If you have just started landscaping your property and want to become a bit more efficient and professional or you have decided to start landscaping as a profession, you must have professional landscaping tools and equipment. Trying your hand at landscaping is a great idea, but doing it without the proper tools will only make you suffer needlessly.
If you want to become a great landscaper, you must invest in professional landscaping tools and equipment to get decent results. Without these professional landscaping tools, it would be challenging for anyone to master their landscaping.
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How Do You Landscape Like a Professional
Well, let’s set aside the obvious traits, like old worn-out jeans, the unkempt, dirty appearance, and the zeal for a few well place profanities when the going gets tough. What does it really take to landscape like a professional?
Landscaping gets expensive! Unless money isn’t a problem and you just hate hard work, you might want to consider doing your landscape work yourself. Most of it is not too technical. You will need a bit of common sense, a good strong back, and a few essential tools to get started.
Before we get into the tools, here is a list of things that may not seem obvious but that I have learned over a lifetime of professional landscaping.
- You must invest in those plants that bloom throughout the year. Any landscaper will tell you that every client wants flower beds that bloom all year round. Your first order of business is to figure out how that is possible and which plants you need to do this. Good luck with this one.
- Corners in your lawn and grass right up to the house are a pain in the rear. Cut bed edges to allow for long sweeping curves and beds along all walls of the house. Landscapers want it to look smooth and nice but also don’t want to get off that riding mower to trim any darn corners. Make sure that there aren’t any!
- Don’t haul out any debris. Mulch your lawn clippings right into the lawn, mulch leaves into the lawn until they are just too thick, then blow them into the beds. Put all twigs and leaf debris into planting beds to act as a mulch. The only reason that landscapers are charging you to haul all of your leaves, twigs, and lawn clippings away is because you asked them to and because if they didn’t, they couldn’t sell you all of that mulch in the spring. Save all organics, use them as mulch, keep it simple and easy.
- Forget about installing an irrigation system. Once your plants and lawn are established, you won’t ever need it again, and they are a pain in the rear and expensive.
- Keep landscape lighting to a minimum and always use LED lights. Any other bulbs burn out way too often, and a complex lighting system is a waste of money and hard to maintain. A few well-placed spotlights will do.
- Don’t ever install metal or plastic lawn edging. It will pop up out of the ground over time, get hit by the mower, and look like crap. Just cut a natural bed edge and save yourself a ton of headaches.
- Don’t waste your money on landscape fabric or weed barrier. It only works for a couple of years before the weeds grow on top of it, and it is useless. It is a colossal pain to rip it out at that point, and it keeps you from being able to easily make changes in your plantings. It also stifles the spread of perennials.
- Unless you are an avid gardener who loves weeding, keep your garden beds to a minimum. Large beds require more plants and more weeding. Mowing is much easier than weeding, so plant lawn and keep beds only big enough for the plants that you really want.
- Plant groundcovers. Groundcovers spread readily and keep the weeds out. Beautiful!
- Plant only hardy plants that are a zone lower than what you think you are. This will almost ensure that they will survive without a lot of pampering from you. Live plants that are easy to care for are good. Dead plants are a waste of money.
- Never plant a tree or any plant deeper than it was in the pot or nursery, and be aware that many balled and burlapped trees you get from the nursery have extra soil mounded on top of the ball. Plant these a bit high. Most of the time, when I find a dead tree, it is because a homeowner or rookie landscaper planted it too deep and suffocated it. Plant roots need oxygen, plant them too deeply, and they will die.
- Don’t stake newly planted trees. If you bought a decent plant and it has a decent root ball, don’t bother staking it. People forget about the stakes, and the ropes girdle the trees; the tree roots don’t develop as well because the tree does not sway in the breeze, and it is just a waste of time.
- When planting a balled and burlapped tree, always create a soil ring around it to hold water for the first couple of years and always cut the twine away from the trunk, or you will never remember to come back and do it later, and it will girdle the tree.
- When you are digging a hole for anything, think about where the soil will need to be when you are done. Don’t just throw it around anywhere; put it where it should be so that you only need to move it once.
- When you order materials and have them dumped on-site, think about where to put them. Again, a truckload of anything is heavy. You don’t want to move it any further than you need to. Maybe the truck driver can dump half on each side of the house if that would be easier.
- On a similar note, avoid dumping crap into the grass. Mulch, soil, gravel, and rock will mess up the lawn and be a pain to dig out every time. If you can keep these materials on a hard surface, please do.
- Mulch around all trees. Don’t mow lawn right up to the trunk. You are compacting the soil over the roots, and I don’t care how careful you think you are for the first few years; you will hit that tree with the mower or string trimmer eventually.
- When mulching around your trees and shrubs, keep the mulch thin near the trunks or stems. Thick mulch at the stem will only promote rot and encourage mice to live in there and chew on the tree.
- Look at the shrubs and trees near your house at least once every year in late winter. Prune them if they are getting too big. Don’t wait five years and then hack the hell out of them. A bit of pruning every year as needed is much easier to do and will result in healthier, more attractive plants.
Alright, now that I got that off of my chest, let’s get on to the tools. This article is about the tools, right?
Professional Landscaping Tools and Equipment
Whether you’ve decided to start your own landscape business or just want to landscape your yard, you will always want to look for professional quality landscaping tools and equipment. The cheap crap never lasts, and it will break at the absolute worst times. Spend a few extra bucks and get the good stuff. Take it from a guy that knows.
Check out our list of professional landscaping tools. These are the basics that are in the truck every day. With this assortment, you will be able to do just about any landscape task.
The digging spade is the base tool for all landscaping. If there is one tool that gets used the most, this is it. From digging a pond to planting a perennial, this is your tool. It is pointed to dig quickly and comes in many styles.
Pay attention to handle quality; this is the most important part. Nice thick wood or fiberglass? It is a personal choice. I prefer the wood handle’s feel and contour, but the fiberglass ones are darn sturdy. I stay away from the steel handles simply because this is the all-day shovel. You don’t want the extra weight for your all-day shovel, nor do you want to catch a jolt if you happen to cut that old lamppost wire that someone forgot to tell you about.
Most of the time, I will choose a long-handled shovel over a short D-handled shovel, just because it’s easier on the back. Remember, this is not a pry bar. Using your shovel as a pry bar is the quickest way to separate the handle from the spade.
Here is one that I would buy.
The flat shovel is great for scooping on flat surfaces. You will use it for cleaning up debris from driveways or scooping soil off the bed of your truck. Not as often used as the spade, but nice to have for clean-up for sure. Check this one out.
You will need this shovel any time you are cutting a bed edge. It also works excellent as a root chopper when you are digging out a tree for transplant. Contract diggers will use these shovels when balling and burlapping trees. These are also great for picking up sod. I like the steel handles for these because they take a lot of pounding, and you are less likely to be digging deep with these, so you probably won’t hit electricity. I have one short and one long handle edger. The short ones are better cutting sod; the long-handled ones are better for all-day edging if you want to make it easier on your back. Here is one.
A good steel rake is a must for any raking of soil, heavier debris, mulch, or when you need to dig some gravel out of the grass. Again, wood or fiberglass is a personal preference. Check this one
Some call it a leaf rake. Great for just that, raking leaves and debris from your lawn. These are usually relatively lightweight and probably the most disposable hand tool that we have. It’s not unusual to burn through several of these each year. They must be flexible to work well, making them prone to wear and fairly easy to break.
There are different tine patterns and widths. If you do a lot of mulch, you may want the big wide hayfork; otherwise, it’s nice to have the regular six-tined pitchfork for moving mulch, straw, piles of grasses, twigs, etc. Try picking up a pile of twigs and grasses from a spring clean-up with your shovel, and I assure you, you will be reaching for your pitchfork in short order.
These are great for working up garden beds. No other tool can bust-up and turn over a bed quicker than this one. I usually go for the D-handle on this one because it is aggressive work, and the D makes it quicker.
Every landscaper needs to have a pry bar in the truck. This tool will be with you for the rest of your life and will save you a bunch of money in shovel handles. Sometimes, there is just no other way to pop out that rock, root, or stump, and if you set any sort of boulders or flatstone, they are great to help with leveling.
I would buy a small one to start. If you aren’t pounding in fence posts, you aren’t likely to need a big one, but having a sledge is great for pounding in any stake.
An axe comes in handy any time that you have roots to cut. I wouldn’t even try to cut out a stump without a good axe.
Growing up, we called this a barn broom because every farmer had one to sweep out the barn. Get a stiff-bristled one, and it will be great for sweeping sidewalks, patios, driveways, and your garage. The soft-bristled ones seem pretty useless.
This one won’t be used much and could possibly be left off of this list, but if you have stepping stones or a narrow walkway, this is the only way to do it.
This is the workhorse of landscaping. We only buy the absolute toughest ones made because they will last for years, and you can haul anything from wet concrete to mulch. You can certainly buy the lighter-weight homeowner models, but you want a heavy-duty wheelbarrow if you are going really heavy. The lightweight plastic ones are fine for mulch, but they will flex under heavy loads. Many homeowners buy the dual-wheeled ones, but if you are doing anything other than straight line wheeling across your lawn, these are a pain in the rear. This one is my favorite, but get it with the pneumatic wheel.
These will be used for 90% of your pruning, so buy the best one that you can find. Even the good ones will dull with time, so use it carefully and buy a spare set of blades or a sharpener. Don’t use your pruning shears for cutting dirty roots or branches that are too big and never twist while cutting. This is the quickest way to ruin a pruner. I have purchased all of the cheap ones out there, and you get what you pay for; none have lasted a season.
Get the biggest and strongest one that you can. These are what you reach for when you need to cut the branches too big for your pruning shear. These are bigger, but once again, the quickest way to ruin them is to twist while cutting.
This is what you reach for when the limb is too big for your lopping shears. Get a good one because cutting through thick branches can take a long time with a cheap, dull saw.
It sounds silly, and you probably have something around the house, but if you don’t, two five-gallon pails to carry with you when pruning or weeding are a big help so that you don’t need to backtrack and pick up after yourself. It’s back to efficiency; only touch it once if you can.
Wrapping it Up
That’s about it. There are thousands of tools to consider, but the landscape tools listed above are the backbone of everything you will do in your landscape. Buy good quality tools, and you will not be disappointed when it comes time to do your work. Buy cheap crap, and they will break at precisely the wrong time.