Professional landscapers use a combination of hand and power tools to create and care for outdoor spaces. Landscaping tools and equipment include implements for digging, weeding, trimming and cleanup. Whether you’re getting started as landscape maintenance professional or simply gathering a set of tools for personal use, become familiar with the tools of the landscaping trade and choose the right ones for your project.
Each stage of the design process calls for a different landscape design tool. To find qualified leads, you need a solid sales process. When it comes to closing a deal during a presentation, you’ll need a stunning design.
But in between those, you’ll need to measure property sizes so you can create accurate designs. And that’s when you’ll need measurement tools.
You want your designs to be exact, so there’s no room for error when you are collecting the site’s measurements. Make sure you choose the landscape design tools that will help you get the job done.
You can get the property’s measurements without ever leaving your desk by using GIS surveyed terrain data.
Using your landscape design software, you can calculate square footage, measure the perimeter and assess the outdoor living space with image detail down to 3 inches per pixel by using GIS.
To get an aerial image and access the GIS data, type in your client’s address and pull five high-resolution images of the property. The software will then model the surrounding terrain.
Not only will this calculate the measurements you need, but it will also help you spot any potential project limitations.
Plus, GIS images will also be a higher resolution than free satellite images. The high-resolution GIS images are at 3 inches per pixel — instead of 12 to 20 inches per pixel like with free satellite images: That means you can generate accurate terrain data and trace precise measurements.
You can also use Google Earth Pro for free to import vector images files to map GIS data. There are features that compute distances and areas using Google Earth’s measurement tools, as well.
Some landscape designers — like Scott Cohen, owner of Green Scene Landscaping and Pools in Chatsworth, Calif. — are taking aerial images to an even higher level.
Cohen uses quad-rotor drones with attached GoPro cameras and gimbals to get measurements, as well as before-and-after photos for his clients. He only goes about 50 feet high to get the shots.
He also uses a point-of-view screen, which is about the size of an iPhone, to see what the drone is filming in real-time. It’s not only been a useful tool for designs, but it also helps set his services apart from the competition. Drones cost a few thousand, so it’s important the operator has experience operating them to avoid crashes and damage.
You can incorporate GPS throughout your business as a way to track your equipment and trucks, as well as to measure properties.
You can walk the property with a GPS receiver from companies like Trimble or Garmin to collect the site information you need to create measurements. You’ll also need GPS software, like ExpertGPS or Maptitude, that can read the data.
Before using a GPS receiver on a property, you may need to configure the settings. The exact configuration will depend on the type and model of GPS receive you use, so make sure you read the operation manual carefully.
For the most useful and accurate data, make sure you have a strong GPS signal, sufficient battery power and clear sky.
There are also apps — like Measure Map, Planimeter or GPS Fields Area Measure — that allows you to measure distances, perimeters and areas. The apps use GPS location services to create measurements.
There are a variety of uses for laser measurement technology, including measuring distances, elevation, clearances or remote position with GPS.
Some laser measurement brands are Laser Technology, Bosch, Opti-Logic and Johnson.
You won’t be bound to the physical limitations that you might encounter with traditional landscape design tools. You can also import the data to your CAD program for an easy transition to your design.
Laser measurements can be especially helpful with long-range measurements and slopes.
Open-Reel Measuring Tape
For tight areas, using an open-reel measuring tape can be an efficient option. Just make sure to keep a notepad and pen to keep track of the measurement numbers.
This tool can be used for measuring areas like beds or patios. It’s also ideal for getting precise data for small areas.
Steel tapes won’t stretch as much as fibreglass, so you’ll get a more accurate reading with that material.
A measuring wheel tracks the landscape’s distance by the number of revolutions it makes.
These wheels do best on smooth surfaces like pavement. They aren’t as efficient on rough terrain or areas that could cause bouncing. Those factors can affect the measurement tool’s accuracy.
Keep track of any site obstacles or factors that could have affected the accuracy.
One of the more expensive tools used in landscape design, transit levels is an optical instrument mounted on a tripod with a built-in level.
These levels are efficient with measuring vertical angles. Here are some tips to get the most accurate reading from the transit level.
- Make sure the levelling screws are not too tight.
- Don’t lift the level by the telescope — lift it by the base.
- Don’t touch the tripod after the transit level is mounted because that can cause problems with the measurements and accuracy.
Other Tools & Equipment Used in Landscaping
Landscaping Edger – this is a special tool that you can use to trim the edges of your garden. Like, if some of your grasses or plants have overgrown and are already covering some parts of your pathways or curbs, you can use the edger to trim them.
General rules for choosing hand tools
- Go for tools with wood or coated-metal handles, as they’ll be strong but not too heavy.
- Make sure to choose tools with handles made from wood with a close grain, as the tighter the grain, the stronger the wood.
- Avoid tools with painted handles, as the paint is often used to disguise inferior wood.
- If you have the money, get tools with tubular-steel or fibreglass handles, as they’ll last a lifetime.
- Choose long-handled tools with “D” shaped handles, as they’re easier on your hands and wrists.
- Go for models with seamless construction, as the head will never come loose.
- Before purchasing any tool, act out the motions you’ll go through when using it. Get a feel for the weight and length of it, and if it doesn’t feel comfortable to you, don’t buy it.
Types of Edgers:
- Electric – Electic powered tools were, at one time, inefficient. The electric tools of today, by comparison, are by far the best way to go. You will need to spend a little more on some occasions to get the right tool for the job, but things like tune-ups, pernickety equipment, etc. is a thing of the past! This tool is great to use when trimming grasses and flowerbed.
- Gas-Powered – this is a cordless edger and offer great advantage since you don’t have to be careful of wires and plugs. You can use it, thus, even at the farthest corners of your garden.
- Wheelbarrow – this is a basic tool that most gardeners are using. You can load lots of things here too and from your garden. If there are small tools that you want to bring to the garden, you can load them in this tool to save time. You can also use this to wheel out garbage and plants or grass trimmings.
- Weed Eater – Your mower is great equipment, but there are areas in your garden where it can’t be used. This is where this landscaping tool comes in handy. You can rely on this tool if you w. ant to get rid of those tall grasses. It is also easy to maintain, but you have to replace it once it’s all been used up and can no longer extend its string.
- Shovels – if you need to dig holes for landscape posts; this tool is a great one. You have different options when it comes to blade designs. Choices include a spade, flat, and post hole.
- Rototillers – if you need to turn larger soil areas in your garden, this tool is the right one for you.
- Small trowel – if you need to dig holes for your plants or dig the soil around weeds to cut its roots, this tool will come in handy. You can also use this to loosen up the soil around your plants to avoid hurting the stalks.
- Pruning Tools – you will need this to prune your bushes and shrubs to maintain the shape or size that you want. You can also use this in removing dead or dry branches.
These are just some of the many landscaping tools that you will need when landscaping your garden.
To make these tools last longer, be sure to keep them stored in a dry place. Clean them before storing to avoid dirt from piling up and cause rusting.
Short-handled Hand Tools
In more compact spaces, such as when you’re working in tightly-packed borders, you’ll need to swap your long-handled tools for their short-handled counterparts. Here are some tips on choosing the essential short-handled hand tools for landscapers.
Alongside your shovel, your trowel will be the hand tool you use the most while landscaping. Use it for light digging and planting saplings, as well as uprooting weeds and old stalks. You should also turn to your trowel when working in borders full of small plants, so you don’t damage the roots of the plants that are set to remain.
Get a trowel with a stainless steel blade, as it won’t rust and dirt can be easily wiped from the polished surface.
The short-handled hand tool you’ll use the most after your trowel will be your secateurs. Use them for pruning, cutting branches, twigs, and bamboo up to 1cm thick, and taking cuttings for propagation.
You should have two pairs of secateurs: bypass and anvil. Bypass secateurs work by having two blades come together to make a smooth cut, making them perfect for use on living plants. However, they can be damaged when used on dead growth, which will bend and snap between the two blades. When dealing with dead and dried-out growth, it’s much better to use anvil secateurs, which create a crushing motion that is much more effective when cutting twigs and stalks.
A hand rake is perfect for removing leaves and garden debris from between plants without damaging their roots or crowns. Make sure to purchase this essential item, rather than attempting to fit your leaf rake into a space it’s too large for.
Japanese gardening knife (or hori-hori)
This Japanese hand tool is extremely versatile and should be part of every landscaper’s tool bag. It can be used in place of trowel for digging, but it comes into its own when you’re planting bulbs and weeding. Use the saw blade to cut roots and divide small perennials, and the pointed end as a crevice tool.
A hori hori is perfect for planting bulbs — stab it into the ground using the ruler to set the exact depth you want your bulb, wiggle the blade, and drop your bulb into the hole you’ve made.
These handheld garden forks have bent prongs, making them perfect for turning soil, mixing in fertiliser, and unearthing big weeds without hassle in closely planted garden beds.
The Essential Landscaping Power Tools
A collection of the essential power tools is for any landscaper, and you’ll struggle to complete basic tasks like lawn maintenance and topiary without them. Here are our tips for buying landscaping power tools.
The power tool you’ll use the most as a landscaper will be your lawnmower. As you’ll be maintaining several large lawns, you should invest in a petrol-powered ride-on mower with a cutting width of at least 30″ — anything less will be inefficient, and smaller units will need to be replaced much faster due to overuse.
A top-of-the-range lawn mower will be a significant financial investment, but it’s an item you’ll be using every day, so it’s not an item you want to scrimp on.
A grass trimmer will make short work of an area too overgrown with weeds or grass to tackle directly with your mower. It will also allow you to get a neat cut on the grass right up to the edge of steps and trees.
Clearing a large lawn of fallen leaves with a rake is inefficient; investing in a leaf blower will save you countless hours when running your landscaping business. They require quite a lot of power to run, so go for gas-powered over electric for the best results.
A tiller is another must-have power tool for any landscaper. A high-quality model will allow you to create new flower beds with ease, as well as dig over existing beds in minutes.
Our renowned Mantis tillers are famous for their patented serpentine tines, which enable our lightweight and highly manoeuvrable front-tine design to break down soil and hard claymore efficiently than many bulky and expensive rear-tine units. Our tines can also be quickly and easily reversed for shallow cultivation and weeding.
Our Deluxe XP tiller is the perfect choice for a landscaper, with its four serpentine tines and 35cc four-stroke engine powered by Subaru, which will help you create and maintain flower beds with ease.
By aerating a lawn, the soil below the grass will become less compacted, allowing water, oxygen, and nutrients to flow through it more easily. This will help the grass grow to its full potential, making the lawn as attractive as possible.
Although it’s possible to purchase hand aerators, a power tool is much better suited for a landscaping business. Stand-alone units are available, but if you own a Mantis tiller, a much better option would be the lawn aerator attachment. This will take up a lot less space than a separate lawn aerator tool.
A lawn edger will allow you to keep the boundaries of your clients’ lawns neat and tidy. While you can achieve these results with manual tools, a lawn edger will save you hours of labour. If you already own a Mantis tiller, the border edger attachment will save you having to buy a stand-alone tool and provide you with the same results.
A chainsaw is an essential power tool for cutting the branches of bushes and trees that your hand tools can’t manage. It’s important to get a light model that is easy to use, as you’ll regret buying a heavy and unwieldy model when you’re using it up a ladder.
Another great option for performing safe and hassle-free tree surgery is a pole pruner. This specialist power tool will allow you to cut the upper limbs of a tree without having to balance on ladders, as the saw blade is at the end of a long pole.
Essential for keeping your clients’ hedges in pristine condition, a hedge trimmer will help you make short work of your topiary duties. You’ll be using your hedge trimmer for long stretches at a time, and you’ll need to retain close control of it even when you become fatigued, so it’s important to get a light and manoeuvrable model.
Turn garden waste into usable material with a garden shredder. This power tool will allow you to shred up your cuttings to make mulch, and the branches from trees to make wood chips for garden use. This will cut down on waste and also save you money.
During winter, when your clients’ gardens fall dormant, your workload will naturally reduce. You can keep money coming in by planning all of your tree surgery jobs for the winter months, and another way you can supplement your income over winter is by offering to clear your clients’ paths and drives of snow. You can make short work of this with a Mantis snow thrower, which will clear metres of fallen snow in minutes.
General rules for choosing power tools
- Buy the best you can afford, but don’t get a tool with add-ons and accessories that you don’t need. These tools will only be heavier and more difficult to use.
- Buy your power tools from an established nationwide or international brand, so spare parts will always be easy to source.
- If you’re buying electric, get tools that all use the same battery, so you don’t need to lug around several different spare batteries and chargers.
- If you have the option to wait it out, try to get the best deal on your power tools in a sale.
- When buying your power tools, make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t included in the price, and that you buy any essentials that don’t come as part of the initial price. Be aware of this when writing up your budget as well.
These hand and power tools are essential items for every landscaping business. It’s important always to get the best models you can afford, as you’ll be using them every day. Furthermore, spending a bit of extra money on getting top-of-the-range equipment at the start of your venture will save you money in the long run, as those initial tools won’t ever need to be replaced in some cases.
If you don’t have the funds to buy the best versions of every tool, you’ll be best off starting with a small collection of high-quality essentials and adding to it from there, rather than buying cheap versions of every tool on this list.
Follow these buying tips to get the best hand tools and power tools available. Remember when making these purchases that these tools will be the cornerstone of your business for years to come, so it pays not to scrimp on this early investment.