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Taming invasives, pruning lilac and tackling disease — Charlie Nardozzi answers gardeners' questions

A blooming flower garden with brown wicker chair on a green lawn in summer.
Late spring gardening can present with different challenges, like rampant weeds, pruning questions and pests. Charlie Nardozzi answers listeners' questions to help set them up for gardening success later this summer and even into next season.

Late spring's warmer temperatures, frequent sun and soaking rains provide the perfect growing conditions for home gardens. Charlie Nardozzi answers lots of gardeners' questions about their plants, trees, weeds and no-dig methods.

Late spring temperatures, frequent sun and rains have brought a burgeoning growth to many home gardens in our region. With that comes lots of audience questions on their gardening issues, whether it's controlling weeds or when and how to prune blossoming bushes and trees. Gardening expert Charlie Nardozzi helps answer them!

Which forget-me-nots are invasive and how do I control them?

Q: I just learned that some forget-me-nots are invasive in the Upper Valley. My lawn and garden are full of them. They're so pretty and welcoming in spring and summer. How does a water forget-me-not differ from one that's not near water? And should I be pulling them out and mowing them or just leaving them alone? - Laurie, in Norwich

A: Some forget-me-nots can become invasive in certain conditions and out-compete native plants. The water forget-me-nots have larger leaves than the other type. They grow in much the same way, though — flowering, looking beautiful in the spring and then creating tons of seed.

It's the forget-me-not seed that will continue to drop and spread, so removing as much as you can is recommended. You can pull them out before they go to seed by chopping or cutting them down or using a garden trimmer.

How to keep viburnum from getting lanky

Q: My viburnum is just about in full bloom. It's getting big. I'm afraid it'll get lanky. When should I prune it and how much do I prune it? - Laurie, in Norwich

A: If you have a viburnum that is blooming now, prune it in early spring. Viburnum produce lots of blooms so you won't be missing many if you prune it and doing so might open it up a little bit. This will help it come back into shape for you.

Lilac bushes with lots of bare spots and no blooms

Q: Every year I prune my lilacs when they are done blooming. The blossoms are prolific this year but some blossoms are just dropping off as soon as they bloom. That's never happened before. Any thoughts on that cause? Plus, there are sections of each lilac bush that have no blooms at all, just healthy looking new growth and leaves. - Amy, in Calais

A: Wilting lilac blossoms could have been due to wet, cool weather we had in early spring. Different fungi thrive in those conditions and can attack the blossoms of flowers, especially if they are blooming on new stems.

And any areas that are not blooming on your lilac bush could be due to a couple of reasons: not enough sunlight or improper pruning.

If the bare spots are due to pruning issues, you can remedy that. In the beginning of July, lilacs are setting their flower buds for the next year. Any pruning should be done now, before that happens. Pruning lilacs later results in fewer flowers next year.

Remedying skinny rhubarb stalks

Q: I have a well-established, healthy rhubarb bed with several plants that yield beautiful stalks. I harvested several good-sized stalks from each plant but there are many that are thin. Will they grow thicker with a second compost or should I just pull them and hope that the next stalks will be larger? - Ann, in St. Albans

A: You can try to pull up the thin rhubarb stalks, but the next ones probably won't be any larger. At this point in late spring, rhubarb is moving along in its life cycle. By summer, it will begin to die back.

The best thing to do is to give it some compost this spring to set up the stalks for next season.

What is causing pale, curled up peach tree leaves?

Q: Just when I was thinking maybe this year, I'll get peaches, I noticed some sort of leaf problem on a scary number of branches. The leaves are pale in color and they're all curled up. Do you know what it is? - Diane, in Rutland

A: That's peach leaf curl, a disease that affects peach trees. The good news is it won't kill the tree, but the leaves will all drop off eventually.

When they do, you'll want to clean them up so peach leaf curl doesn't infect the tree next year.

Then, in late winter — February or March when temperatures go above 40 degrees — try spraying your tree with a fixed copper spray. Apply it to the branches and trunk of the peach tree.

The treatment will kill any overwintering peach leaf curl spores, so you won't have the problem next year.

How to kill weeds before starting a no-dig bed

Q: I've been trying to do no-dig gardening but my garden is filled with obstinate weeds, especially clover. Is this because I don't have time to mulch and manure? Should I mow the clover and then cover them with cardboard or plastic or just dig them up? - Kristen, in Sunderland

A: To mitigate a full clover takeover, mow it all down and then use the technique that you mentioned to kill off weeds, known as solarizing. It involves getting some clear plastic and laying it directly on the soil. Weight the plastic down with rocks or other weights to keep it close to the soil, then just leave it there for a number of weeks.

More from Vermont Public: Step Away From That Trowel And Try "No-Dig" Gardening This Spring

Not having access to sunlight will kill off the clover. Once it's killed off, you can begin creating your no-dig garden right on top.

Using shavings from a chicken coop in the garden

Q: Can I use six-month-old pine shavings from my chicken coop in my no-dig garden bed? - Kristen, in Sunderland

A: If the shavings are six months old, they should have broken down well enough. You can use the shavings in some of the layers for your no-dig garden bed. You could also use the shavings in between your garden rows, too.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, our audience! Send us your toughest conundrums and join the fun. Email your question to or better yet, leave a voicemail with your gardening question so we can use your voice on the air! Call Vermont Public at 1-800-639-2192.

Listen to All Things Gardening Sunday mornings at 9:35 a.m., and subscribe to the podcast to listen any time.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.