Landscaping With Compact Equipment

By Eric Morse | September 28, 2010

Along the Gulf Coast, recovery from Hurricane Katrina continues more than two years after the storm came ashore. As the communities damaged by the storm recover, there is much to rebuild, from homes and businesses to schools and community infrastructure. Beyond these brick and mortar projects, there is another kind of rebuilding taking place. Installing new landscaping around homes and businesses is equally important in restoring a sense of normalcy in the area.

This is where Driftwood Landscape, Inc. comes in. The Biloxi, Mississippi-based company has a history of assisting with hurricane cleanup. Once the debris is cleared out and homes are rebuilt, Driftwood Landscape, Inc. is hired to restore or build landscaping on new and rebuilt properties.

In Gulfport, Mississippi, Driftwood Landscape had the challenge of landscaping a bayou property changed by Katrina. Before the hurricane, the property was on a thoroughfare, near a bridge. The power of the hurricane washed out the bridge and created a need for the thoroughfare to be moved. The property is now located at the end of what has become an access road. According to Richard Drummond, president of Driftwood Landscape, Inc., one of the first things that the landscaper helped the homeowners with was determining the elevation of the home.

"Originally, the owner brought in several feet of fill to raise the house before Katrina," says Drummond. "The storm was so powerful that it went off the flood maps from a previous hurricane. We raised it two additional feet."

Once raised, landscaping features could be installed. Major design elements include a pool with waterfall features, retaining walls, ground covers such as large palms, lighting, and an irrigation system. The contractor also designed an entrance and circulation within the property with interlocking concrete pavers. Driftwood Landscape, Inc.'s fleet of Bobcat equipment, including two T300 compact track loaders and MT52 and MT55 mini track loaders, was used to install all of these items, except the pool.

"The retaining walls were being installed because the property had been raised so high," says Drummond. "There was so much fill dirt there that we built retaining walls to help terrace some of the planting areas and make the site better for planting."

Drummond likes how compact equipment can perform many different functions on a job site. The Bobcat T300 has performed a number of duties at the Gulfport job. "We used the T300 for moving fill, placing fill and compacting and shaping the site," says Drummond. "Once the site was prepared, we used a soil conditioner attachment on the T300 for soil preparation for sod and seeding. We also used the T300 to transport sod during the sod instillation process."

The owners brought palm that survived Katrina to the new site. Driftwood Landscape, Inc. used the Bobcat T300 to move and place the 15- to 20-foot tall trees at the new home.

Large palm trees weren't the only thing being moved on the site by the Bobcat T300. A large ship anchor collection was also incorporated into the design of the landscaping. Some of the ship anchors are up to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide and weigh almost 1,500 pounds. "The T300 was useful in moving these awkward anchors around the site," says Drummond.

There are some areas on a landscaping job site that a large track loader can't get to, which is why Driftwood Landscape, Inc. uses the Bobcat mini track loaders. "We had to cross over areas with decorative paving, such as natural slate and concrete pavers," says Drummond. "When we have to do that, we'll pad the concrete and use the mini track loaders to transport materials because they are lighter than the T300. The MT52 and MT55 were also used with the soil conditioner to get into smaller areas that the larger T300 couldn't get to."

The mini track loaders are popular with Drummond because he says they lower his equipment costs. "The mini track loaders take the place of several pieces of equipment," says Drummond. "We use the mini track loader as a front-end loader, forklift, trencher, and soil conditioner, among other things. We don't have to have a separate trencher on site to do irrigation work. The mini track loader allows us to do many different things because it uses so many attachments."

In addition to savings gained by using one machine to perform a multitude of tasks, the efficiency of the mini track loaders allows Driftwood Landscape, Inc. crews to be more productive. "The best thing I can say about the mini track loaders is that they have allowed us to work on more projects at one time without adding employees," says Drummond. "I used to send five people out to one job before I got the mini track loaders. Now, I can send three people to one job and two people to another job and give both of those crews a mini track loader. These two crews at two different jobs produce as much work as one five-person crew without a mini track loader at one job."

Drummond says that he wouldn't consider purchasing compact equipment without tracks. "Track machines give us more productivity when a construction site might be wet or muddy," says Drummond. "Even though we can't do fine grading or that kind of landscape work, we can still move and place materials on a wet or muddy job site. We wouldn't be able to do that with a wheel unit."

Not only does Drummond profit from the productivity provided by compact equipment, but so do his customers. Crews that can work more efficiently on more projects mean customers have less time to wait for work to be performed. That's important in places like the Gulf Coast during hurricane recovery. With this landscaping project completed, Driftwood Landscape, Inc. has helped another customer move on with their life.