View Full Version : Tips, tricks, and tools

D Felix
06-08-2004, 11:18 PM
OK, time for everyone to tell their secrets!:)

What kinds of things have you learned over the years that save you time (and therefore earn you more money)? What tools are the best you have found?

Let's see where this goes....

I'll start:

Silky saws! http://www.silkysaws.com, you can also buy them from Sherills. They are the best saws I have found, extremely sharp and smooth cutting. Very fast, just make sure you know where BOTH hands are!

Duro-rakes or similiar knock-offs. They help to spread mulch smoothly (I'll get to that in a minute). A.M. Leonard sells their own version, as well as the true Duro-rake.

Keep a chain-saw tool in all trucks. You never know when you will need one. It's best if you have two, one with a screwdriver head, another with a Torx....

Know how to sharpen (correctly) your own saw chain.

Know how to replace recoil ropes.

Replace recoil ropes on a yearly basis. We've had two ropes break on us so far this season. Fortunately, neither cost us a lot of time, but very well could have if we had been in a different location. We've decided to replace them every winter now....

Organize your hand tools that ride around in the back of your trucks. I'll try to post a pic of our solution to this sometime soon.

Tip-and-pours work great for keeping smaller quantities of chemicals in the truck.

Wrap ornamental grasses with duct tape before cutting them down. Saves a lot of clean-up time. Oh, and even though this thread has already been hashed out, we've found that a chainsaw (using the top side of the bar) works better than hedge shears for cutting down the grasses and cutting back liriope.

And perhaps my biggest tip of all: when raking mulch, keep the rake vertical when smoothing. You should basically be "brushing" the mulch around, which achieves a smoother finish. Kinda hard to describe, but try it a while, you'll see what I mean. It's easier with a Duro-rake than a traditional "bow" type rake.... The object is to get the tines of the rake parallel to the ground, which keeps the tines from digging into the mulch. When in this position, they knock off the imperfections and fill in the holes.

I know there's more, but I can't think of any right now.

What's everyone else got?????????


Lawn Made Easy
06-08-2004, 11:43 PM
Good infomation Dan, a lot of helpful hints.

Doster's L & L
06-08-2004, 11:59 PM
did you mean to keep your rake tines perpendicular instead of parallel to the mulch? I think that's what you meant. Anyhow, i have my rake tines pointed up (perpendicular) from the mulch.

I'm still learning about landscaping, so i don't have much to share with you all on this thread. Sorry.

hole in one lco
06-09-2004, 12:31 AM
In this business if you make a mistake you can pay for it for a long time. You can cut your hand off real fast. I see to many people filling there equipment while smocking a cig too.

Rex Mann
06-09-2004, 12:39 AM
Tips for pavers and retaining walls.

use a mixture of portland cement and concrete sand and screed it out to lay your base course on

always use geo-textile behind the face of the wall

always use the "not-perfect" units on the base course

overlay your paver edge and use flexible conduit and a sharpie to mark curved edges

move pavers only one time

use the best diamond blade you can afford

use the right sand at the proper depth for the setting bed

set elevations as soon as you get to the job site

use tape to mark your elevation marks so you do not loose them

buy the bast laser transit you can afford

invest in a magnesium or aluminum screed boards

create, maintain and actively promote a good web site

hammer you vendors for leads

get ICPI certified

read a good paver installation how-to book



our web site (http://rmstonescaping.com)

06-09-2004, 12:46 AM
I've seen toooo many people that don't even finish rake a mulch job.Shameful.
You actually use a chain saw to cut back liriope?
I do like the duct tape idea,I'm going to try that if I remember it..........
Extra trimmer spools that are pre wound for reloading in the "field."
I'm a little slow right now..............

06-09-2004, 02:08 AM
Learning how to distinguish a potential customer from a window shopper takes experience.

When they call, listen to what they say. Their words will usually give you a few clues about where they are.

If they're "shopping around" I usually tell them to call someone else. I'm not going to be the cheapest.

If they're still interested, I know I've probably got a new client.

Referrals are ususally going to be customers.

If they've called a bunch of people in the Yellow's, they're window shopping.

Phrases like "not sure what we're going to do yet" usually mean they're wasting your time.

I'm sure you guys can add a whole bunch to this post, so feel free to add.

Fescue Farmer
06-09-2004, 03:23 AM
After smoothing mulch with rake or pitch fork - use a short nap painting roller on a long, telescoping handle for a "smooth as glass look" :) Customers love it and neighbors get interested $$$

D Felix
06-09-2004, 09:53 AM
The rake tines should be parallel to the ground. Meaning the handle is nearly vertical. This allows you to rake very small amounts of mulch around which allows for a smoother finish.

And, yes, we've used a chainsaw to cut back liriope, though not extensively yet. I just figured it out this spring.:) Works much better than hedge shears, and since we don't mow, we don't normally have a weedeater or push mower on the truck....


06-09-2004, 12:12 PM
D Felix, would u post a pic of your rig?

06-09-2004, 12:36 PM
Originally posted by Rex Mann
Tips for pavers and retaining walls.

always use the "not-perfect" units on the base course

move pavers only one time

set elevations as soon as you get to the job site

use tape to mark your elevation marks so you do not loose them

I've only done one (quite large) patio, but rex is dead on with all his advice for pavers/walls. I learned the "move pavers only one time" is the best way to save labor time (and your back!)

I use steel rods that are 1/2"x18" with holes drilled through them. when i run strings i hammer the rods into the ground to the approximate height and then put a nail through one of the holes in the rods and then make the final adjustments with a smaller hammer.

for smoothing mulch out i either flip the rake upside down and drag it and use a very flexible metal tine rake.

the best way to final rake a yard/spot is with the 36" landscape rake. it makes for a much more level job compared to the 12-16" regular rakes.

more to come later.

06-10-2004, 04:55 PM
My biggest time saving secret is to use a handheld propane torch to cut geo-textile or weed fabric. Much faster and I think more safe than knife. Makes cutting around plant material very easy when installing in established beds.

06-10-2004, 07:39 PM
I use a soft bristled push broom to finish off mulch. It smooths out the mulch like nobodies bidness. :D

06-10-2004, 07:42 PM
always keep a sharp full metal spade in the truck along with hand pruners and lappers.

Fescue Farmer
06-10-2004, 08:08 PM
If you have a rider with a cup holder, and if you have a certified chemical applicator on that rider with a cup holder, put a small spray bottle of Round Up or other weed killer in the cup holder. When cutting a perimeter ring around ornamental mulch beds or tree rings, you can lean right over the mower and spray weeds if it is not a windy day. You won't be able to kill all the weeds, but it sure is a good touch up time saver.

D Felix
06-12-2004, 12:50 AM
I'll have to try the trick of cutting fabric with a torch.... It's a major PITA to cut with a knife, even a sharp one! How much does it stink when you burn/cut it?

As for a rig pic, I don't own it, so I'm not gonna post a pic.:) I will try to post a pic of our organizational method for the hand tools. I think I'm gonna stick a bunch of pics on a flash disc when I go in tomorrow and bring them home. I'll get them posted soon.

Oh, another tip: HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN!!! We started a job on Monday, intending to cut out a fairly large yew hedge with the chainsaw. Saw wouldn't run, so we were kinda up the creek so to speak. Shop couldn't/wouldn't fix it when we needed it, so we were stuck with handsaws until I remembered the Sawz-all was still in the truck.:D Back in business!

And carry appropriate tools for removing the recoil rope assembly for ALL gas powered tools that you carry. Our Stihl stuff takes either a Torx or a regular screwdriver, but our Echo blower takes a 2.5 mm Allen wrench.... I think the only gas equipment that we use that I haven't taken the recoil off of is the new Stihl MM 55 tiller. Only because it's less than a year old!


06-12-2004, 02:29 PM
I use a good pair of Fiskars scissors to cut fabric. I have a skinny little cheap plastic rake that looks worthless but I use it all the time for smoothing mulch and cleaning up tight areas. I use a canister shop vac for vacuuming out cracks and seams in patios and sidewalks, and for leaf cleanup in rock beds. It occaisonally sucks up a rock or two, but overall it's neater than using a blower. I never go anywhere without a measuring wheel.

06-13-2004, 07:47 AM
Ummm....ok,,,,,,here is 1 idea................................................................................................ .................................................................................................... .................................................................................................... .............................................Oh,,,just a second:::::::: have to go get more coffee.............................................................................................. ............................................Ooops. sorry""""" Kinda forgot what it was I was going to say........;) < Alzheimers> I guess Be honest and fair with all of your customers.....and DO NOT let your Ex- business partner STEAL your business from you ( he thinks he is getting 1 over on me )...........:D

AL Inc
06-14-2004, 11:33 PM
D Felix, I know the feeling with the chain saw. Now I always will travel with at least 2 chain saws. My guys still don't understand you can't use a chain saw like a stump grinder. So I keep multiple saws and sharp chains on the truck.
One big time saver for us was stocking all trucks with tools, spare parts, duct tape, anything they might need to make repairs on equipment. My tool box in my truck is loaded with stuff- tool set, sprinkler heads and parts, grease, oil, jumper pack, mower blades, WD 40, etc. Anything I can do to keep my crew working and not standing around wasting time.

06-15-2004, 01:48 AM
I always carry my saws-all with me and a few 12" pruning blades. I found them at HD, and the are great. When cutting out roots, rather that try to use my chainsaw and keep the dirt away, I just use these blades and cut right through. The may even be faster than a chainsaw, and if I destroy a blade it is a lot cheaper than a chain and bar. I forget the name of these blades but they are amazing.

D Felix
06-16-2004, 10:06 AM
OK, here's the pics of our method of organizing our hand tools. I've got three pics, two are basically the same, but I'll still post all three....

This is what it looks like when you open the tailgate.

D Felix
06-16-2004, 10:09 AM
This one looks a lot like the first, but has the scoop shovel and silage fork moved up so you can see the box better.

D Felix
06-16-2004, 10:20 AM
Last pic. This is the "front" of the box.

The box is made pretty much out of plywood and 2x2's. All of it treated, of course. The tubes are drainage tile of some sort that I hadn't seen before. SDR 35 probably would work just as well, and be somewhat cheaper than schedule 40. All of the "tubes" are 4" diameter. Placement of the "tubes" in the box was via trial and error, with some guesstimated measuring thrown in.:D As you may be able to see in this last pic, the box has two "legs" that are set into the grooves in the bed, and extend to the front of the bed. These keep the box from sliding forward, and most of the time keep the box from bouncing around side-to-side. All in all, it took two of us a couple of hours in the early spring last year to build this. Probably less than $60 in materials too.

Here's what's in the box:
Shovels- 3 round points, 2 squares
Rakes- 3 metal leaf rakes, 2 shrub rakes, 2 bow rakes, 1 Duro-rake
2 long handled edging spades
2 pitch forks
1 broom
On top of the box:
1 scoop shovel
1 silage fork
1 short King spade
1 short King spade that has a rounded blade (?)
1 drain spade
1 "potato" fork
1 Corona telescoping pole saw/pruner
And on the side is a sledgehammer, axe and pick mattock.

This box saves us a LOT of time and has paid for itself many times over. It makes it easy to find exactly what we want without having to dig around in the bed for 10 minutes and unload 1/2 of the truck.

Now if we could just figure out a way to organize everything else................:p


Tony Clifton
06-16-2004, 09:03 PM
Great ideas,, but that looks like a waste of bed space to me.

06-16-2004, 10:41 PM
If you sttod that box up and secured it to the bed you'd have a ton more space for more stuff.

06-16-2004, 11:13 PM
Originally posted by hole in one lco
I see to many people filling there equipment while smocking a cig too.

Whats wrong with that? :D :D

06-16-2004, 11:18 PM
We have a too storage box that covers the entire bos of the truck 3 2x6 stood on their side with plywood nailed on top. Rakes, shovels etc go under the plywood and other stuff goes on top.

06-17-2004, 10:30 PM
About a 10' length of air hose with a nozzle on each end. Blow a wheel barrel tire in the field you can go to one of your truck tires and put a nozzle on the truck and a nozzle on the wheel barrel and you are back in business. Remember to check tire pressure in truck!! We have used this method many times before.

06-18-2004, 12:18 AM
No more flats for us!
No flat tires!(airless)
The cats meow,fixed tooo many flats on them thangs to deal with it any more.

06-21-2004, 02:28 AM
I know this may be an alien concept to you guys in greener climates, but for xeriscape newbies use a cut section of old garden hose or carpet chunks for moving/planting cacti. Your hands will thank you. ;)

D Felix
09-03-2004, 01:51 AM
I'm adding another tip....

When and if you ever use a brush chipper, make sure you have whatever tools necessary to open the housing to access the disk/drum. Clogs are inevitable when you have little experience with one.:D

We found that out the hard way yesterday.:rolleyes: Rented a Vermeer BC935 to chip a bunch of big, overgrown shrubs. Everything went fine until I threw in a chunk of juniper that was pushing the limits of the chipper.... It fed in too fast and killed it.:( That was the first time we had to open it up, think we ended up opening up the housing another 3-4 times because stuff was getting fed in too fast. Once I figured that out and slowed down the rollers it worked fine!

Long story short: take your time and be safe when using chippers!

Anyone else have any other tips or tricks to add?


09-03-2004, 08:27 AM
I've gone with the philosophy that bigger is better with chippers.

I have a local vendor that rents a 12" diesel chipper, with feed control, for 285 a day. Considering a 9" unit is around 200-225 around here a little extra money goes a long way. The machine can take bigger limbs so it is less work for me and I would have to try pretty darn hard to jam that thing.

09-05-2004, 07:56 PM
Keep spares of things that break. ie, belts, hoses
Keep spares of things that clogg up. ie, air and fuel filters.
Never order one of anything. If you have to order it that means you cant find it locally. If you dont have a spare you will be down until the order comes in.
Keep a spare tool set in every truck.

09-05-2004, 09:53 PM
The most important thing you can learn and it is very obvious.. Expect the unexpected... and Dont trust a lawyers check(Personal Experience)

D Felix
03-20-2005, 10:53 AM
Thought I'd bring this back to the top to see if anyone had anything new to add...

I think someone said it in this thread, but cutting fabric with a torch works REALLY well. Just one thing to watch out for..... If you lay out you plants on the fabric, then go around and cut holes around the plants, make sure the B&B plants don't catch fire....:D Had that happen on Thursday, with THE last plant (boxwood) that I cut around. I *swear*, nothing was smoking when I walked away, but the burlap/sisal apparently caught and smoldered for a while. I think the boxwood will be fine though!

Any new tips/tricks?


03-20-2005, 01:32 PM
Not sure how you guys install weed block, a box of staples is like $7.00 for 75, came across a box of wire hangers someone was throwing out, I can get about 8 staples out of a hanger, cut with dikes while I watch TV in the garage, saved me some bucks, still charged the customer for them. :)

03-20-2005, 05:07 PM
We use 6" sod staples to hold our fabric down. They work out really well. I think it is like $30 for a box of 1000.

03-21-2005, 01:36 PM
I use sod staples(or jute fab staples)to hold down fab also,but in really hard soil they just bend.Then I use 4"galvinized to hold it down or longer the ones with the flattist and biggest heads I can find.

Get a contractors size wheelbarrow and lock and chain.when I am doing a big install I sometimes have to leave my equiptment on the jobsite.I lock my trailer down then use the chain to lock my wheelbarrow to the trailer w/my tools underneath it,long hand tools and graderake stay with me at all times,but my drip stuff and other tools I leave there untell I am done.This saves alot of time.

old dog
03-21-2005, 09:17 PM
About a 10' length of air hose with a nozzle on each end. Blow a wheel barrel tire in the field you can go to one of your truck tires and put a nozzle on the truck and a nozzle on the wheel barrel and you are back in business. Remember to check tire pressure in truck!! We have used this method many times before.
Carry a bicicle pump-good for mowers,wheelbarrows,other small equipment tires.
I have also started carrying a quart of Slime tire sealant.Bought a utility bed and will be using that to organize tools.Used,but in good shape and ,WOW,coming
off a truck like mine so no modifying!You can use a tie-down ratchet to seat the bead on a tire.

old dog
03-21-2005, 09:20 PM
Whats wrong with that? :D :D
Go ahead,make my day,sooner or later one less competitor!!! payup

03-21-2005, 11:31 PM
Extra extra hearing and eye protection.