Firsty, before I get into this week's blog, I just want to say what a delight it was to attend last week's Service Dealer Conference & Awards.
The sister publication to TurfPro once again staged a superb programme of speakers for the UK independent dealer network - and then celebrated their achievements with a prestigious Awards ceremony in the evening. It was fantastic to see the often unsung heroes of our groundscare, domestic and agricultural industry get the recognition they so richly deserve.
You can read here today about all the winners.
Moving on to this week's subject, working in the grounds industry is particularly rewarding when you are able enjoy the seasonal changes we witness throughout the year. Spring, summer, autumn and winter all bring different challenges to the grounds manager / practitioner.
However, the severity of the challenges we face are influenced by the weather and ground conditions at that time of the year. I personally think the job has become a lot easier in recent years, mainly due to the shear amount of machinery, tools and resources we now have available to us.
Take the current autumn weather. Back in the late 1970s when I was working on golf courses and in large parks and gardens, the task of clearing up leaves was a monumental task, resulting in an all hands-on deck approach to clearing them up for weeks on end - raking by hand and filling open back trailers using wooden boards. Thankfully today we now have a fantastic array of hand powered tools tractor mounted / trailed blowers, brushes and hoovers at our disposal.
I have personally found the powered hand blowers very useful and a tool I use constantly when maintaining gardens, very good for cleaning up debris quickly.
We now have such a vast range of these products to choose from with leading brands such as STIHL, Husqvarna, ECHO, Makita, Pellenc, EGO, Bosch, McCulloch leading the way with ever changing products, that come in all different configurations to suit the customer’s needs.
Husqvarna provide the following tips :-
Handheld or backpack?
The important thing to remember when buying a blower is what it will be used for. If you are using it for shorter periods of time and smaller amounts of debris, it is better to choose a lightweight, agile hand-held leaf blower. If you are working for longer periods and with more material to blow, a backpack blower is better.
The backpack blowers are divided into two categories, for general professional jobs and those even more demanding tasks.
Turn the blower into a vacuum
A blower can also be turned into a garden vacuum to suck grass, clippings and leaves from the ground. It is especially useful in places where you don’t want to blow debris around, for example around a pond, or your parked car.
Battery or petrol?
Modern battery blowers are lightweight, strong, remarkably silent and nearly vibration- free. All Husqvarna products use the same type of charger and charging a 4.2 Ah battery takes 30-50 minutes. Some extra batteries or a backpack battery allow you to work a full day. Battery blowers are perfect for indoor jobs, or when you are working in noise-sensitive areas, such as hospitals, schools and city parks. If you are doing heavier work, like moving a lot of wet leaves, we recommend that you consider a petrol backpack blower, since it is more appropriate for that task.
Things to consider when buying a blower
- Make sure it is easy to start and use.
- Pick a blower with low vibration, to avoid fatigue and vibration injuries.
- Make sure it has sufficiently high air speed and airflow for the task.
- If you are working long hours, make sure that the backpack blower come with harnesses that are comfortable, and have a hip belt and wide shoulder straps for load-reduction.
Endorsing what Husquarna stated above, we do today now have a wider choice of battery or petrol-powered devices. The choice of machine will be dependent on many factors, primarily driven by cost and performance. However, in the professional world the choice is centred around performance and comfort for the user.
Recent advances in battery technology enables battery powered blowers and vacs to be more efficient and run for longer periods whilst charging times have been reduced. The major benefit from battery powered devices is that they tend to be quieter with reduced vibration and noise.
Whilst hand held blowers can be useful for tidying up odd corners or working around small gardens and grounds, the power required by most professional users for annual leaf clearance requires a backpack blower, so that the operator can more easily carry the extra weight of the machine.
As the name implies, backpack machines are carried on the shoulders like a rucksack, using similar shoulder straps. But the amount of padding and quality of the material used varies widely between brands. Some machines also feature a padded backplate which adds greater comfort, and a waist strap, which improves stability on larger blowers.
Vibration is a crucial issue for employers and any machine where the engine is actually worn by the operator will subject him to some level of vibration. positioning and enclosure of the engine, the use of shock absorbing materials and the quality of the harness and backplate, influence how much vibration the operator will feel.
Larger areas of open space would require tractor mounted / trailed blowers to clear leaves. Again, these come in a range of configurations and sizes. These larger fans and blowers are vastly more powerful and can clear large open spaces very quickly. As for makes, there are plenty of companies making these blowers with Votex, Turfmech, Trilo, Inmants, Toro, Kersten to name a few.
Votex, have one of the largest ranges on offer. Trilo produce several models with their BL400 being a popular choice because it can be mounted both on the front or the back of the towing vehicle. This makes this blower not only suitable for tractors, but it can also be used on mowers, hydraulic vehicles etc.
Campey Turfcare also offer their IMANTS RotoBlast, another tractor mounted blower designed to move leaves, grass clippings, thatch, litter and other unwanted surface debris from important areas. Typically used for clearing greens & tees, fairways, pathways and other sports turf areas. Attached to the 3-point linkage, the powerful blower is mounted on a wheeled chassis to allow contour following whilst maintaining a constant nozzle height above the ground.
There clearly is plenty of choice. The key is to choose the right one for the job. You tend to get what you pay for with build quality, performance and operator comfort the key issues to consider when buying a blower. As I mentioned earlier, my STIHL petrol blower is my most used item when maintaining gardens and keeping them tidy.