Vermont Garden Journal

Fridays at 5:55p.m., Sunday at 9:34a.m.

The Vermont Garden Journal is a weekly program hosted by horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi. Each week, Nardozzi will focus on a topic that's relevant to both new and experienced gardeners, including pruning lilac bushes, growing blight-free tomatoes, groundcovers, sunflowers, bulbs, pests and more.

Hear the Vermont Garden Journal Friday afternoons at 5:55pm and Sunday mornings at 9:34am.

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Visit the VPR Archive for Vermont Garden Journal programs before 4/19/2013.


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 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.
David Gomez / iStock

“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.
ansonmiao / iStock

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.
Nova Art / iStock

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.
nerudol / iStock

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.
wichatsurin / iStock

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.
Eplisterra / iStock

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.
Kirin Photo / iStock

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.
Ken Wiedemann / iStock

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.
SVIP_CRO / iStock

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.
mantonature / iStock

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.

Many bean poles are built with branches but you can also grow beans on wire fence, corn stalks or sunflowers.
David Gomez / iStock

Beans date back thousands of years to South America. While most gardeners grow the low, bush version, this plant was originally a sprawling climber. While bush beans - and stringless bush beans in particular -  are a modern vegetable, pole or runner beans are more versatile.

These days, broccoli comes in unusual sizes, colors and textures which makes planting and eating this staple vegetable lots of fun!
fcafotodigital / iStock

Broccoli has become a popular vegetable in many gardens and on many plates. But not all broccoli is created equal. There are some unusual heirlooms and hybrids on the market that can make growing  broccoli downright fun!

The snapdragon is a resilient flower that can be grown in beds or containers, withstands frost and heat, and blooms in an array of colors.
baone / iStock

The snapdragon is a common, annual flower that originated in Southern Europe. Its name is appropriate since the botanical term means “snout-like” and the flowers look like jaws and a snout. In fact, you can squeeze the side of the flowers and make the petals move. Whatever variety you prefer, now's the time to plant them.

Heirloom tomatoes offer interesting shapes, flavors and colors while hybrid varieties give you disease-resistant and uniform produce. Is one better than another?

For many years I've debated about growing hybrid or heirloom tomatoes in our garden. Heirlooms, such as Speckled Roman, Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra, offer interesting plant shapes and colorful fruits with enticing flavors. Hybrids, like Celebrity and Big Beef offer uniformity, disease resistance and productivity. Usually I grow a few of each. Now there are new hybrids available that combine the taste and look of heirlooms with the consistency of a hybrid.

Foxgloves look best when planted in groups in a flower garden and can grow in full sun or partial shade.
ca2hill / iStock

There's a story about a fox trying to steal chickens from a farmer. Every time the fox got close to the coop, the chickens heard him coming, started squawking, and the farmer came out to chase him away. One day, a woodland fairy came to the fox and suggested he take the open blooms from a nearby flower and place one on each foot and try again. He did and was successful, stealing a chicken for dinner. The plant he used was the foxglove. You may not believe the story but you can't deny foxgloves are beautiful flowers.

Before producing fruit, the Corneilian cherry tree comes alive in spring with brilliant yellow blooms that birds and bees are fond of.
Clement Peiffer / iStock

I just finished pruning my cherry trees. While I love the taste of the sweet and tart cherries, there are a few other cherries to consider for your yard.

Similar to these traditional raised beds, a keyhole raised bed not only gets you gardening sooner in spring, but also saves space.
mtreasure / iStock

It's time to start thinking about your vegetable garden. Many gardeners have transitioned from flat, straight rows to raised beds. Raised beds warm up faster in spring, drain water sooner and allow you to garden more intensively without as much work. But the next level of raised beds is the keyhole bed.

David Gomez,

I was on a roll in early March pruning my fruits. Then it snowed, got cold and I retreated to the cozy fire. But my blueberries still need pruning and once the snow melts, I'll be back at it.