By Eric Morse
Although every day is unique, there is one constant on each jobsite — landscapers rely on compact loaders and attachments to complete the work. From the start of a project to the end, there is an attachment that helps a landscaper be more efficient, more productive and more profitable.
Sometimes, an area must be cleared before new landscaping can be installed. The first thing that needs to be done is to remove grass, brush and trees. Rotary cutters use blades to cut through the toughest grass and brush and can mulch branches and saplings that are up to three inches in diameter. A flail cutter is just like a rotary cutter, but uses rotating hammers instead of blades to cut grass, brush and trees up to three inches in diameter. A brush saw is a horizontally mounted saw that cuts through brush and trees up to 15 feet tall. It is especially handy when a landscaper needs to be selective about the trees that need to be removed. By cutting below the ground with the brush saw, a landscaper can minimize stumps. If a large area of trees needs to be cleared, a forestry cutter is a high-production solution. However, according to Bryan Zent, marketing manager with Bobcat Company, forestry cutter attachments requires additional safety equipment, such as a forestry applications kit.
Once trees and brush have been cut down, there is waste that needs to be removed, including stumps. Any remaining tree limbs or brush can be disposed of with a chipper attachment, and a stump grinder attachment removes stumps.
Roots, rock, brush and other debris can be cleared with a root grapple. A combination bucket can also work as a grapple when the clamshell is opened. A combination bucket is several attachments in one, since it can also be used as a traditional bucket and as a dozer when the clamshell is opened.
There are many attachments that assist with the placement of pavers, retaining wall block and concrete. Excavating ponds and other water features can be done with a backhoe attachment. A backhoe can also be used to install drainage tile and is helpful in retaining wall construction. In any hardscaping application, compaction of dirt, sand or other material is always necessary, and a vibratory roller quickly creates a good foundation on which to build. Often, dirt or sand needs to be taken to or removed from the jobsite. To minimize the number of trips and the time spent moving this material, landscapers should consider a dumping hopper, which holds more material than buckets and makes fast work of any material-handling task.
For jobsites in established residential neighborhoods, it’s often impossible for the concrete truck to reach backyards, where a lot of hardscaping is installed. A concrete pump attachment moves the concrete from the truck to the jobsite without requiring the loader to be moved. The pump runs off power from the loader and moves the concrete through a hose that can be routed through small openings, under decks, through bushes and around buildings. Hardscaping work that needs only a small amount of concrete can be done with a concrete mixer attachment. By using a mixer, landscapers make only as much concrete as necessary and can produce it as soon as it’s needed, saving time and money.
Plants, trees and shrubs
A backhoe attachment can be used to dig holes for trees, but an auger may be a better option because the auger does not disturb as much ground as the backhoe. Some landscapers use a digger attachment for greenery. The digger is like a shovel, but because it is used on a loader, it works much faster. Pallet forks move pallets of small bushes and are also sometimes used to move trees. Tree fork attachments are also available for mini track and small skid-steer loaders.
Perhaps the best attachment for planting trees is a tree spade. There are three types of blade configurations on tree spades, each suited to a type of soil and each providing a different type of root ball. According to Zent, landscapers using the tree spade attachment should remember the 10-to-1 ratio. Multiplying the diameter of the tree trunk by 10 will give the size of the tree spade to use. For example, a tree with a trunk diameter of 3 inches requires a 30-inch tree spade.
One of the benefits of using attachments to install irrigation systems is that the work is done by disturbing as little ground as possible. Trench ers and vibratory plows dig lines for irrigation systems. A vibratory plow disturbs less ground than the trencher attachment, and Zent suggests that landscapers who install systems at existing property consider purchasing this attachment and using it on a mini track loader. Holes for valve boxes can be drilled by using an auger. Once all the components are in place, the trench can be compacted with a trench compactor.
Before turf can be put down, the area must be prepped. A box blade grades the area and landplanes and landscape rakes smooth out and level the soil. A landscape rake will also collect any surface debris that accumulates around new construction, saving time on site clean-up. A soil conditioner is a cost-effective landscape attachment because it grades and smoothes an area while preparing it for seeding. Sometimes, ground needs to be broken up before it can be prepared for seeding, and a tiller quickly mixes the soil. Seeder attachments are more accurate than broadcast spreaders in giving seeds proper spacing and putting the seed at the right depth. If sod is going to be used, Zent recommends a sod layer.
Whether it’s a new development or an existing neighborhood, preventing soil from running off the jobsite and cleaning up the street is important. “While many municipalities are issuing fines for soils that run into storm sewer systems, keeping a jobsite clean is just good professional practice,” said Zent. An angle broom is good for pushing material off finished surfaces. However, if the material needs to be collected, a sweeper is a better option. Dirt and other debris are collected in the sweeper and then dumped in a truck or other appropriate location.
Zent suggests that landscapers not only outfit their pickup trucks for snow removal, but use their fleet of compact loaders and attachments to clear snow as well. An angle broom, snow blade and snow pusher all move snow out of the way. When snow needs to be completely removed, snow blowers with truck-loading chutes can load snow into dump trucks. A snow V-blade is useful for clearing deep snow and has five blade positions — angled left or right, straight, angled in the middle as a V-blade and scoop. Spreader attachments distribute salt or sand for traction on cleared areas.
The number of attachments available for landscapers may seem overwhelming — we’ve listed more than 30 here. We’ve also mentioned nearly 20 common landscaping tasks that take up labor and time. The more attachments in a landscaper’s fleet, the more productive a contractor can become. “Landscapers who use multiple attachments on their jobs are able to do more with the labor force they have,” said Zent. “Instead of having a crew of five dedicated to one job, a landscaper can have a crew of two and a crew of three on separate jobs, and with a compact loader with attachments, those two crews will do twice as much work as a single crew.”
Eric Morse is a publication relations representative based in Des Moines, Iowa. Article provided by Bobcat Company, Fargo, N.D.