Nardozzi in the house: Popular Vermont gardening expert shares his knowledge at Charlotte Grange Hall

Photo by Scooter MacMillan
Nordozzi, host of the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio, entertained and enlightened gardeners with his horticultural humor at the Charlotte Grange.

Staff writer

Charlie Nardozzi is as wise, witty and enthralling in person as he sounds on the radio.

And his knowledge of gardening is … fertile.

Around 35 people packed the downstairs meeting room at the Charlotte Grange on May 15 to reap the gardening tips and horticultural humor that Nardozzi sows.

Nardozzi is the host of the Vermont Garden Journal on Vermont Public Radio. He also has weekly radio shows on WJOY-1230AM in Burlington and Connecticut Public Radio. He is a nationally known gardening speaker, consultant and coach and has written several books on gardening including “Northeast Fruit and Vegetable Gardening.”

His talk was scheduled by the Charlotte Library as part of the library’s Gardeners’ Support series.

In her introduction of Nardozzi, Linda Hamilton, coordinator of the seed library, said the Charlotte Grange “is a nifty place to have a meeting like this because it’s completely soaked and saturated with agricultural history.”

Nardozzi’s talk was on vegetable and fruit growing in our region. He discussed “bugs, diseases and weeds.”

He advocated not immediately spraying something on your plants to take care of a problem and encouraged gardeners to “step back” from the issue.

“Don’t immediately think of spraying something,” Nardozzi said.

Instead, he recommended an integrated pest management (IPM) approach, a holistic approach that is often used by organic practitioners and even traditional farmers because it makes sense, saves money and is better on the environment.

“It’s great that you’re talking about pests now and not in July, because you can implement some of these things now,” said Nardozzi. “Come July it’s much harder to take care of the pests.”

Identify the pest, understand the lifecycle, habitats and habits of pests and then “implement some cultural controls.” Whether animal, insect, weed or whatever it is, anticipating and using proactive controls is part of the IPM strategy. Crop rotation, selecting resistant varieties and sanitation are some of the proactive things a grower can do, instead of waiting until they’ve got a problem and reacting by spraying (and possibly hurting other plants or animals).

Nardozzi recommended barriers or traps to keep pests away from vegetables. Barriers can be floating row covers of light weight material that are available at gardening centers. Tulle, the light weight fabric used for wedding dresses, veils or tutus, also makes good barriers to keep out pests.

Nardozzi argued again and again the benefits of just picking insects off plants.

“If you’ve got a garden that’s struggling, you’ve planted the wrong plant in the wrong place,” he said.

Nardozzi stressed the importance of working on your soil. After he moved into his house, he spent most of the first year working on the soil, didn’t plant much and he thinks that’s why his garden does so well.

Nardoozi said that the key to dealing with slugs and snails is “understanding what slugs and snails like … which is Vermont.”

Setting out bowls or open containers with beer as traps is one of the best solutions to the problem.

“They’ve actually done research at Colorado State University,” he said. “Heineken is the beer of choice of slugs and snails.”

He said the simple solution for aphids is “blasting them off” your plants onto the ground with a spray nozzle on your hose, but you’ll have to do this every day or so for a while because aphids reproduce rapidly and often.

Nardoozi is a big fan of not spraying dandelions to kill them – both because he’s not an advocate of spraying haphazardly but also because he loves eating them. The end of their best harvesting time is quickly approaching because once they’ve gone to flower, they get bitter. He recommended finding a shady spot where they’re still tender and saut’eeing them with some garlic and olive oil.

He even grows varieties of dandelions that are good for eating because they don’t bloom much.

Nardoozi said that he doesn’t tend to mulch his vegetable garden anymore. Over the years he’s gone through a variety of such coverings such as plastics, hay and mulches, but not anymore.

Nardozzi said one way to deal with nuisance deer is to use predator urine like coyote, adding, “I always wonder how they collect that.”

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