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Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans)
Do you have caterpillars lurking beneath the leaves of your shrubs?
 
If they look like the yellow bells shrub, pictured above, probably not.
 
 
But, if your leaves look as if a vampire came along and sucked them dry, then they are there, whether you can see them or not. Other telltale signs include little black pellets, which are caterpillar ‘poop’. 
 
Damaged bougainvillea leaves
 
Bougainvillea can also fall prey to hungry caterpillars, who leave behind ragged holes and edges.
 
So, what do you do?  Nothing?  Or should you pull out all the stops to get rid of them?
 
I address these questions and more in my latest video:
 
 

 

Do you use any power tools to keep your landscape looking its best?

If you are like me, you may have a hedge trimmer and perhaps a leaf blower, or both.  

When I was contacted by the folks at Troy-Bilt to review their newest line of garden equipment that is powered by CORE technology, I was very excited to partner with them and I was provided with the products free of charge. Each piece of this equipment uses a rechargeable battery.  Their equipment line includes a hedge trimmer, leaf blower, string trimmer and a lawn mower.

Due to my previous experience with the quality of Troy-Bilt products, I have high expectations for these new tools will share my experiences with a video.

 
CORE technology means that the “power comes from the motor and not the battery.”  
 
According to Troy-Bilt, “the controller communicates with the CORE motor to monitor how hard it’s working and senses when the motor needs more power and automatically calls for more energy from the battery. So when you need maximum power, CORE answers. The controller efficiently manages the transfer of energy from the battery to the motor to deliver maximum runtime from every charge”.
 
The equipment is simple to put together, and the instructions are clear and easy to follow.  I couldn’t wait to use both of them on a particular problem area in my landscape.
 
 
I have an informal hedge of white gaura growing in my front garden, but within its depths lurks an infestation of bermudagrass.  The grass was left over from when we renovated the landscape and took out the lawn.  As usually happens, sometimes grass can re-emerge, which is what happened here.
 
Unfortunately, I am now at the point that where the grass is threatening to take over my gaura, so drastic measures need to be taken.
 
To solve the problem, I have to prune back the gaura severely so that I can get to the base of the grass and dig it out.  So, I will use the hedge trimmers to prune the gaura back severely and then the leaf blower to help clean up the area afterward.
 
 
Troy-Bilt’s CORE hedge trimmer is effective and not too heavy for me to use comfortably.  I am impressed at how easily it cut through the old stems without getting tangled up.
 
 
I have had the opportunity to test over five different Troy-Bilt blowers over the past few years and this one is my favorite.  It is very powerful, easy to hold, and simple to use.
 
Battery-powered technology paired with Troy-Bilt’s CORE engine creates powerful garden equipment that is easy to use. The power of their tools rivals those with gas-powered engines.  Now, I don’t have to worry about messing around with power cords – no more rolling and unrolling electrical cords, accidentally cutting the cord, or having to constantly move the cord out of my way.  I also don’t miss having to fill gas engines up with fuel.
 
One thing that is important to note is that the battery should only be charged at temperatures between 32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  So, for those who live in areas with extremely cold or hot climates, the battery will need to be charged indoors.
 
All of the CORE power garden equipment operate off of the same battery.  Each tool comes with a battery and charger, but you can order additional tools without the battery if you  have one from other CORE products.
 
To learn more about Troy-Bilt’s line of CORE products and how they work, click here.
 
*I was offered the hedge trimmer and blower free of charge from the folks at Troy-Bilt with the expectation of an honest review.

I don’t think that my sister’s chicken has ever seen a caterpillar that large before.

Do you think she will eat it?  Or will the caterpillar emerge victorious?
I’ll let you know at the end of this post…

Those of you who have ever grown tomatoes probably recognize this green, horned caterpillar.


If you are not familiar with this green menace, let me introduce you to the ‘tomato hornworm’.

As their name suggests, they love to eat tomatoes and the leaves on their plants.

What you may not know is that also like to eat potato, pepper and eggplants as well.

What is even worse, is that they can be a little hard to find.  With their green color, they blend in well with the tomato plants.  Tomato hornworms also tend to hide underneath the leaves.

At this point you may be wondering if you have these pesky caterpillars on your tomato plants.  How can you tell?  

Well, some telltale signs include holes eaten from the leaves and tomatoes.  You may also see little green pellets (caterpillar poop) on the leaves.

The only way to know for certain is to go looking for them.


So what do you do if you find out your tomatoes are infested with these caterpillars and how did they get there in the first place?


Well, tomato hornworms grow up into moths who in turn, lay eggs on the underside of tomato leaves.  The eggs hatch in about a week and the newly emerged caterpillars start eating non-stop for 4 – 6 weeks.


As if that weren’t enough bad news, as the caterpillars grow larger, they eat more.  After about a month on gorging themselves, they drop into the soil where they form a cocoon and transform into a moth who will start the cycle again by laying eggs.


How can you do to get rid of them?


Well, there are a few ways to get rid of them and even help to prevent them in the future.


– The easiest way to get rid of a current infestation of tomato hornworms is to simply pick them off and dunk them into soapy water, which kills them.


– If pulling off large, green caterpillars isn’t your thing, then you can spray them with a product that contains Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), which infects the stomach of the hornworm, killing it.  Bt is safe for animals and plants.


– There are some wasps that will act as parasites to the caterpillars and lay their eggs directly onto them.  The eggs hatch and the larvae eat the caterpillar.


Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have to deal with tomato hornworms at all.  So, I am all about prevention.


– In the fall, till the soil around your tomato plants.  This will unearth any cocoons that are attempting to overwinter in the soil, which kills them.  Do this again in spring, before planting new tomato plants.  This is usually 90% effective in getting rid of tomato hornworm cocoons before the moth emerges.


Okay, so back to the chicken, caterpillar face-off…


My sister’s chicken Francie is a ‘naked-neck’ chicken and yes, she is supposed to look that way 😉

It turns out that the chickens were a little put off by the large size of the caterpillars.  So, they wouldn’t touch them.


That is until… the caterpillars were cut up into smaller pieces.  Then the chickens couldn’t eat them fast enough. (I know, kind of gross, isn’t it?)


**I want to thank my sister, Grace, for her fabulous pictures.  You can find out more about her photography, here.