Whether applying fertilizer or top dressing, it’s important for landscape contractors to have access to spreaders and sprayers, or machines that are a combination of both.
The equipment you purchase can vary depending on the size and types of properties you maintain, but new technology is making machine options efficient across the board.
The Eco250 and Eco150 are the company’s newest generation of top dressing spreaders on the market. Along with moving all of the levers and handles to a more convenient location by the operator’s hands, the company also made the sides of the hopper steeper in order to avoid bridging of the product, which is when the bottom of the wet product (either sand or compost) drops down and the top remains in place.
Ecolawn also updated its spreading system from a single disc to two spinners.
“With the single spreading mechanism it tends to be a heavier spread on the one side instead of the other,” says Keith Schuler, sales manager. “We went with a dual spin to get an even spread on both sides.”
Ecolawn’s spreaders are walk behinds so the operator can see what he’s doing. However, new this year, the company took the whole system and turned it into a tow-behind.
“As you pull it, the mechanism works and it spreads,” Schuler says. “When you move your tractor forward, the wheels turn on your spreader and it operates our spreading system.”
The company also turned the spreader into an attachment that can be put on the front of a Walker mower and a Grasshopper brand mower. The attachment hooks into the PPO and spreads in front.
One point on the Ecolawn spreaders is that they are specific to top dressing, not fertilizing.
“Our machine isn’t designed for that,” Schuler says. “You can do it, but it’s designed to spread bulk material. They won’t be happy with our machine as a fertilizer machine because we don’t have those minute, fine controls.”
Ecolawn spreaders hold three to four times as much product as typical fertilizer spreaders because top dressing is dealing with bulk material, not bags. While fertilizer is used for nutrients, bulk material such as sand or soil is used to supplement the yard.
“They’re doing it to promote growth; ours is to change the soil structure,” Schuler says.
Every unit LT Rich offers is a spreader-sprayer combo, meaning operators can use them to put down both liquid herbicides and dry fertilizers at the same time.
“There’s really not one time it’s using a liquid or one time it’s using a dry,” says Tom Rich, president. “Normally they’re using both.”
Taking the idea from the agricultural market, LT Rich has incorporated ground metering into its spreaders/sprayers. Ground metering is when the flow is controlled given the ground speed of the unit.
“The faster the operator goes, more product is going down,” Rich says. “It’s a lot more consistent application. It’s more environmentally friendly.”
This is because you’re not wasting product when the operator slows his pace. To maintain this, the company has speedometers on the units to show ground speed.
LT Rich also changed its entire lineup a year ago, resulting in units with a lower center of gravity and multiple spray tanks for putting down different products. Some of the units can carry up to four different liquid products at once.
One of the other updates LT Rich has done includes completely changing the chassis. The company went to suspension in order to soften the ride, and also made the chassis stiffer. The transmission was also changed.
“It handles the commercial application a lot better for the environment we’re in,” Rich says.
Located in Canada, where strict regulations have banned pesticide use, Rittenhouse has had to design equipment specifically for organic programs.
“We’re seeing more and more sales going to the U.S.,” says Mark Rittenhouse, president.
Because of iron-based treatments, the company has made their sprayers more corrosion-resistant.
“We’re talking about more than the machine,” Rittenhouse says. The company has had to develop a whole line of applicators, as well as spray guns. Before, they offered two spray guns; now they offer a dozen. The spray guns come with options such as a ceramic tip that’s corrosion resistant.
“We removed all exposure to metal parts completely – all plastic, rubber or Teflon,” he says.
They’ve also provided a flush out for the hose reels so the product doesn’t stay there. The suction assembly had to be redesigned as well because the product can’t be allowed to settle in the tank.
“What we’ve found is sometimes small particles are in the mix, so we’ve had to accommodate how we design the machines.”
The benefit of this is that the same machines are now popular for applying compost tea to lawns.
Rittenhouse supplies traditional skid sprayers, but the company has been supplying more and more backpack sprayers to customers.
“The cost of the product is expensive,” he says. “Instead of blanket spraying a yard, we’re seeing a lot more spot treatment.”
Backpacks are also handy if you’re doing a quick service call with touch ups. You’re able to throw the backpack in the truck and not worry about a large piece of equipment.
They’ve also become more consistent as technology has improved.
“Traditionally pressure is inconsistent; up and down. A very difficult thing to calculate,” Rittenhouse says. “Electric is consistent pressure; very accurate.”
In past years, the company only offered one electric backpack to choose. Now there’s been a definite shift and the market has expanded to allow for a full selection. Rittenhouse said they’re popular because you don’t have to hand pump them.
As contractors continue to focus on growing their businesses, Turfco continues to focus on how its products can help them. One of the ways is to offer a three-in-one tank.
“Having a variety of properties is common in the business,” says Scott Kinkead, executive vice president. “(And) being able to do that wide variety of properties with one machine, instead of a bunch of machines.”
The three-in-one tank gives operators the ability to cover up to 132,000 square feet, fully loaded, while still being able to fit through a 36-inch residential gate.
This also helps with route management, because you don’t need to send two crews to one location, just because one property has the small gate access and the other needs a larger piece of equipment.
Turfco’s unit also features a steering wheel with hands free speed control. This allows the operator to use his foot for speed control, keep one hand on the steering wheel and use the other to operate the sprayer/spreader.
“It frees your hands up so you’re not like Edward Scissorhands, trying to operate different levels,” Kinkead says. “It’s not artistry. You really only flip two levers and you’re going.”
This also adds value in that you don’t have to take a lot of time teaching new employees how to operate the equipment. “Frankly, if the guy can’t use a steering wheel and hands free, you shouldn’t have him drive a truck to the property,” he says. “It’s not like they have to get used to something they’ve never seen before.”
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