the conditions that we find in New England. They are able to endure periodic droughts, wind or excessive rain. Our gardens feature native plants and walking through them can help you identify plants for your garden that will tolerate our periodic strange weather. Many native plants are now also available in many local nurseries. Pick up our “Nurseries for Natives” lists to help you find these native plants.

No garden, whether native or all garden perennials will stay beautiful and untarnished during bad weather conditions. However, using natives that expect some extremes can help your gardens continue to look great with a minimum amount of water. Fortunately, our drought is not as extreme as in other locations in the country. Please check out our Current Bloom List to see what plants you can see in our gardens this week.

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