5 Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Your Landscaping Tools

We got advice from the owner of a landscape company on how to keep gear and tools running at optimal levels.

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A Cleaning Routine Saves Time & Money

Landscape professionals depend upon reliable operation from a variety of tools and equipment each day. A breakdown, although it may not stop work completely, can result in extra time at a site and throw off tight schedules during busy times of the year.

Jeffery Rossen of DC-area Rossen Landscape believes in establishing strict replacement schedules and maintenance routines for all tools and equipment. Staying on top of common-sense, basic cleaning and maintenance keeps the crews safe, maximizes work hours and promotes a professional appearance.

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Don't Slip on the Oil

The 2-cycle engines driving landscaping tools like blowers and weed trimmers require an oil/fuel mixture for proper lubrication and operation. Most operators know the risk involved in running these machines on a lean mix, but too often they avoid this folly by using a generous amount of oil in the blend. Rossen says that can be a costly mistake, as an overly rich fuel mix can damage the pistons, significantly reducing the life of the machine. In which states do landscapers get paid the most?

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Clean and Tidy

Rossen stresses the importance of keeping landscaping equipment clean. Operators at his company are required to tidy up and remove debris from all equipment before reloading the truck at each site. The cleaning process provides operators an opportunity to focus their attention on each machine and inspect it for potential problems. Dirt and grime steal lifespan from moving parts, and debris buildup can be ignited by hot equipment, resulting in a costly fire. Save time and effort on paver installation.

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Clean and Replace Air Filters

Landscape equipment gets heavy use in dusty conditions. Rossen's company requires air filter inspections once a week during the busy mowing season. Cleaning is as simple as giving them a shot of air from the compressor. Filters that show signs of saturation from oil and fuel or visible tears should be replaced immediately.

During the heavy demands of leaf season, he recommends that the air filters on blowers are cleaned daily and replaced weekly.

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Box It Up

The sight of landscape trailers moving through neighborhoods is familiar to most people. Rossen's crews, however, all operate out of box trucks. This shields expensive mowers and other landscaping tools from rain and road spray, he says. Having equipment locked inside a van is also more secure, leading to a decrease in accidents, Rossen says. Converting from trailer to truck also improves parking, turning and visibility. Can a warranty win you the job?

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Have a Place for Everything

It took seven years for Rossen Landscape to transition from trailers to a fleet of trucks and settle on the cargo space setup to best support his crews. This process showed him the importance of creating a designated place for every landscaping tool and piece of equipment. As an example, Rossen says that his operators would often leave trimmers loose, too often causing damage to the trigger, housing or guards. Each truck now has a rack designed specifically to support the trimmer and hold it in place during transport.

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The Common Thread in Maintenance

The tools of landscape professionals operate in a challenging environment, where dirt and wear is the norm. Each piece of equipment requires an appropriate storage spot and periodic maintenance to keep it working at its highest and safest level.

"The quickest way to ruin a piece of equipment is to use it without regard for its intent," says Rossen.

His top advice for keeping landscaping tools maintained is to invest in a thorough training program. Make sure all operators are familiar with its uses, care and operating procedures. Good training sets the bar for maintenance, saving you time and money. Avoid these trees: 10 worst trees for a home's plumbing.

About the expert:

Jeffery Rossen, of Rossen Landscape in Great Falls, Virginia, entered landscaping when he took on the challenge of building a backyard pond to hold koi that he had raised from eggs in an aquarium. That experience grew into his first company, Atlantic Landworks, which specialized in ponds and gardens. After earning a degree in landscape technology from Virginia Tech, Rossen moved on to work with TruGreen and ValleyCrest before the companies' retreat from residential work offered him the opportunity to establish his own business, in 2003. Since then, Rossen Landscape has evolved into an award-winning design, build and maintenance organization.