Customize your Equipment

The use of compact equipment in lawn and landscape maintenance is growing in popularity. Compact equipment usually describes skid steer loaders, mini excavators and compact tractor loader backhoes, but could also encompass small wheeled loaders and telescopic rough-terrain forklifts. Compact equipment is designed to repair damage, from severe, inclement weather, such as thunderstorms, tornados and flooding, to extended heat and drought. They can also repair damage caused by severe cold weather and cold temperatures that freezes and breaks underground water and drainage lines.

Even though compact equipment makes short work of repairs, it is also a valuable tool prior to storms and subsequent damage. You can trace its value back to the original site development. Site preparation during landscape development is the single-most important factor in reducing future lawn and landscape maintenance. Skid-steer loaders and mini excavators have become the landscaper's “machines of preference” in tight, confining worksites.

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Skid-steer loaders, mini excavators and compact loader backhoes have rapidly grown in popularity due to acquisition cost and transportability. You don't need a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) to operate them and you can transport them using smaller and more maneuverable trucks and trailers. Another factor driving the rapid growth of compact equipment is their diversity, compounded by the myriad of attachments that are available for them. Attachments include various sizes and types of buckets, pallet forks, grapples, augers, landscape rakes, rock-picking attachments, hydraulic breakers, vibratory rollers, hydraulic trenchers and more. They enable compact equipment to perform numerous tasks, increasing your productivity while reducing costs associated with renting or purchasing specialty equipment designed for only one specific task.

During the site development and preparation process, creating the proper grade, or slope, is critical for proper water drainage. Skid-steer loaders with landscape-style buckets are designed for this task. These machines are maneuverable and can access and complete landscape grade work quickly.

For moving materials around the job site, pallet forks transform your skid-steer loader into a dedicated lift-and-place machine capable of moving landscape materials such as pallets of sod, shrubs, decorative stone, landscape timbers, brick and block from delivery trucks and position these around your landscape-installation project. You don't need a separate, dedicated forklift.

Digging a trench for underground utilities (electric, water, gas or irrigation systems) is easy with hydraulic trencher attachments. The depth and width of cut may vary, depending on the application, or geographic location (depth of frost line). Manufacturers of trencher attachments provide a variety of hydraulic trenchers to meet various soil and application conditions. Standard trenchers work fine in sand and loose soil conditions. More aggressive trenchers are available with more teeth with carbide-tipped cutting edges for trenching in areas that may have more tree or shrub roots, clay, shale or rock.

When you are preparing landscape projects for laying sod or removing aggregates of rock and hardened chunks of clay or sticks, you'll want to use a landscape rake attachment. These attachments rotate hydraulically, separating out the larger-sized aggregates, leaving a fine layer of soil ready for seed or sod. There is no need to hand-pick rocks, making smaller or larger landscape projects effectively “finish landscaped” in a relatively short period of time. These attachments not only enhance your productivity, but provide a soil base that gives the seed or sod the best chance for a healthy start, minimizing the need for future work or repair.

During the landscaping process, establishing a good, solid soil base with proper compaction reduces future erosion, settling or sink holes that form after a wet, rainy period. Soil compaction is required for proper drainage and to solidify the soil, providing a rigid, sturdy base. Layering of various size aggregates, such as rock, gravel and sand, provide a sub-structure base beneath the topsoil that, when compacted, facilitates drainage and proper soil compaction. A large, smooth drum or sheepsfoot roller is commonly used to compact soil in larger landscape projects. On smaller projects, you can fit a hydraulic vibratory smooth drum or sheepsfoot roller attachments to skid-steer or track loaders, providing the much-needed compaction in tight, confining applications not accessible by larger static or vibratory rollers.

Periodically, you may need to turn the soil in areas that should be re-landscaped. This mixes up the soil, adding nutrients that are provided by the addition of fertilizer, new soil or manure. Mixing the soil, or tilling, aerates the soil, promoting better plant growth. There are various methods to accomplish this task, but by adding a hydraulic tiller attachment to the front of your skid-steer loader, you create a powerful, yet compact and maneuverable, specialty machine.

Digging holes for fences, flagpoles or trees and shrubs would be a very laborious task if you were performing this task by hand with a shovel. Manual fence-pole diggers are an improvement over shovels for smaller jobs, but if you are looking to install a fence that separates the driving range from the No. 10 fairway, you need a hydraulic auger attachment for your skid-steer loader. Hydraulic augers are one of the most popular hydraulically operated attachments for skid-steer loaders. Hydraulic augers have either chain- or planetary-drive systems, providing impressive rotational speed and power. Bits in various diameters and lengths range from 6 to 36 inches. Add an auger extension if you need to dig a deeper hole. Carbide-tipped auger bits are also available for augering through hard clay, shale or rock.

If you need to remove or replace any concrete sidewalks, driveways or building slabs during lawn and landscape maintenance or repair, you can fit a hydraulic breaker onto the universal quick hitch and auxiliary hydraulic system of your skid steer or compact loader backhoe. Hydraulic breakers are relatively expensive to purchase, but they dramatically increase the amount of work you can complete. You can also rent hydraulic breakers from various equipment rental stores to fit numerous compact type machines. For some of your smaller repair jobs, you should consider using a pneumatic/compressed air breaker with a portable air compressor. This is very hard, arduous work. If you mount a hydraulic breaker to a skid steer or compact loader backhoe, the machine takes the constant impact force and vibration from the rapid pulsations (blows) that the breaker inflicts on the concrete. This reduces manual labor and optimizes productivity.

After you complete a grounds maintenance repair, you'll need to“tidy-up” around driveways and parking areas. Although a standard bucket or set of pallet forks works well for the larger materials or debris, making a “clean sweep” of the area gives it a finished look. Fitting a hydraulic angle broom or pick-up sweeper makes for easier final clean up. An angle broom, commonly referred to as windrow broom, sweeps materials away from the machine. A pick-up sweeper has an attached bucket that catches the material so your skid steer can dump the debris into a dumpster. Either attachment cuts down on your clean-up work after the job.

Considering everything you can do with a compact loader, it's becoming a universal, must-have piece of equipment. It allows you to customize your jobs by customizing your machine.

George Chaney is product-marketing manager of compact products at JCB Inc. (Pooler, Ga.) You can e-mail him at george.chaney@jcb.com

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