Winter clearance means different things to different people. To the tree surgeon, it is about clearing away gale-damaged trees and tackling branches brought down by heavy snow. To the groundsman and greenkeeper, it is about removing moss, thatch and excess rainfall, keeping surfaces playable as long as possible while ensuring no damage occurs to delay spring regrowth. To the facility manager, it is all about dealing with snow and ice, keeping the venue open and revenue coming in without posing a risk to the public.
If you have not already done so, make preparations immediately to ensure that your winter maintenance system is ready to be operational when the snow arrives. Whether you are a garden contractor, landscaper or estate or grounds manager, you should draw up a winter clearance plan, check equipment and order in supplies.
SnowEx, provided in the UK by Wessex International, has long promoted early preparation, starting with having the right equipment in place for typical conditions in your part of the country.
Built in its North American homeland, SnowEx kit is designed to perform in the harshest of environments and includes a complete range of spreaders from 47 litres to 4,500 litres capacity.
The spreaders can be mounted on virtually any host vehicle including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), utility vehicles (UTVs), 4x4s, pickups, tractors, trailers, forklift trucks and flatbed trucks. There are also pedestrian units.
SnowEx spreaders feature 12V DC direct drive motors mounted in a weather-tight enclosure to ensure reliable power. The hoppers are built in high-density polyethylene and ultraviolet protected for zero corrosion and reduced weight.
They are all bright, safety yellow and the frames are modular steel with electrostatic powder finish for built-in strength. Drives feature maximum torque transmission with a hardened steel worm and bronze gear, with no chains, pulleys or drive belts to break or wear. A steel auger feed system is designed to give a positive and accurate supply to the spinner. Drop spreaders are also available to deposit grit and salt in narrower bands and in areas where flying grit/salt is undesirable.
Many of the SnowEx spreaders have in-cab control units for precise operation of spinners and augers, preventing overspreading and material wastage while offering comfort and safety for operators.
Leicestershire-based DMMP offers two product ranges for winter conditions. Magnum spreaders, made in the snow belt of America, are offered as 105kg, 160kg or 360kg capacity tailgate models or as 2,000kg and 2,500kg capacity trailed units. Both have fully variable spread width for accurate placement of material and feature auto-stop linked to the vehicles' braking. Magnum spreaders carry the longest warranty in the market. All electrical and mechanical components are covered for three years and all structural components for five years. Parts, should they be needed, are available within 48 hours.
Also available from DMMP is the Earthway range of American-built pedestrian spreaders and sprayers. The EVS2040Pi, designed for salt application, has a 30kg capacity and rides on 22cm pneumatic tyres. It is supplied fully assembled for £145 + VAT and has a five-year guarantee.
Earthway's Flex Select High Output spreader gives users the choice of stainless steel or powder-coated twinor single-tube chassis with 36kg or 60kg hoppers. With 33cm pneumatic tyres, the units can be towed and will spread a swathe in excess of 7m. Expect to pay between £299 and £450 + VAT.
Kersten UK offers a full range of winter maintenance machines suitable for use with K-Series and UBS pedestrian tractor units, ride-on mowers, a wide selection of compacts and other prime movers. Kit includes snow ploughs, blades, sweepers and blowers as well as spreaders and Meyer and Cerruit snow-management equipment.
The Whyte & Mackay whisky distillery in Glasgow recently took delivery of a Meyer Path Pro Plough and BL240 spreader from Kersten and Meyer dealer Agri-Services. The equipment will be used on a quad bike, ensuring that the distillery can be kept open in winter.
Wiedenmann UK has made another technology breakthrough in its Snow Master range of clearance blades - an advancement that won it an innovation medal at GaLaBau 2014. The Vario Flex is a fully adjustable blade with a chameleon-like quality of readily changing its working shape. It can operate in a straight line to the left, to the right, in a "V" shape or in an arrowhead formation, for complete versatility.
This development upgrades the existing Vario blade, giving each of the four widths a tilting capability of 30 degs to left or right, helping with up-close work at an edge. The operator simply makes the adjustment from the cab.
The Vario Flex is supplied as standard with two hydraulic cylinders. Bumpy terrain is never an issue because the spring flap mechanism on the low part of the blade responds immediately to any uneven ground it encounters, while the upper part, tilted or otherwise, routes snow off to the side.
Good in confined and narrow spaces, the Vario Flex is suited to pedestrian areas and car parks. It comes in widths of 1.38m, 1.67m, 1.86m and 2m. Depending on the width, it has either four or six spring flaps. It attaches to tractors or power units from 25hp to 80hp.
Ice and snow control
Spraying brine has become an increasingly popular and easy method of ice and snow control. Ideal for paths, pedestrian walkways and other areas with restricted vehicular access, brine has advantages compared with spreading granular salt.
For starters, it is effective quickly, whereas salt needs to attract moisture before it will start to work. Brine is also clean in operation - important around entrances because it will not get carried in by foot, unlike salt and grit.
The ideal way to apply brine is in spray form, perhaps with an ATV or UTV-mounted sprayer. The ATV brine sprayer from Wessex International has a specialist 1.5m boom featuring three clusters of nozzles for varying applications.
The 55-litre tank will hold enough brine to cover 1,250sq m, or a 1.5m width over a 1km distance, and the sprayer will use just a fraction of the amount of material needed in comparison with a conventional salt spreader.
The choice of nozzles depends on conditions. A pencil-jet nozzle gives a high-pressure jet of brine, which is needed for treating compacted ice. The jet will penetrate the surface of the ice, so speeding up the melting process. The fan nozzle gives a fine, even spray over the area and is ideal for applications in light snow and frosty conditions.
With brine pretreatment, when the frost or snow comes the brine is already on the ground and even if the water has evaporated there is still a salt present that will reduce the ice factor. Wessex offers a five-jet nozzle for this purpose. An added bonus is that if an area is pretreated before a heavy snowfall, the snowploughing operation is far cleaner because the surface of the ground will not be frozen. A hand lance is also available to treat areas such as narrow footpaths, steps and doorways.
Alternatively, Wessex supplies the VSS-1000 and VSS-2000 liquid de-icing system. The first has a 378-litre tank, 30m heavy-duty hose and lance. Suited to pickup trucks and flatbeds, this system can also be mounted to a trailer and offers a choice of booms with spray widths of up to 1.8m. For those working on a larger scale, the VSS-2000 has a 757-litre tank and provides a spray width up to 7.6m.
Why not use your tractor or even your forklift or mower to help clear snow in winter? Mower manufactures such as Ransomes, Etesia and Gianni Ferrari offer attachments for shifting snow.
"Our front-mounted deck means versatility," says Gianni Ferrari marketing manager Marcello Eleuteri. "Having linkage and power take-off on the front allows us to fit the machines with a range of kit.
"In fact, we offer the widest choice of non-cutting equipment in comparison with our most direct competitors." The equipment includes snow chains, snow blades, snow throwers and a salt spreader.
Wessex International offers the SweepEx range of sweepers, including pedestrian units and models for use with tractors or forklift trucks. All are finished in three-layer lacquered paintwork.
Winter recommendations for machinery owners
Should you have kit that is unused in the winter, action needs to be taken now before you store it away. Equally, if there is equipment that you need to use during the winter months, action may be required to keep it running smoothly. Henton & Chattell director Peter Chaloner offers this advice:
1. It is vitally important to drain equipment of petrol before putting it away for winter storage.
2. Remember to regularly service equipment to ensure maintaining optimum performance.
3. Purchase high-quality unleaded fuel to avoid the damages of ethanol, which can have extremely harmful effects throughout the winter.