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I love my garden, filled with trees that provide welcome filtered shade along with flowering shrubs. While my garden gives me joy, it does take maintenance to keep it healthy and looking its best.

The primary maintenance chore I have is pruning, which I enjoy doing. 

What I don’t like is cleaning up the clippings, and I often ask my kids to drag them to the trash can or the curb for bulk pickup. However, that was then, and I have a new tool to help me with dealing with the aftermath of pruning. My new Troy-Bilt Chipper Shredder will take the stems and small branches and shred them into mulch.

*As a brand ambassador, I was provided the CS4295 Chipper Shredder free of charge, for my honest review.

The chipper shredder has two areas where you can insert plant material. The top part is called the ‘hopper’ and is where stems and branches that are less than the width of pencil are added, which are pulverized into mulch that is expelled into a white bag attached off to the side.

Branches under 2-inches in diameter are fed through the ‘chipper chute’ and are expelled into the collection bag. It was fun to use and I was pleased how quickly my pile of branches was decreasing in size.

In the end, my two large piles were reduced to a much smaller pile of shredded leaves and stems. Instead of throwing out piles of plant clippings, I now have great material for my compost pile. It is also suitable to use as mulch for putting around my plants. However, you’ll want to age the mulch for 3 – 6 months before applying or it can use up the nitrogen that plants need while it breaks down.

This photo says it all. My Troy-Bilt Chipper Shredder took two piles of branches, that would have filled up most of my trash can, and reduced them to a small pile of mulch suitable for my garden. 

*Disclosure: As a Troy-Bilt brand ambassador, the chipper shredder was provided to me at no cost by TroyBilt to review for my honest opinion.

Disclaimer: This garden adventure to Savannah was provided by Troy-Bilt at no cost to me, however, my thoughts and opinions are my own.

After our first full day in Savannah, we woke to a beautiful morning and got ready for a day working at the Savannah Botanical Gardens.

The folks at Troy-Bilt organized this service project, along with the organization, Planet In Action, whose purpose was to donate materials and labor for the Children’s Garden section. As part of a group of garden bloggers, who are Troy-Bilt ambassadors, I was eager to take part in this event.

The garden suffered damage from Hurricane Matthew last year, and we were asked to create additional feature areas for the children’s section. 

Existing garden features included a fun twist on a ‘bed of flowers.’

A ‘pizza garden’ filled with plants that are frequently found on top of a pizza.

A fun spot to pose for a picture with friends.

Instructions were given, and we paired off to work on one of four projects. They included creating a dedicated seating area for the kids (complete with new benches), planting an orchard, adding a berry patch, and a new path between the main gardens and the children’s section.

We had worked on the design for the new spaces ahead of time, so were able to get right to work, once we arrived.

I worked on the berry patch planting blueberries and thornless blackberries. Using an auger made it easy to dig holes – I wonder if I can ask for one for Christmas?

The orchard was planted with lemon, orange, and fig trees.

New planting beds were added around the corners of the concrete pad.

Benches were installed once planting was finished.

A pathway was created, leading to the main gardens and the children’s with daylilies and ornamental grasses.

A film crew recorded the transformation of the garden and the story behind it.

We took a quick pause to take a photo of our original Troy-Bilt group with Amy Andrychowicz of Get Busy Gardening, Helen Yoest of Gardening With Confidence, Dave Townsend, of Growing the Home Garden, and myself. This is the third time that we have gathered together working with Troy-Bilt.

Once the projects were finished, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the new areas, and Troy-Bilt gifted the gardens with a check to assist with their upkeep.

The Savannah Botanical Gardens is a hidden gem that offers free admission to all and it was a pleasure to work with the folks who volunteer their time and talents to keep it running. 

We joined with new garden blogger friends to create these new areas, including Teresa O’Connor of Seasonal Wisdom, Rochelle Greayer of Pith & Vigor, Kenny Point of Veggie Gardening Tips, Eric Rochow of Garden Fork TV, Erin Schanen of The Impatient Gardener, and Kim Wilson of Sand & Sisal.

If you ever find yourself in Savannah, I encourage you to visit this special garden.

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.

After a long, hot and wet summer, I am so thankful that fall has finally arrived in the desert Southwest.

 
For many people, autumn brings to mind brightly colored foliage that later falls to the ground and has to be raked, or if you are lucky – cleaned up using your leaf blower.
 
In partnership with the folks at Troy-Bilt and a member of the Saturday 6, I am fortunate in being able to test a variety of their products in my own garden and share with you my honest opinion.
 
Recently, I was was very excited to test one of their newest garden tools – the TB2MB JET Gas Leaf Blower.
 
Now, I must admit that autumn leaves do not make an appearance in my garden for the simple reason that I have no deciduous trees.  However, I do get a lot of use out of my regular leaf blower, which I use throughout the year for the following tasks:
 
– Cleaning up fallen leaves after I have finished pruning my shrubs.
 
– Getting rid of dirt and small rocks that are lodged in the small cracks in my patio and driveway.
 
– Moving leaf debris toward the base of shrubs and trees where it can serve as mulch.

Adding leaves to my compost bin.

– Gathering up excess leaf litter and putting it in my compost pile.

 
– Cleaning up after monsoon storms when my neighbor’s leaves blow into my garden 😉
 
As a horticulturist (and homeowner), I have used my share of different leaf blowers, so I was excited to see how Troy-Bilt’s newest hand-held, leaf blower did in my own garden.
 
 
After taking it out of the box, all of the pieces fit together and after looking at it, I thought that this was probably the ‘coolest’ looking leaf blower I’d ever seen with its aerodynamic lines.
 
But, looks are one thing – I took it out into the garden to see how well it worked.
 
 
I first used the blower to direct the leaf debris toward the base of my new orange tree, where they will serve as mulch and improve the soil as the leaves break down.  
 
Then, I moved to my driveway and patio to clean out the dirty seams and small rocks.
 
 
On a different day, I used it to clean the rock in my garden and direct the leaves toward the base of my flowering shrubs, which will appreciate the mulch.
 
 
Here are my observations after using Troy-Bilt’s Jet Gas Leaf Blower:
 
– It was not too heavy to hold.
 
– Using the pull-start was easy, but the blower can also be started using Troy-Bilt’s Jump Start Engine Starter tool.
 
– The air flow was more focused than other blowers that I have used, making it easier to direct the leaves.  It moved most of the small rocks in the seams in the driveway and cleaned out much of the dirt.
 
– The handle was comfortable and I really liked the cruise control option, which locked in the air speed.
 
– It cleaned the debris from my gravel without moving too much of my gravel with it.
 
– My husband, (who I must admit uses a leaf blower more often than I do), wanted me to mention that he likes that the intake of the Jet Gas Leaf Blower is not on the bottom.  Some leaf blowers do have the intake on the bottom, which can inadvertently suck up small pieces of gravel.
 
 
I must admit that I like using leaf blowers and I was having so much fun with Troy-Bilt’s newest leaf blower, that I actually enjoyed cleaning my garden.
 
If you want to learn more about Troy-Bilt’s most powerful handheld leaf blower, they created a video, which shows how it works.
 
**So, would you like to have one of these in your own garage or garden shed?  The folks at Troy-Bilt are giving one away to one of you!
 
To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment.
 For an extra entry, follow me on Facebook Twitter and/or Google+ and be sure to let me know when you leave a comment.
(Be sure to leave your email address if it’s not on your profile, or I won’t have any way to contact you.)
 
I will pick a random entry on Monday, October 27th.
 
Good Luck!
*Disclosure: I was provided the leaf blower free of charge for my honest review.

Have you ever visited a community garden?  


I had the opportunity to help create a community garden with some very special friends in Miami, Florida.

Me (Noelle Johnson), Matt Mattus, Helen Yoest, Amy Andrychowicz, Steve Asbell and Dave Townsend – the ‘Saturday6’
 
So, who are these special friends? 
 
They are garden bloggers, like me and we’ve been brought together through our partnership with the folks at Troy-Bilt. We came from all over the United States and came together to work with the folks at a service project in Miami.
 
 
As part of our partnership, we share our gardening knowledge via Troybilt’s gardening newsletter – ‘The Dirt’, Facebook and Twitter.  We also create how-to videos and test Troybilt equipment and offer our honest opinions. 
This year, we were invited by Troybilt to help create a community garden as part of their continuing efforts to give back to the community.  



The day we all arrived in Miami, we had the opportunity to tour the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, which you can read about here.  


The next morning, we all gathered on a vacant lot in the Perrine Neighborhood in Miami.

 
 
The local dry cleaner allowed the property adjacent to their store to be used for this inner-city community garden.
 
 
We were excited to be creating an edible garden for the surrounding neighborhood.
 
Imagine six gardeners together, trying to plan out a community garden.  Believe it or not, it all went smoothly and we all agreed on a plan as to where to put the raised beds and what size they should be.
 
 
We measured out the placement for the beds with assistance from the folks at Troybilt and the Miami chapter of “Keep America Beautiful“.
 

 

 
The surrounding community was very excited about the garden.  We were happy to meet the Perrine neighborhood community activist, Ms. Townsend who would help to distribute the produce from the garden.
 
Steve Asbell (The Rainforest Gardener), took time to talk with her about the different vegetables and flowers that we would be planting in the garden.
 
 
Ms. Townsend, was very interested in learning about the plants and seeds we would be planting.  She listened carefully when Matt Mattus (Growing With Plantsexplained to her how the seeds would grow.
 
*This special lady takes care of those in her neighborhood, including picking up day-old bread from the local supermarket, putting it in her car trunk and then delivers it to those in need.
 
 
Once the outlines were painted, we used cement block to create the sides of the of the beds.
 
You may wonder why we put cardboard on the bottom of the garden beds.  Well, the cardboard will form a nice barrier to keep the grass from growing through and will also serve to ‘smother’ the grass.
 
Initially, we had discussed planting some fruit trees alongside the raised vegetable beds, but we ran into a little problem with that plan…
 
Limestone rock lay right underneath the grass, making digging all but impossible.
 
 
We filled the beds with topsoil and aged steer manure in alternating layers.
 
 
Troybilt supplied us with the necessary garden equipment including a cultivator, which we used to help mix the layers of topsoil and manure together.
 
 
I have a smaller cultivator that attaches to my Troybilt string trimmer that I like to use in my vegetable gardens.  
 
You can read more about my gardening adventures with my Troybilt cultivator, here.
 
 
Amy Andrychowicz (Get Busy Gardening) and Dave Townsend (Growing the Home Garden) raked the soil smooth while Helen Yoest (Gardening With Confidence) filled the holes of the cement block with soil for planting.
 
Community members posing for a picture with a Troybilt representative.
 
Members of the community came out to watch our progress, including the neighborhood police officer.
 
 
We took a quick break for lunch then took a picture with people from the neighborhood, Troybilt, Keep America Beautiful and officials from the Human Services Department who were on hand.
 
Local Master Gardener, Sheila Martinez, assists Dave Townsend with planting.
 
After lunch it was time for my favorite part – planting!
 
Sheila Martinez, a local Master Gardener, assisted us throughout the day and will be in charge of caring for the garden.
 
 
I had fun planting the first bed with tomatoes and herbs including flat-leaf parsley, purple basil and rosemary.
 
Other beds included strawberries, peppers, leaf lettuce, collard greens and onions.  Beans were planted from seed.
 
 
The holes in the cement block was filled with soil so that we could add companion plants, which help to attract pollinators as well as repel bad bugs from damaging the vegetables.
 
To that end, we planted sage, basil, green onions and marigolds in the holes, which will not only help to protect the edible plants but also add beauty to each garden.
 

 

After a productive day in the garden, we were tired but happy with all we had accomplished.
 
This is the second year that we have all been part of the Saturday6.  Imagine how much fun six garden bloggers have when they get together!
 
Last year we all met in Arizona and enjoyed a great time, which you can read about here.
 
I am so grateful to be a part of this group of great people and the opportunity to work with Troybilt again.  I will be reviewing another piece of Troybilt equipment this year and giving one away, so stay tuned!
 
 
 

 

Have you ever embarked upon an unexpected adventure? 
 
I recently did.
 
It all started with an email from the folks at Troy-Bilt who asked me to partner with them and review their outdoor power products in return for my honest opinion. 


I had heard of Troy-Bilt company before and knew that they made high-quality gardening equipment.  But, I was curious about why they were contacting me.
 
It turns out that I was asked to be one of their six garden bloggers known as the ‘Saturday6’.




The ‘Saturday6’  is a group of six garden bloggers brought together by Troy-Bilt to share their gardening knowledge via their gardening newsletter, how-to videos and by reviewing Troy-Bilt equipment.


Troy-Bilt brought all of us together for an event-filled weekend in Scottsdale, AZ.


Five members of the ‘Saturday6’ flew in from destinations like Minnesota, Florida, Massachusetts, Tennessee and North Carolina.  I, however, just hopped into my truck and drove the 30 minutes to the hotel.
Our adventure started with a tour of the Desert Botanic Gardens in Phoenix.
 
Although, I have visited the gardens numerous  times, it was quite nice to have a guided tour and see the gardens through the eyes of those who are unfamiliar with desert plants.
 
 
It was so nice to experience the gardens with fellow plant lovers (dare I say ‘plant fanatics?). We bonded over our shared love of plants and stopped constantly to take photos.  

 

The evening hours were spent enjoying a delicious dinner where we soon found ourselves immersed in our own ‘special’ language that all gardeners share.  

I loved hearing about Dave’s Tennessee vegetable garden and how we enjoyed growing many of the same things.   Dave Townsend from Growing the Home Garden shared about his Tennessee vegetable garden and I found that we enjoyed growing many of the same things.  


Steve Asbell of The Rainforest Garden had written for many of the same publications that I had.  What I didn’t know was that he is an incredibly talented illustrator and is currently writing a book.

Foreign concepts such as ‘winter sowing’ were explained to me by Amy of Get Busy Gardening who gardens in Minnesota.  Because she lives in very different climate from mine, it was fun to hear about some of the different ways we do things in the garden.  


I was very blessed to spend time with Helen Yoest from Gardening With Confidence who is a ‘wiz’ at social media and has a new book.  She was very helpful in helping me to improve my mediocre social media skills.


 Matt Mattus of Growing With Plants told me about the  30-year old Troy-Bilt rototiller that he uses on his 100-year old family farm in central Massachusetts.  He has a huge greenhouse where he grows tropical plants including South African bulbs.
 
Our first morning together was spent at a golf course, where we tested the many Troy-Bilt products and learned more about the company. 

 

The equipment laid out for us to try out, including both push and riding lawn mowers.

 Troy-Bilt had their regional trainers on hand to show us how everything worked.
 
Helen learns the finer points of driving this small-sized riding lawn mower, which fits through a standard garden gate, making it a great option for the smaller landscape.
The riding lawnmowers were the most popular piece of equipment we tested. 
Steve tries out the push mowers.
The push mowers were fun to try as well.


Next, it was time to try out the leaf blower, which is a very popular tool here in the desert southwest.
 
You might wonder why I’m wearing a rain coat on a sunny day?  You’ll see why later…
 
I am tough on gardening equipment and if it is confusing to use or does not work well – I don’t endorse it.  The hand-held leaf blower was easy to hold and a breeze to pull-start.
 
Dave learns about the features of Troy-Bilt string trimmers and how you can switch attachments like a cultivator, pole chainsaw, blower, etc.
 
I like digging dirt…especially with this small-sized rototiller.  I could use this to make another vegetable garden.
 
Matt liked the larger rototiller.
Amy feeds branches into the chipper.

In addition to testing the equipment, we also had some fun…

Lawnmower races, anyone?

Our testing was finished and we paused to take a  group photo.

As we went indoors to learn more about the equipment and the company, the skies began to darken…



Then the skies opened up and it began to hail, a lot…


It looks like snow, doesn’t it?


Watching ‘crazy’ golfers trying to finish their game through the hail and thunder.

I don’t think my fellow bloggers expected a cold, wintery day in the desert.


After our training, we spent another evening together, enjoying dinner with the Troy-Bilt team.  It was fun to swap stories about our gardens with their challenges and successes.

Spring training is ‘big’ in Arizona.  So, I was excited that the next day’s events included a spring training game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs.


 

We enjoyed bratwurst, hamburgers, peanuts and Cracker Jacks in the Budweiser tent.
 
You would think that we would be focused on the baseball game, but you’d be wrong.
 
The camaraderie we built was evident as we spent the entire time just talking.  Occasionally, we were distracted by a home run, but didn’t keep track of who was winning.
 
At the end of our event-filled weekend, I was even more excited to be a part of the ‘Saturday6’ and share what I know about gardening as well as having the opportunity to test Troy-Bilt products.
 
 
I must admit that I’m in love with this small Neighborhood Rider.  
 
I wonder if I can convince my husband to give up our push lawn mower?