Landscaping Equipment

Why caretaker Jackie loves me!

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What leaf blower haters overlook

The one thing many leaf blower haters overlook is the struggle of building caretakers as they try to keep leaf debris out of their buildings every fall. Jackie is a caretaker, and she loves my leaf blower. No, it’s not a mistake, she loves my leaf blower because she has three buildings to maintain and keep clean. Whatever leaf debris tracks in with residents and wind must be removed. But not if I get to the leaves outside first.

By the way, Jackie is a real person but she’s a bit shy. I even offered her a free West Coast Landscape Pro mug for providing her picture, but it didn’t work. She’s a middle-aged lady with long blonde hair and a smoking habit. Occasionally, she freaks me out when she smokes in the shrubbery by the side exit.

I also use the word love in a professional, platonic sense. Don’t rush out to buy an expensive leaf blower because Vas promised you easy caretaker’s love. This is a family blog, not a hook-up site.

Use it or ban it?

Yes, leaf blowers are loud, and they create noise and air pollution. They also stir up unhealthy dust in summer.

Someday soon, the technology will improve, and we’ll be able to use battery-operated leaf blowers. Then there won’t be any need to write blog posts like this.

If you’re a landscaper, you know that your leaf blowers are indispensable. If you’re a homeowner, you can afford to quietly rake up your leaves.

So far, only a few places have successfully banned leaf blowers. The only place I know of in British Columbia is Vancouver’s neighborhood around Denman Street. Built up with residential towers, the noise tends to echo throughout the neighborhood. I worked there before the ban and I’m not sure how the landscape contractors are managing every fall.

When you hear a leaf blower in your neighborhood, remember caretaker Jackie before complaining. She loves me. You should, too.

Aha, leafy debris on second floor.

Foreshore Equipment opens in North Vancouver

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Private tour

The news today is frightening but I do have some good news to share. Landscape professionals and homeowners now have another store location to visit.

Foreshore Equipment has now opened a new location on the North Shore and recently I got a private tour. That’s how far I will go to produce an awesome blog. And the visit was also awesome. For landscape professionals it’s like kids walking into a toy store. So many new, shiny machines that could make you money in the field.

I usually freshen up my breath with Stihl candy but don’t bother asking for some. Stihl is protecting another long-time North Shore dealer so you won’t find any Stihl machines at this location. You can still order them but you won’t see them on display at this location. For now, at least.

Still, Foreshore carries all of the other major brands like Echo, Shindaiwa, ExMark and TORO. That covers your usual gas-powered machine needs. They also carry new battery-powered machines.

Here comes the future

Most landscapers in British Columbia still run gas-powered machines but battery operated machines are quickly coming online. You’ll see it at Foreshore, with a nice line-up of EGO and Husqvarna battery-powered machines on display. Who knows how long it will take for store shelf space to switch from gas-power domination to battery-powered.

I am seriously considering purchasing a battery-powered mower for my 2022 side-gig season. Since the Echo mower I’m looking at is light and and the handles fold, it should be easier to move around. Not having to buy fuel is a huge plus; since I don’t mow a lot, I can easily charge two batteries.

If you’re new to battery-operated machines, like me, stop by the store and ask away. I’m slowly changing my mind because sucking unhealthy exhaust is getting old now. I asked my questions and I have many more.

Question: What does brushless motor mean on a battery powered mower?

A brushless lawn mower is one where the motor can automatically adjust to the power needs of the job. The benefit is a mower that produces less heat, is quieter, and generates better performance.

Source: Lawn Legion

A good commercial battery-powered TORO mower.


I also learned on my private tour that attachments are inter-changeable. So, if you own a line up of gas powered machines and attachments, you can use the same attachments with battery-powered engines. That saves you a lot of cash.

Location and service

Foreshore Equipment, North Shore location

I had no trouble finding the location but, due to ongoing construction in front of the store, I had to park in the back on Welch Street.

Most landscapers depend on good machine service. Gas powered machines constantly need fixing and tune-ups, so it’s nice to know a good go-to mechanic. Develop a relationship with one, and your business will run better.

Shop rates currently run just shy of $100 per hour so, if your house came with an old mower, recycle it and upgrade to something newer. Fixing an antique is a bad idea. Visit or call Foreshore Equipment for new mower ideas. They will walk you through your choices and get everything set-up for you.

Come visit

If you live anywhere near the North Shore, this is a landscape dealer you must visit. Check out their new website, call (604) 924-9400 or better yet, visit and tell them Red Seal Vas sent you.

The problem with leaf blower bans

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Margaret wants to kill them all

When the New York Times hires you as an opinion writer, we know you can write. And Margaret Renkl penned an entertaining opinion piece on banning leaf blowers (‘Let’s kill all the leafblowers‘, New York Times, October 26, 2021).

First, let’s go over the bad news and then I will tell you the key point from my commercial scale landscape professional side. I can’t touch Renkl’s writing but I hope I can make this blog post somewhat readable.

Mechanical locusts

Renkl describes gas-powered leaf blowers as ‘mechanical locusts’ and then tells us that her comparison is an insult to the locusts. And, I agree, commercial gas-powered leaf blowers are loud. They’re also heavy. And, yes, they pollute the air.

You can, of course, pay a bit more cash and run the machines with Aspen fuel developed in Sweden. Aspen is 99% cleaner than regular gasoline and therefore gentler on the machine parts. But it’s also pricey.

I also like Renkl’s other points. Like the bit about leaf blowers dislodging insects from their winter hiding spots. I actually did this recently. When I blew a pile of leaves from a corner, I discovered a small frog underneath. Oh! So I left some leaves over top of it. I hope it found the refuge it was looking for.

Landscapers don’t often consider what’s in the dust they’re blowing. I’m sure Renkl is right, the dust definitely contains heavy metals, pollen, mold, animal feces, and chemicals from pesticides and herbicides. This isn’t something landscape company owners cover in their training sessions.

Not a great place to broom.

2021 technology

Soon after Renkl’s opinion piece was published, we got an epic wet fall which caused massive floods in my province of British Columbia. The rain made leaf clean-up extremely difficult and it would have been a nasty, prolonged affair without the help of Stihl’s 800 model leaf blower.

The 800 Stihl gas-powered leaf blower is probably what landscapers in hell are using. It’s a perfect combination of air volume and air speed. It blows away soggy leaves, frogs and garden gnomes. It’s easy to fall in love with it.

The key point!

This is the key to this blog post: the leaf blower technology isn’t there yet for commercial landscape operators. The batteries don’t achieve the required air speed. Yet.

How the batteries get protected from our West Coast rains is another mystery. But, I think we’re getting closer. Since Renkl is only 60, I fully expect her to see the day gas-powered leaf blowers get retired.

Now that California, the world’s fourth largest economy, is banning the use of gas-powered small engines, there might be a bigger push to get battery operated leaf blowers on the market. I would love to test one out in the field and report my findings in this blog.

For now, Margaret and I have to wait for better leaf blower technology to arrive. I highly recommend Renkl’s opinion piece.

How blower maniacs start wars

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Don’t start wars

Not too long ago, I walked home to my condo complex on a windy day and a blower maniac stopped me dead in my tracks. The dude emerged from his complex across the street blowing debris into the middle of the street. Once there, the mess was at the mercy of the wind. Some of it crossed over to my complex and some of it went back. Back to where it should have been blown into a pile and collected. The way all good neighbors do it.

I waited and I waited, the dude went back in, sat down and cracked open a beer now that his work was done. Since I have a rule about not picking fights at the end of the day, I went home shaking my head at the amateurish work I had just witnessed.

It just so happens that our company maintains my complex so I instructed our crew, like any good supervisor would, to make some blower “mistakes” on their next visit.

It happens a lot

This kind of poor clean-up blowing happens a lot. A few weeks later I was working at my commercial sites on a Saturday morning. When I looked up from my pruning, I saw another blower maniac. This dude was in the middle of the road without a safety vest, which is extremely unsafe. His blower was hanging from one shoulder, as if he was in a rush. Worse still, he was blowing debris towards my site with amazing resolve. Lucky for him, I was far away and busy. I’m also not in the habit of picking fights. I take numbers and bring my blower over later.

I’m absolutely certain this is the same geek who blows leafy debris onto my clean sites in fall.

Work like a professional

There is no excuse for blowing debris into the road, making it someone else’s problem. It’s no joke. Online I read about a sad case from the USA where a motorcyclist was killed after crashing on grass clippings blown into the road.

Always blow debris into piles, collect it and dispose of it with your green waste. The only time you can tolerate some debris in the road is on super windy days.

Blow along your curbs without stepping too far into the road and definitely wear a high-visibility vest. Put the blower on both shoulders the way the manufacturer intended it to be used.

Always be a good neighbor. I know where you work.

Low-idle advice for mechanically-challenged landscapers

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I use small engine machines almost every day in the field, mainly Stihl models. I use them but I don’t pretend to understand them. My favourite tasks are almost always related to plants; machines I barely tolerate. When something breaks down the machines go straight to the dealer for repair.

This simple blog post covers low idle problems and it’s intended for mechanically-challenged people.

The problem

Once in a while a problem pops up and I know there must be a simple explanation. Take this recent example from the field.

Power shearing cedar hedges is a common fall task in our West Coast landscapes. Usually there are miles of hedging to shear and time is short. Now imagine my frustration when I let go of my machine to move the ladder along and the engine dies. Once I’m ready to continue the engine starts and functions properly as long as I keep my finger on the trigger.

I also had the same problem with my backpack blower. As soon as I eased up on the trigger, the unit would shut off. Moving the blower off and on my back and restarting it is extremely annoying.

The fix

At it turns out, this low-idle problem has an easy fix which is great news for this mechanically-challenged landscape professional. The fix is so easy, I had to write a blog post about it. Slowly, very slowly, I learn about the machines I use every day and you can too.

Step 1

Grab a small screw driver provided by Stihl or any other model. Until now I’ve been only using it to execute blade changes on blade edgers.




Step 2

Find the circular port hole labelled LA on the back of your blower or small engine. That’s where the screw driver goes.




Step 3

For this step you should consider using a mask because the unit has to be turned on and sucking exhaust isn’t safe. With the unit running, stick the screw driver in and move it until you hear the engine speed up. It took me a while to do this but eventually I let go and let the blower idle. Once it stayed on without shutting off I was back in business. It was an easy fix. I had no idea.





Let’s review. If your blower or small engine shuts off instead of idling, you can easily fix it with a small screw driver. Doing the repair yourself in the field will save you time and needless frustrations with repeated restarting.


The best gift you can give to a landscaper

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There is one gift every landscaper loves to receive: a nice new set of Felco snips! I got one recently for my birthday from my boss and it felt better than Christmas. Here’s why. When they are securely placed in a sheath on your belt you look professional, they make excellent cuts and they’re always handy.

Swiss quality

My favourite Swiss-made Felco 2 snips feel great in my large hands and they cut perfectly. There are many models to choose from but the 2s are perfect for fit and price. There are also many other brands on the market but when it comes to snips, Felco rules.


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The sheath

Most landscape professionals keep their snips handy on their hips, nicely parked in a leather sheath. The sheath is absolutely crucial. Snips nicely nestled in a sheath are always available. When I put my work pants on in the morning, there follows my belt and sheath. That way I know my snips are ready if I need them and it also minimizes my chances of losing them.

Keeping sharp snips in your pockets is awkward and dangerous. I find that without a sheath I inevitably leave my pricey trusted snips sitting on a post or fence. A few seasons back I did some weekend work for another landscaping company and I left my Felcos in one of their trucks. I have yet to get them back.

Yes, leather sheaths will cost you around $20 but it’s worth it. You look more professional and you lower the chances of losing your snips.

One tip: don’t forget to clean out your sheath. I recently discovered a lot of soil in my sheath. Enough to sustain a small plant.


IMG_5303 (1)




The spare parts kit includes a new blade and a new spring. You can expect the spring to blow up first. It usually gets old and one day it just falls out.

The blade can also be replaced but you have to time it like you do your car’s oil changes. Otherwise, the bolts gets so dirty they are almost impossible to loosen. This happens to me all the time. When I notice that my blade should be changed, I can’t loosen the bolts holding it in place.

The Felco handles are almost indestructible.


IMG_5304 (1)

This pair needs some love: a new spring, a new blade and the screws need cleaning.



Always ready

It happens to me all the time. Out in the landscape I notice a broken branch and out come my snips. Every time I need to cut line edger line, I use my snips. When the boss takes me for a walk and he notices a blemish, it’s important to have snips at the ready. Or when I apply lime and fertilizer, the snips easily penetrate the plastic covers when I have to reload my spreader.

Having a pair of quality snips on your hips also makes you look more professional.



I absolutely love my Felco 2 snips. They’re sharp, they last and they feel great in my hands. I always have them on my hip in a leather sheath. I also feel like a professional with a nice pair of quality snips.

Felco snips are the best gift you can give to a landscaper!

Product testing in the field

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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


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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.


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

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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.



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.




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

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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!


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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

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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.





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.