Category

Landscaping Equipment

Product testing in the field

By | Landscaping Equipment, Reviews | No Comments

I love testing new products in the field. It’s easy to get sucked into using the same tools and machines every season. But what if there is a new product that performs better and is cheaper? Field testing products myself is fun and it’s the real deal. It’s not just sales talk.

Did you notice how when you go to the doctor there always seems to be a new drug the doctor pushes on you? That’s because sales reps give the doctor perks for pushing their own drugs. Here you go, take this…..

Well, landscape company owners also get approached by sales people who happily provide samples for them to try in the field. Sure, let’s do it. And that’s how I got to test a new kind of tarp.

 

IMG_4710 (1)

The new tarp: stronger, easy to fold and waterproof.

 

 

New tarp

Recently we got to try out a new kind of tarp made of military grade material. Think waterproof military backpack material. It’s supposed to be tougher, easier to fold and waterproof. That’s a nice list.

So we tried a little experiment. We packed several chunks of firewood and dragged it along the pavement and over a speed bump. This put several holes into it. Bummer. Another failed test. Or was it?

We don’t normally drag sharp pieces of wood in our tarps. We usually haul leaves and weeds with, hopefully, not too much soil. Also, note if the holes actually get bigger.

So far, our crews like the new tarps. They fold easily, they are waterproof and they appear to be tougher.

 

Old tarps

 

IMG_4714 (1)

The old green tarp on the bottom is slightly bigger.

 

 

The old tarps we use are more like camping cover type plastic tarps. They are slightly bigger than the new ones but they don’t fold as easily. Also, it takes very little dragging to put holes in them and this drives the boss nuts. Dragging tarps is discouraged because it leads to unnecessary expenses.

The new tarps cost $1.25 more than the old ones but if they last longer, it’s a win! So far the reviews are good. I hope to report more on this as the grass cutting season starts.

Conclusion

Always be open to testing new machines, tools and materials. You could save money and improve your company performance. You could also have some extra fun.

 

IMG_5292 (1)ed

The new tarps are easier to twist and look better.

Dream hedge trimmers for demanding professionals

By | Landscaping Equipment, Reviews | No Comments

Last week I had to do some power shearing and the boss handed me a new unit to try out. Great! It’s always nice to test out new models.

(Disclaimer: we use Stihl equipment at work; I am in no way associated with Stihl. Any review blog posts are just that, my personal reviews.)

The new unit was Stihl’s hedge trimmer HS 82R with a 24″ cutting bar.

 

IMG_3399edit2

Stihl HS 82R

 

Notes from Stihl

“This professional unit replaces the HS 81 R with the latest in STIHL technology. Equipped with stratified scavenging engine technology that reduces fuel consumption by 20% and fulfils all emission regulations, long life air filter for prolonged engine protection, double-sided, sharpened cutting blades for a high quality cut, adjustable multi-function handle and a tool-less fuel cap. This hedge trimmer is an innovative unit designed with the demanding professional in mind. “

 

What I noticed right away

As you shear you notice a certain softness, kind of like riding a full suspension mountain bike after riding a hard tail for ages. I noticed it because this was my first experience with anti-vibration technology. And I loved it.

The Stihl website states that “intense vibration at the handles of power tools can lead to long-term effects on blood vessels in the hands and arms. STIHL has therefore developed an effective anti-vibration system whereby the oscillations from the machine’s engine are dampened which significantly reduces vibrations at the handles.”

This feature alone is worth the retail price of $669.95. Again, get to know your dealer and score some well-deserved discounts. The manufacturer suggested retail price is just that, suggested.

 

 

IMG_3401ed

Notes four springs. The anti-vibration system rules!

 

One problem

Given the 24″ cutting bar, this unit isn’t exactly light. I used a ladder for my shearing work so I wouldn’t have to raise the shears above my shoulders. The cheaper Stihl hedge trimmers are lighter. But hey, if you’re like me, you will welcome the workout for your muscles.

I was blown away by the anti-vibration technology feature. This unit is designed for demanding professionals and it delivers.

Lawn aeration: start with why

By | landscape maintenance, Landscaping Equipment, Lawn Care | No Comments

My introduction to lawn aeration wasn’t the best. My employer at the time, a prominent Lower Mainland landscape maintenance company, forced me to aerate roughly one half of their many strata properties. Incredibly, nobody even told me why we were putting holes into lawns. And the days were so busy I forgot to ask. I was that new to landscaping. It usually took two crews three weeks to aerate all of the properties.

Start with why

Now, many years later, I get to train new workers in the field. Before they even got to touch the lawn aerators, I made sure they knew why they were doing it. Armed with this knowledge, their physical punishment is easier to take. It also limits corner cutting. Once the dudes get tired, the number of holes and their depth decline. Don’t let up. Push on.

The one best thing

If you don’t do anything to your lawn all year, definitely aerate it in spring. Aeration allows air and water to reach the grass root zone which improves growth. Leave the cores on the lawn. They will disappear in no time.

Home owners without regular landscape service will probably get a knock on the door from a young guy with a pamphlet and machine in the driveway. Most strata landscape maintenance contracts include this service automatically with lime application.

 

photo 5 (6)

Aerated lawn. leave cores in place

 

Hands vs machine

If you have a smaller lawn you can easily hand-punch it with a hand core aerator. I love the Fiskars model because it’s larger and doesn’t get blocked with debris like smaller models. I use it on smaller client lawns where renting a machine wouldn’t make sense.

 

photo 4 (6)

Fiskars core aerator for small lawns and inaccessible corners

 

If you have larger lawns, you will need a machine unless you have a teenager at home with energy to burn. It’s fairly simple to operate. Just remember to slow down as you approach pavement and fencing. The big hog needs a second to slow down.

The machine comes with weights so use them to get nice deep cores. Skip the extra weights if your lawn is soft. Remove them when loading and unloading the machine!

 

photo 5 (7)

 

Conclusion

Let’s review. Lawn aeration allows water and air to reach the grass root zone and should result in a healthier lawn. If you don’t do anything to your lawn all year, at least aerate it. It’s worth the effort. Your lawn will thank you for it.

 

 

Aspen fuel dreams

By | Landscaping Equipment | No Comments

Aspen 2 full range technology

I rarely get excited about machine fuel but Aspen fuel for landscape machines is a great invention! The new Aspen 2 full range technology fuel is designed for engines that work hard, like chainsaws.

High combustion temperature machines get the right lubrication to cope with high temperatures. There is increased torque and acceleration.

Machines with lower combustion temperatures, like leaf blowers and hedge trimmers, are easier to start, air filters stay clean longer, and there is 6% improvement in engine acceleration.

 

image

 

Oil

Aspen fuel comes pre-mixed. No need to stock oil. No more spills behind the truck or incorrect ratios. It’s completely synthetic with 60% renewable content, biodegradable, and free from ash and solvents.

One of my previous employers used the older Aspen 2 fuel and it worked fine. The company mechanic told me that my line edger could be started in my kitchen! With little kids at home, that would have been extreme blog content creation. I passed on the test. But I did witness a demo at the 2015 Can-West horticulture show. Two beakers, one with conventional gasoline and one with Aspen fuel. A piece of Styrofoam is floating in each beaker. The gas just erases the foam in no time; Aspen ignores it. It just floats there. I took in the test result and then helped myself to free Stihl candy.

I believe our machines worked fine. There was an issue with re-fuelling time since we went through a lot of the orange containers in one week. This is unconfirmed information from friends, but the City of Coquitlam gave up on using Aspen 2 this year after too many containers piled up in the works yard. What do you do with them? They should consider the same drum refuelling idea. Good on the city to at least attempt the switch.

Biggest drawback

Cost! Piles of used containers are nothing compared to the retail cost. It runs anywhere from $2-3/L. Most small landscape companies won’t even consider that. My ex-employer had the advantage of being a distributor. The boss loved the fact that Aspen fuel use would lead to lower repair costs.

I thought about my work mates. Gasoline machines generate unhealthy exhaust. What if we had cleaner burning fuel to use all year in the field? That would be a bonus. Considering the retail price, it’ll be a while. But I can dream my Aspen 2 fuel dreams.

Source: Aspen.se

 

Allright ladder fun

By | gardening, Landscaping Equipment, Strata Maintenance, Tips | No Comments

Tripod ladders rule

Japanese-style tripod ladders are excellent landscape and garden tools! Out in the field helping one of our strata maintenance crews with pruning, I took my lunch and opened up the Vancouver Sun. There, on page B3 was an article on ladders by Steve Whysall. Happy coincidence!

Let’s get to the best part right away. The single peg on the ladder is brilliant because you can position it almost anywhere. It will fit through hedges and you can punch it into your soil for stability. The most common size is ten feet. Since I was pruning small hedges in tight entrances, the small six foot ladder was perfect. It’s light to carry and maneuver and it got me just high enough to perform my cedar shearing. Lifting the extendable shears above my shoulders is tiring and leads to needless exhaust sucking. Why do that? Always position yourself for maximum output and comfort.

 

IMG_9389

6 ft ladder is easy to maneuver in tight entrances and gets you just high enough to shear the cedars nicely

 

Safety

Obviously, the bigger the ladder and the higher you are, the bigger the dangers. Always think about safety. Don’t rush. My only serious injury in seventeen seasons of landscaping happened while I was descending one of the bigger ladders. It was a 12 or 14 foot “widow-maker”. I started descending before my power shears were completely stopped. Yeah, I know, this was early in my career. Then my thumb met the steel blades. If it hadn’t been for my nail, the top of my thumb would have been missing. I still recall my helper down below, horrified by my blood dripping on her.

Incidentally, this was also the first- and I hope only- time when I jumped the line at a walk-in medical clinic. I remember an older gentleman probably waiting for his cough syrup, objecting to my line jump. I couldn’t care less.

The Allright Ladder Company is based in Vancouver and it is the oldest ladder company in Canada. They’ve been making them since 1921. Visit their website for safety information or read the Vancouver Sun article sidebar.

As the fall and winter pruning seasons come, I will use these Japanese-style tripod pruning ladders often. Consider getting one for your garden. Most landscape companies have them on their trucks.

 

IMG_9390

6 ft is the smallest available ladder from Allright

Facing your hardscape fears

By | Landscaping, Landscaping Equipment, Strata Maintenance, Tips | No Comments

Hardscape shock

2014, Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Sitting in my Red Seal challenge preparation course I was shocked to find out that landscape horticulture involved a lot of hardscape construction. One third of the exam, to be exact. And I wasn’t alone. Many of the other candidates also expected questions on plant families and specific plant species. Clearly, we were about to face our fears.

Fast forward to August, 2016. My boss needed help fixing a hazardous spot at the top of a walkway. Uh-uh. Here we go. No more textbooks. This was real life. Plus consider that I prefer working with live plants. I find hardscape materials too cold.

This is what I learned as I faced my fears.

Basics of paving stone repair

A) Taking notes and pictures as you dismantle everything is very important. It makes it easier later when the stones go back in. Stack everything intelligently.

B) Install mason sand (finely crushed sand) to build up the low spots. Park as close as you can to your work area. Our access was limited which meant bucket work. And lots of sweat.

C) Use tamper tool to flatten the sand and even it out.

D) Re-install bricks and use rubber mallets to beat them into place. Pray they all fit.

E) Cover the stones with mason sand and broom them into gaps.

Mission accomplished. Sort of. The big hole was gone but since there was still a small tripping hazard, we will have to go back and dismantle a larger area. Maybe I will call in sick. Or go and face my fears.

 

IMG_6374ed

A nasty wash-out at the top of a staircase

 

IMG_6636ed

Keep track of dismantled stones; install mason sand and use tamper tool

 

IMG_6639ed

Stones go back in, pray it all fits, use rubber mallets

 

IMG_6646ed

brush mason sand into gaps

 

IMG_6643ed

fine mason sand

 

IMG_6644ed

Tools you will need

New STIHL BR700 blower

By | Landscaping Equipment, Reviews, Strata Maintenance | No Comments

Fall is incredibly busy for landscape companies. Now there is extra help in the form of a new Stihl blower. Introducing BR700.

It helps to have a good relationship with your dealer. That’s how my employer recently got hooked up with a test unit of this brand new backpack blower from Stihl. Personally, I get more excited by plants than machines but product testing can be fun. Testing this bad boy was fun. So was writing a blog post about it.

 

IMG_1734

 

Big gun

Stihl’s brand new backpack blower BR700 is a big gun! It’s their biggest, most powerful blower. This is the kind machine residents in Vancouver’s West End, where blowers are banned, have nightmares about. Landscapers will be asking Santa for one unit under their trees.

You will notice the huge adjustable telescopic tube with an adjustable control handle. This allows workers of different heights to adjust the unit. It’s quick and easy. I love this feature.

The air volume at the nozzle is 30 percent more than for its older sister blower BR600. 1550 cubic meters per hour vs. 1150 cubic meters per hour. This is why the blower is ideal for large properties and tough landscaping tasks. Nozzle attachments are available for more directed flow.

One word of caution. Blowing out leafy beds with this beast might lead to soil loss. The BR600 might be better suited for this. If you have to push leaves down a road the BR700 is great.

Other features

  • adjustable support harness
  • anti-vibration system helps reduce operator fatigue
  • semi-automatic choke for smooth and easy starts
  • fuel-efficient engine

 

IMG_9889 (1)

testing, testing…..Stihl’s new BR700

 

IMG_9893

Handle adjusts easily with a quick-release lever; the tube telescopes after a few twists

 

IMG_9890

Nozzle attachments are available; there is less power at nozzle end compared to BR600

 

Conclusion

After testing, every crew got one of these big boys to help out with leaf clean up. The BR700 is powerful and a pleasure to use. I highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

All about Japanese Hasegawa landscape tripod ladders

By | Landscaping Equipment, Reviews | No Comments

Hasegawa landscape tripod ladders are beautiful! In late September, while strolling through the CanWest Horticultural Show trade floor, I ran into a Hasegawa ladder booth. Then it hit me. Vancouver Sun’s Steve Whysall had written about these ladders and how he dismissed them because of the cost. Now I had them in front me to try out. Great!

My observations

1.These ladders are really light. The ten foot version was easy to move.

2. The steps (rungs) are doubled which reduces the chance of slipping, and increases the chance of mud clearing from your boots

3. The third leg adjusts easily with a spring-loaded pin in 6″ increments and connects to the body with a chain. This works great when working on uneven ground.

4. There are no bolts to tighten; all joints are hand-welded.

5. The ten foot version retails at $435, which is expensive. Steve Whysall was right. I would worry about this ladder going missing off my truck.

6. Designed in Japan, production has now shifted to China. What hasn’t? Allegedly production conforms to Japanese Industrial Standards.

7. The only landscaper I know who has a Hasegawa tripod ladder attached to the side of his trailer is Japanese!

8. Rubber boots are available for the clawed feet ( set of 3 for $50)

Brochure notes

  • no wobble
  • no screws
  • welded by hand
  • extendable back leg
  • extremely light weight
  • platform ladder available
  • Hasegawa has the reputation for making the best quality and safest tripod ladders in use today
  • incredibly safe and easy to use

 

Vancouver distributor

Steve Osmond 778-988-7303, gogostevo@gmail.com

 

IMG_9751

 

IMG_9749

beautiful wide base, stable and note the rubber shoes for hard surfaces

 

IMG_9748

no screws! hand-welded

 

IMG_9747

Third leg articulates with a spring-loaded pin in 6″ increments, the pin moved easily

 

IMG_9750

handout photo

 

IMG_9287

Bottom of clawed foot; rubber shoes available for work on hard surfaces

 

IMG_9285

Hasegawa ladder on a trailer owned by a Japanese gardener

 

Conclusion

If your budget allows, buy this tripod ladder for your tree, garden and landscape work. I will. In the future. Call Steve at 778-988-7303 with questions.

 

Disclaimer: always use ladders safely! I am in no way associated with Hasegawa ladders or their distribution. The review is based on my observations at CanWest.

 

A love letter to my Honda mower

By | Company News, Landscape Industry, Landscaping, Landscaping Equipment | No Comments
IMG_5665edit

My trusted friend, season after season….

 

This Honda mower is incredible! It deserves its own blog post. Every spring it starts without fail. That first puff of exhaust signalling our reunion for yet another season. It always blows me away, considering how little maintenance I perform on it. It must be the combination of shed storage and mild West Coast winters.

When one of my former employers decided to change his entire mower fleet to Lawn boys, I scored this well-used mower for $120. It was well worth it. I use it bi-weekly during the season for side work. It’s a simple machine. It has a choke/speed lever and a pull cord. Dual blade system. No bells or whistles. My trusted friend. Bravo Honda.

Yes, it’s showing its age. The front wheels will have to get replaced; the bag has a slight tear, and one of the pins holding the bag in place tends to come off periodically. The deck below sports blemishes.

I change the air filter, add oil, and stock new pull cords.  Both blades get changed at least once a month. I have two sets. They have seen better days but they will do for now. Sharp blades are critical! Dull blades tear up grass blades. What we want is one clear cut. Always change your blades. Do it carefully by first unplugging your spark plug.

Eventually, I will upgrade to a newer model. I know it. But for now, we work together to satisfy clients and keep my kids fed. It’s a good partnership.

This Honda mower is incredibly reliable. You can not go wrong by purchasing a Honda mower. I would. I might.

 

IMG_5664edit

The blue number 3 is from my ex-employer’s system; trucks had 3 mowers and we had to keep track

 

(Disclaimer: I am not sponsored, paid or otherwise compensated by Honda. This blog post is my personal review and opinion.)

 

 

01 landscape trucks never die

By | Company News, Landscape Industry, Landscaping, Landscaping Equipment | No Comments

Landscape company owners seem to keep their original 01 trucks around forever. They should be retired but somehow there is always some use for them. I was thinking about this when I showed up for work on a recent Saturday at a company we won’t name. I knew this particular 01 beast was nasty. It couldn’t accelerate, nor climb any hills; and it either didn’t brake or the wheels locked. Shifting to 2 on a steep Burnaby uphill still only got you 35-40 km/h speeds and lots of angry motorists behind you. Luckily they were all obscured in clouds of diesel exhaust.

The boss informed me that he had driven it during the week and it was fine. “Just don’t follow anyone closely, drive slowly and pump the brakes before attempting to brake.” Great. Just what I wanted to hear. The truck needs to get serviced but who has the time during a busy week. Can the company even afford to take it out of circulation?

This just leads to stress. Stress I don’t need. Or want.

One night I had a dream. As I stood in the shop, this same boss handed me the keys to a never-used 2017 truck. I smiled. Then I woke up.

Sadly, I’ve experienced many other 01 trucks over the years. One pick-up truck has wobbly steering and door locks that don’t work. The tail gate no longer opens and it’s just as well. The pins holding the tail gate in place are bent so when it’s down, it slips out. Not fun.

Getting it stolen would be a welcome relief to its owner. But there is lots of nostalgia, too. This was the original 01 beast which started everything. It was there in the first trenches. Now it’s mainly used to shuttle mowers. And for how long?

Sometimes driving a 01 beast is a test. One former employer had a 01 pick-up with a heavy metal box on it. It required very frequent gas station visits. I think I wore out the metal strip on my Petro points card. This beast wouldn’t accelerate. I still remember gunning it at the bottom of the snake hill in Port Moody, afraid the truck would slow down to a crawl. When new employees survived their tests, they were in.

I have given up. Landscape workers must get used to having these original 01 antique trucks around. They will never die.

 

IMG_5628

This beast is a piece of work! A 01 truck all-star.

 

IMG_6007edit