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.

Subscribe to the Vermont Garden Journal Podcast and RSS

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

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?
tvirbickis/iStock

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, istockphoto.com

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.

An essential oil bottle next to lavender flowers laying down on a surface.
Amy_Lv / iStock

The name "lavender" comes from the Latin word meaning "to wash" — referring to the Mediterranean herb's use in baths, beds and clothing. Its oil is used medicinally as an antibacterial, anti-convulsive, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic. Queen Victoria even used it to soothe her nerves. This herb also adds a slightly sweet flavor to breads, soups, salads and desserts — and it can be grown here in Vermont!

Not only does flowering quince provide food for pollinating bees, but its fruit can be used to make jam for human consumption.
Marrakeshh / iStock

With spring knocking at our door, sort of, I'm always on the lookout for signs of the season. One shrub that fails to disappoint in my garden is the flowering quince or Chaenomeles.

Originating in India, the traditional cucumber has evolved over the past 3,000 years and includes an assortment of shapes and colors.
bhofack2 / iStock

The cucumber as we know it from our salad bowl is, in fact, a 3,000 year old vegetable from India. There are many variations of this melon-friendly veggie; let's look at a few. 

Your indoor seedlings may be pushing through the soil but even they need some extra TLC from time to time.
iStock/Vaivirga

The days are getting longer, the sun is stronger and with warm weather this week, gardeners are thinking about sowing seeds. Though it's still too early to sow outdoors, you can start seeds indoors and you may already have seedlings popping up. But sometimes your little seedlings don't look very happy. This could be due to a number of factors. So, let's do some seed-starting problem-solving.

When starting seeds indoors, open trays are good for large quantities while cell trays are best for smaller amounts.
pepifoto / iStock

We're getting closer to indoor seed-starting time. Actually, some vegetables seeds, like leeks, could have been started already. But if you're new to indoor seed-starting or need a refresher, let's walk through the basic steps to growing transplants in your home.

Long-stemmed roses are a traditional Valentine's Day flower, but miniature roses are just as pretty, will continue blooming and can even be moved outdoors.
Kusska / iStock

It's almost Valentine's Day and, of course, the flower of love is the rose. But this year, instead of giving the usual cut roses, why not a rose plant? Miniature roses come in many shapes, with some being three- to four-feet tall, but still called miniature. But I'm thinking of the micro-mini rose plants found in garden centers and floral shops. These grow around 12- to 18-inches tall with small, colorful, fragrant flowers and can be grown indoors and outside.

In order to keep a pollinator garden active through the growing season, a diversity of flowers is needed to produce nectar and pollen.
Jill Lang / iStock

Monarch butterflies and honey bees have become the poster children for the plight of pollinating insects. More and more, we are realizing the importance they play in our food system and ecology. While the threat is global, there are things we can do in our own yards to help the local populations, like creating a pollinator garden.

When planning a cottage garden, remember to allow space for a seating area to sit back and enjoy your creation.
bauhaus1000 / iStock

Everyone loves cottage gardens! They overflow with color, texture and exuberance. This informal design is not simply “letting things go,” but more aptly called organized chaos. There's a method to the madness and and some elements to consider.

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