Imagine working long hours on one job. You just want to finish it in a timely, efficient manner. So, instead of three people hand-raking a yard to remove the rocks and debris to prepare the ground for turf, you put a landscape rake attachment on the front end of a skid-steer to do the job. It gets done quickly and only takes one person to operate. The two other workers are free to work on other parts of the landscape, or even on another jobsite entirely. With the right attachments, you're able get more work done in a day.

Periodically, many landscape contractors need to use a trencher, or a power rake, even a plow, but until they're using a particular piece of equipment on a regular basis, and for hours at a time, it might be hard to justify purchasing a dedicated unit. Of course, if you use a piece of equipment sporadically, you can always rent it. However, if you're going to use it often, and you can't justify purchasing it, attachments are the way to go. "We have machines that essentially become like a Swiss army knife," says Steve Bowman, president of Ark Contracting Services, LLC, Kennedale, Texas.

"We have two or three machines out of 30 that are set up to run attachment equipment." Most of the company's equipment is suited for multiple jobs.

What attachments have done is to allow the contractor the flexibility of doing a myriad of jobs with a minimal amount of equipment. For example, there are attachments used with lawn mowers, with skid steer loaders, with rototillers, and with power hand tools. There are many options in regards to attachments; making the investment in the right ones for your business will save you time and money, so choose wisely.

10_2.jpgMany landscape maintenance contractors have a number of mowers. With self-propelled walk behinds, a 'sulky' can easily be attached that allows you to stand on the sulky, and have the mower pull you along. This attachment, by itself, will keep your crews fresh each day, making the sulky a popular item.

There are a variety of attachments for riding lawn mowers and new ones keep popping up each season. For example, you can add a vacuum attachment to your riding mower that will vacuum the turf you're cutting.

There are attachments ranging from vacuum debris collection systems for every model, to an edger and aerator, from a bed shaper to a rotary broom.

"The vacuum collection system not only collects grass, but also debris, on highly visible public areas," says R.A. Stucky, marketing director for the Grasshopper Company. "When used for leaf pickup, it shreds the leaves for smaller compacted volume."

Other mower attachments include blowers, brooms and even spraying equipment. If you're in the snow removal business, especially if you're just starting out and don't know whether you should purchase a dedicated piece of equipment, you can add a snow plow or a snow blower to your riding mower and use it until the time comes when you need to purchase a dedicated piece of equipment.

"You can aerate in the fall; remove snow in the winter with the snow thrower, v-plow and rotary broom; fertilize in the spring with the shielded sprayer -- the environmentally friendly way to apply fertilizer and chemicals," says Stucky. "All the while you are saving time with zero-turn maneuverability."

Another piece of equipment that landscape contractors should consider is the mini-skid steer loader. The attachments available for these are for different functions than those used with lawn mowers.

8_2.jpgSkid steer loaders have been around for many years. The problem has been that they were built for larger projects and were not able to go through narrow openings. With the advent of the mini-skid steer loader, one of the considerations was that it go through standard back yard gates, some as narrow as 32 inches.

Mini-skids and their various attachments can perform many functions and eliminate quite a bit of hand labor. The mini-skid, with the addition of an attachment, can break up the soil, with another attachment it can move the soil, and then another attachment will grade. A raking attachment will rake the soil. Once the soil is prepared, another attachment will dig the trenches for the irrigation system and landscape lighting lines. Still another attachment can backfill?all performed in a timely manner, with a minimum of labor.

With an attachment, you no longer have to hand-dig a trench and physically remove the soil with a wheelbarrow when building a pond. "Buying a Dingo can do all of these things without disrupting the turf," says Scott Cornwell, national sales manager of Toro Company's Sitework Systems.

Borst Landscape and Design, Allendale, New Jersey, favors the Bobcat skid-steer. "You can put all types of attachments on the equipment," says Mark Borst. "We own seven and we love them. I think it's just a phenomenal piece of equipment. You can buy one machine to do all these different things -- pretty much everything needed on a jobsite.?

"We originally built a dedicated trencher," says Brown Manufacturing Corporation;s marketing manager Lee Campbell. "They dig one, two, three and four inches wide in various depths, depending on the machines. To make the equipment more flexible, we added bed edgers that can perform numerous functions as well. For instance, the stump-grinding blade, rock loader and rain drain attachments allow contractors to work their bed edgers in a variety of ways." By now, you can already see the savings in the amount of labor needed for these jobs.

"Purchasing equipment with attachment capabilities minimizes the investment in and maintenance of dedicated seasonal machines such as aerators," says Stucky. They also broaden a contractor's capabilities. They are designed for flexibility, turf impact and space constraint.

"You don't need a 30 or 40 horsepower engine to do the job," says Cornwell. "All you have to do is know which machine is the right one for the job."

Some smaller landscape contractors may feel that they can't afford to buy new equipment, along with its accessories. But that's not necessarily true. "One power unit windows many attachments for many jobs -- buy them as you need them," says Jim Dinsmore, Dinsmore Landscape, Santa Clara, California. "They make the job smoother, faster and more efficient." His small landscape company doesn't take the accessibility of attachments for granted.

Hand power tools like string trimmers, hedge trimmers, and poles with a small chainsaw or pruner to trim the low branches of a tree from the ground, all add to the contractor's tool box.

This kind of equipment has become very significant to the landscape business. From mowers to chainsaws, to compact excavators to trenchers, they are indispensable? especially when there is such variety. A job can't be completed if you only have a shovel, and you can't do much to maintain a property if you only have a mower.

Stucky doesn't refer to attachments as simply add-ons. "They are more productive than stand-alone units, more cost-effective to operate and maintain, and have the same maneuverability advantages of the zero-turn mowers," Stucky says. "Couple those facts with the understanding that the power unit does not have downtime where it simply takes up storage space, unlike dedicated units that can only be used for certain tasks."

9_4.jpg If and when you decide to purchase an attachment, look for a dealer with competitive financing programs. Are you able to pay for it after you've used it for certain jobs? Can you finance just the attachment, or can you only finance big items?

At the end of the day, you'll find that your machine is always consistent. A worker might get fatigued while hand-raking a yard. He can't help but move a bit more slowly or even miss a spot after a long day. A machine won't tire, and the effort it saves the operator will help keep him attentive enough so that nothing gets neglected.

These machines, and their accessories, were born to do the work of a few good men. Whether attachments or dedicated units, they're doing most of the grunt work, allowing your employees more time for other tasks and new jobs.