Charlie Nardozzi

Host, Vermont Garden Journal

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. You can learn more about organic gardening at Growing with Charlie Nardozzi . Charlie is a guest on VPR's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.

Ways to Connect

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The days are getting shorter and cooler and it's time to start protecting your tender plants. Whether it be a favorite rosemary, a houseplant you moved outdoors for summer or a tender perennial in the ground, there are different ways to protect those plants from the cold.

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As the Vermont Mandatory Recycling & Composting Law creeps closer to the 2020 deadline, it's time for all gardeners to think about food scrap composting. While waste haulers and composting operations are starting to take food scraps as part of their business models, home owners should get creative about food scrap composting, too.

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It's officially autumn. While most of us are busy harvesting the last veggies, cutting back perennials and cleaning up the yard after a hot, dry summer, fall is also for planting.

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It's been a good year for tomatoes in my garden. I've canned, frozen and juiced lots of fruits, so I'm all set for winter. But there's more to tomatoes than just the garden variety hybrids and heirlooms. One of the best tomato relatives to grow is the tomatillo.

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With a switch to more seasonable weather, fall is starting to take hold. While drought and heat stress have some of our maples turning color already, the big show this time of year is the wildflowers in our meadows. Goldenrod, Queen Anne's lace and asters are blooming. These fall wildflowers are an essential food source for butterflies and insects. While you certainly can plant a wildflower meadow and enjoy the beauty of the annual and perennial flowers, managing your existing meadow is also important.

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One practice I try to do in my garden is never let the soil stay bare. Each year as I remove vegetables such as garlic, beans, and lettuce, I cover crop those areas. Covering the soil with plant material prevents erosion and builds up the fertility and workability of your soil.

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The naming of plants can be deceiving. Take the Rose of Sharon shrub that's blooming now around the state. This plant isn't in the rose family. Even the botanical name, Hibiscus Syriacus is only half correct. It has a hibiscus or mallow-shaped flower, but the shrub doesn't hail from Syria, more likely India or China.


We've waited a long time for peaches, pears, and apples to mature. The last thing we want to see on our daily fruit stroll is no fruit. Squirrels, birds, raccoons and opossums love the fruits hanging from our trees. What really bugs me is that often they will take a peck or bite, knock the fruits off the tree and leave it. What poor manners!


With our changing climate, I've noticed fall has become a great time to garden. Specifically, we like to plant crops that mature in the cool, fall weather. I've found with our extended falls, by planting crops that can take a light freeze, we can have an abundance of fresh veggies in autumn beyond winter squash, leeks and potatoes.


With all the talk about Russia in the news, it got me thinking about a plant that's actually a good thing. Russian sage is actually not Russian nor in the sage family. It hales from the steppes of Central Asia and it's in the mint family. Its botanical name comes from the Russian General Perovskia, who campaigned in this region in the 1800's. The plant does emit an odor when the leaves are crushed, but this sage isn't used for cooking. It does have a history of being used medicinally and as a dye plant.

Calla lilies are a southern favorite but can also grow well in Vermont during hot, summer weather.
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“The calla lilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower—suitable to any occasion. I carried them on my wedding day, and now I place them here in memory of something that has died.” Katherine Hepburn in the movie, "Stage Door," had one thing right about calla lilies - they are a versatile flower.

When growing fall raspberries or blueberries, you'll need to protect them from a new pest known as the drosophila fruit fly.
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If you're growing fall raspberries or blueberries, chances are you're starting to see this pest. Or you're seeing the symptoms of this pest. If you've noticed your ripening blueberries or raspberries shriveling on the plant or turning into a maggot-filled mess after sitting on the counter for a few days, you probably have spotted the winged drosophila fruit fly.

The canna lily is perfect for adding late-summer color to a garden that gets full sun and has moist soil.
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We can thank the Victorians of the late 1800's for many things, including the canna lily. This tropical American native, wasn't grown in gardens until Victorian-era gardeners came upon them. Now canna lilies are a standard, grouped in clumps in gardens or planted in decorative containers.

The chore of thinning apple, pear, plum and peach trees is crucial for producing good quality fruit.
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There are a few gardening chores that break your heart. I hate removing self-sown annual flowers and snipping off pepper flowers from young plants. But I mostly cringe at thinning my fruit trees. I work hard to grow a fruit tree to the mature fruiting stage, so removing any fruit seems like a crime. But thinning fruit trees is essential and you should do it now.

Euphorbia is one of many flowering plants that grow well in shady areas.
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It seems every perennial flower garden I visit, or grow, has some area that's challenging. Often, the solution is simply growing the right plant in the right place. So let me run through a few perennial flowers for problem places in your yard.

Netting is the simplest solution to keep birds off of fruit trees, but you can also try hanging pie-tins, old CDs or reflective tape.
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As a gardener living near a mix of fields, forest, wetlands and a pond, I have a love/hate relationship with birds. Although I understand that everyone needs to eat, it's difficult to nurse along a strawberry, blueberry, grape or cherry crop, only to have the harvest stolen by birds.

Harvest basil as soon as enough leaves have formed to encourage further growth.
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When I was in the Peace Corps in Thailand, I remember a green leaf used as a spice in one of my first meals. It had an anise flavor but looked familiar. It was my first experience with Thai basil. Many years later, I was drinking a flavorful tea in India and again noticed a familiar leaf with a distinct clove-like flavor. It was Tulsi tea made from holy basil. My point is, there are a lot of unique flavored basils from around the world. 

Tiger lilies spread easily, grow in a wide range of soils and return each year with little care.
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The Korean folk story tells of a hermit who saw a tiger that was wounded by an arrow. The hermit helped the tiger by removing the arrow and they became friends. When the tiger died, the hermit used his magical powers to turn him into a lily. When the hermit died, the tiger lily started spreading, looking for his friend. Tiger lilies are still searching and spreading around the globe ever since.

Amaranth is grown commercially as a grain crop but can also be planted in your garden as a leafy green for salads.
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Amaranth has been called the food of the gods, superfood of the Aztecs and the next “quinoa.” But we know amaranth as mostly an ornamental plant with colorful, weeping flower heads. While farmers continue to experiment with growing amaranth commercially as a grain crop, another way to enjoy this American vegetable is as a leafy green that you can grow in your garden.

Elderberry shrubs produce beautiful leaves and tasty berries even in poor gorwing conditions.
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The elderberry is an American shrub that's great for problem-places. It grows in full or partial sun and can withstand wet, clay soils and still thrive.