Dealing with debris

Features - Maintenance

Armed with our expert advice from contractors, manufacturers and dealers, you can be confident in your next blower, vacuum or truckloader purchase.

June 3, 2013
Julie Collins

Leaves, grass clippings, debris. You might not be able to avoid onsite cleanup, but buying the right equipment can make handling landscaping leftovers an easier task.

The key, says Drew Coates, product manager for manufacturer Billy Goat Industries, is tailoring what you buy to your operation. “Consider your labor. What’s the most efficient at performing the task you need completed and in your price range?” he says.

Mike Thackrey, vice president and cofounder of Fieldstone Landscape Services in Clearwater, Fla., agrees. “I’d tell dealers or sales reps about the type of properties I work with and my typical client, then ask what type of power I need to service that client. From there you can start working on the price points,” he says. Blowers, vacuums, and truckloaders are the three most common options for handling leaves and other landscaping debris.

The majority of landscape contractors who purchase equipment from Pantano Power Equipment in Manalapan, N.J., buy blowers. “They’re versatile. You can get in and around beds, trees, shrubs and can use them year-round,” owner Rick Patano says. That’s why Chase Coates, president of Outback Landscape in Pocatello, Idaho, relies on a combination of handheld and backpack blowers – handheld for smaller residential lawns and backpack for cleaning up larger properties. Thackrey uses blowers too – mostly for grass clippings, but once a year for corralling oak leaves into piles for pickup.

Other debris cleanup options have a more limited use and a higher price tag. “Vacuums work for smaller lawn cleanup in the fall,” Pantano says. “They’re easy-to-push, high-wheeled machines, but typically a little more cumbersome. Contractors don’t tend to use them as much as a homeowner would.”

Customers who purchase vacuums generally ask about how easy it is to handle the debris bag and how much volume the vacuum holds between dumping, Pantano says.

Contractors who use truckloaders bring the material to the machine for collecting, condensing, and transporting. “Truckloaders are expensive, bigger, and need equipment to pull them,” Pantano says. But they might be the right option if you deal with a large amount of debris that must be removed from the job site. He says customers who purchase truckloaders generally want to know how easy they are to install and the ease with which one person can dismount and dump the truck. In addition, customers want to know truckloader weight and what size truck is needed to tow the loader.

Regardless what type of equipment you’re buying, Drew Coates stresses the importance of doing your homework, and taking equipment for a spin before buying. “Run the product versus competitive equipment to see how they actually perform,” he says.

His last word of advice? “Every product has its pros and cons. Find the one that best suits your operation before putting down your hard-earned money.”


The author is freelancer in Lincoln, Ill.


For a product round-up, visit, click the current issue tab and view under web extras.