Blowers and vacuums are invaluable in the autumn for dealing with leaf collection, but many are useful at other times of the year for removing litter or debris brought down by high winds.
Handheld blowers can also be used to blow gravel or dew off grassed areas prior to mowing or for drying picnic benches and seating after a shower. Wheeled, mounted and trailed vacuums can speed up moss and thatch collection after scarification on lawns and sports turf.
Wheeled and tractor-mounted units are suitable for use on extensive areas such as pitches and golf courses, while handheld units are best for clearing small amounts of leaves or debris and for quick tidy-up jobs. Some handheld blowers can be converted to vacuums but should have a good internal shredding mechanism to maximise the amount of debris that can be collected.
Wheeled vacuums find work in many situations. They may have brushes in addition to powerful suction, making them suitable for collecting wet and sticky leaves. Some are also suited to street-cleansing operations and may have a handy wander hose to collect litter from nooks and crannies or to help empty litter bins.
Larger tractor-mounted vacuums are ideal for collecting rubbish after events such as concerts and rallies, but check whether they have sufficient suction to lift beer cans and bottles. Truck-loading vacuums work in a similar way but deposit materials into a waiting truck or trailer rather than into an integrated hopper.
Whatever size of vacuum unit you are looking to purchase, make sure that the working width is appropriate to your needs and that the hopper or bag collecting the debris is suitable for the materials being collected. Some companies offer additional liners for walk-behind machines used in dusty areas. Check that the machine is suitable for the surfaces on which you work.
Tractor-mounted and trailed machines should be matched to the tractor or other towing vehicle. Blowers are likely to have a rotating nozzle so they can direct leaves and debris as required. Make sure that the air velocity of the blower is sufficient for your needs.
Make sure that all equipment, whether handheld or towed, is robust and constructed to cope with work outdoors. Check air velocity specifications of blowers to ensure that there is enough oomph to move the materials you will encounter. All machinery should be easy to start, use and maintain.
Expanding choice for buyers this autumn, several companies have new products. In the backpack blower category, STIHL has introduced three machines including the lightweight BR200 with 59m/sec air speed for domestic or entry-level use. A step up, the BR350 is a landowner's machine with the capacity to clear heavier-duty debris around grounds or to sweep yards. It comes with an angled round blower nozzle but can be fitted with straight or flat nozzles.
Top of the STIHL range is the BR430. Designed for the hard-working professional, it has extra-wide shoulder straps and enlarged back padding for comfort during extended use. Featuring a 2-MIX engine, it blasts out air at 82m/sec - more than 180mph and equivalent to a category-five hurricane.
The Little Wonder Optimax wheeled blower, available in UK from Mantis supplier Schiller Grounds Care UK, is now available in three models to give users a choice of 270cc or 390cc Honda engine or 400cc Subaru engine. All units have a seven-bladed, all-steel impeller. A new remote chute-deflector control is located at the operator's fingertips.
The latest product to emerge from The Grass Group's programme of product development for sub-30hp tractors is the Trilo S3 vacuum sweeper. With a working width of 1.5m for those hard-to-reach areas, it is a smaller sister to the S4 released last year and requires a tractor of 28hp. Weight is just 1,200kg.
The 1.5m brush head and low ground pressure allow the S3 to work in heavy conditions. The 3cu m container has a 1.6m tip height so material can be emptied into trucks or skips. A 5m wander hose is available for cleaning corners, bunkers, shrubberies and litter bins.
The following tables (p45-46) detail machinery in the pedestrian wheeled category - the first includes products that blow, the second vacuums.
Suppliers of handheld and backpack blowers and vacs:
Barrus, Bosch, Briggs & Stratton, Danarm, Echo (Countax), Emak, Etesia (Pellenc), Farm & Garden Machinery, Honda, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, Makita, Midland Machinery, Overton, Ryobi, Sandrigarden, Sanli, STIHL.
Suppliers of ride-on sweepers and vacs:
Aebi-Schmidt, Cramer, Euromec, Johnston Sweepers, Richmond Groundcare.
Suppliers of tractor-mounted or trailed vacs:
Broadwood International, Campey Turfcare Systems, The Grass Group, Groundmech, John Deere, Kilworth, Logic, Major Equipment, Mantis UK, Muck Truck, Overton, Pinnacle Power Equipment, Predator, Richmond Groundcare, SCH Supplies, Sisis, Tomlin, Wiedenmann.
Suppliers of tractor-mounted or trailed blowers:
Bargam, Barrus, Campey Turfcare Systems, The Grass Group, Groundmech, JSM Distribution, Kerten, Liston Equipment, Llloyds & Co, Mantis UK, Ransomes Jacobsen, SCH Supplies.