Landscaping is a rewarding activity — you get to see the earth transform from plain to beautiful before your eyes. Your hard work pays off when you experience the land in a whole new way. You understand that your equipment makes all the difference, but did you know you can use a skid steer loader for landscaping?
Regular tractors have their place. But when it comes to choosing between a tractor or skid steer for landscaping, you’ll soon discover why the latter machines are the better choice. Read on to learn more about using a skid steer for your next landscaping project.
Tractor vs. Skid Steer for Landscaping: Reasons to Choose a Skid Steer
Skid steers are versatile pieces of equipment. Doing a landscaping job includes several tasks, and you can use your skid steer for many of them. The following reasons will show you how.
1. A Skid Steer Is the Right Size for the Job
Tractors can be bulky and hard to maneuver around your property. With wide tires and a long frame, some tractors make it difficult for you to even use them for your landscaping purposes. Skid steers offer a solution by being the perfect size for many landscaping applications.
Skid steers are small while still providing the power you need to complete tough landscaping jobs. And their unique driving technology allows you to make sharp turns around obstacles and through tight spaces. With a skid steer, you can complete many landscaping tasks a tractor would never be able to accomplish due to its size.
2. You Can Customize It With Attachments to Perform Many Tasks
Your landscaping job will likely include several steps. From clearing underbrush to leveling hills and moving soil, a lot of work goes into altering a piece of property’s appearance. You might think you need many machines to get the job done, but you may only need a skid steer.
Use landscaping attachments for skid steers to transform yours into one that can serve many purposes. With a standard bucket accessory, you can scoop up materials or load up rocks for later disposal. You can even remove stumps or chip wood with certain accessories. All those possibilities and more come with a single, compact skid steer.
If you’re planning on moving around pallets of stone, mulch or other materials, this equipment can help with that, too. With a fork attachment, your skid steer can function like a forklift. You can carry heavy pallets of materials anywhere on the job site where you might need them. Save room on your site and get more work done with skid steer attachments for landscaping.
3. It’s Perfect for Planting Needs
Landscaping projects often include the planting of shrubs, flowers, trees and other plant life. If you have to perform these tasks in your next landscaping job, you know positioning is critical. With a skid steer, you can fit into tight places and sow plants without running any over with bulky tractor wheels.
Consider getting this machine if you do a lot of plant nursery work. With a tilling attachment, you can break up the soil and prep the land to receive new plants. Digging, tilling and burying — you can do it all with a skid steer.
What’s the Best Size Skid Steer for Landscaping?
Skid steers are some of the most compact pieces of machinery on any job site, but they do come in different sizes, including:
- Small: Small skid steers may look tiny, but they can still do some heavy lifting. The small frame makes them great for moving around worksites with tight spaces. And since they’re lighter, these machines are even easier to transport if you need to take them to the next site.
- Mid-size: These skids steers are the best of both worlds. They offer a higher rated operating capacity (ROC) — how much the machine can lift before tipping — while still being both light and compact. While they may be bigger than small skid steers, mid-size machines are perfect for jobs that demand heavy digging or lifting in smaller spaces.
- Large: Large skid steers are the best option for projects that need some major heavy lifting. They’ll still be smaller than most of the other equipment on the job site, offering convenient maneuverability. But note these larger machines are better suited for more spacious worksites.
Consider using a compact skid steer loader for landscaping projects. A small skid steer for landscaping is best, particularly when working in tight spaces. Plus, its lighter weight ensures its wheels keep from sinking into the ground and damaging soft soil. You could get away with a mid-size skid steer if you’re looking for a higher ROC while maintaining a compact form factor. But most of the time, you’ll want a small skid steer for landscaping projects.
Ways to Use a Skid Steer for Landscaping
There are many uses for a skid steer in landscaping. Here are some ways this machine could benefit your next project:
- Demolition: Some landscaping jobs may need you to tear down old sheds or other dilapidated wooden structures. A skid steer is useful for this, especially if neighboring houses surround the yard. A skid steer can help tear down structures while moving around even the smallest properties.
- Backfilling and grading: Two major parts of landscaping projects are grading and backfilling. These tasks include flattening out the ground and filling gaps to make the property’s layout more even. Level out the ground with a landscaping skid steer rake and fill holes with the common bucket attachment.
- Loading and transporting: Countless landscaping jobs involve loading and moving. Skid steers make moving discarded materials a breeze. And with the skid steer’s ability to lift items, you can load dump trucks and other machines with only this small equipment. Move pallets of new materials for your landscaping projects with the fork attachment. And with the right landscaping tires for your skid steer, you can move around without worrying about getting stuck in the soft soil.
- Mowing: With a rotary brush cutter attachment, your skid steer can function as a durable mowing machine. Tall grasses and overgrown fields stand no chance against a skid steer with a mowing accessory. And with its zero-turn technology, this equipment lets you enjoy accurate mowing in tight areas or around trees.
- Tilling: You can do various agricultural tasks with a skid steer. Those capabilities include tilling, which is crucial if you need to plant crops or prepare a property for new plant life. With a tilling attachment, you can mix fertilizer or compost into the soil while aerating it for optimal oxygen levels. Before long, the property will bloom into a beautiful display of your hard work.
Landscaping With a Skid Steer: Safe Practices
Now that you know how to use a skid steer for landscaping, you’ll want to use the machinery in your upcoming projects. When you do, you and others on your job site should follow these key safety practices:
- Take note of blind spots when operating the skid steer and learn how to maneuver with them.
- Never lift a full bucket over someone.
- Wear tight-fitting clothing to avoid having a garment snag in a moving component.
- Practice hand signals with other people on the job site for easy communication over loud noises.
- Become adept at the skid steer’s lifting, steering and moving controls to achieve smooth operation.
- Always be aware of the materials you’re loading to avoid any falling out.
- Lower the bucket to the ground and park in a safe location when you finish using the skid steer for the day.
- Do your best to avoid steep slopes, embankments and ditches during operation.
- Before operating, make sure to look for overhead powerlines or other obstructions that might get in the way of your skid steer’s lifting function.
- Check with your municipality for the locations of underground utilities before digging.
Choosing the Best Skid Steer for Landscaping
Every landscaping job comes with its unique needs. To get the best skid steer for your landscaping tasks, you should:
- Consider your job surface: Will you have to deal with lots of holes and ditches? Does the yard contain steep inclines? Will the ground be soft or rocky? Ask yourself these questions to determine the type of wheels you need or if you’re better off getting a compact track loader (CTL) or a mini excavator.
- Choose the right size for your needs: Think about the ROC needed to complete your job and consider your worksite’s space limitations. Find the right balance between these two factors to choose the right size skid steer for you, whether you need large equipment or something on the mini side.
- Check the lift style: There are two lift styles for skid steers. Vertical lifts move objects from the ground to high in the air in a straight line. Radial lifts move in an arc and are better for transferring materials into a dump truck.
- Assess the controls: See if the controls make sense to you or correspond to any skid steer you’ve driven in the past. You want to make sure you feel comfortable behind the controls, so look for a skid steer you can operate with confidence.
- Make sure it works with any necessary attachments: Not all attachments work with every skid steer. Determine which accessories you need and shop for skid steers that will accept them.
- Consider extra features: Lights could come in handy during late-night landscaping projects. You may want larger tires for increased stability on rocky terrain, or you might want a machine with air conditioning in the cab. There are many features to choose from, so make sure you get a skid steer with the ones you want.
When to Use a Compact Track Loader or Mini Excavator Instead of a Skid Steer
Compact Track Loaders are like skid steers except for one major difference — CTLs use a track system for transportation instead of a regular set of wheels. Both types of equipment can share the same attachments and accomplish similar tasks, but sometimes, it may be in your best interest to use a CTL instead of a skid steer.
Compact Track Loaders distribute their weight more evenly due to the nature of the tracks. This weight distribution can protect the soft ground of fresh landscaping from being gouged by standard wheels. Tracks can also help you navigate uneven terrain, while skid steer wheels are best used on hard, even surfaces.
Another helpful tool for landscaping is the mini excavator. This machine uses tracks like a CTL. But instead of having several attachments for different tasks, it has a dedicated excavating arm and bucket. It also has some other features depending on the model, such as a backhoe or suction excavating abilities. They’re small in size and perfect for digging around your next landscaping project.
Here are some instances when you may want to use a compact track loader or a mini excavator instead of a skid steer:
- Snow removal: If a snowstorm gets in the way of a landscaping project, you can rely on a CTL or a mini excavator to help resume activity. The common bucket attachment on both machines can help move snow away from your work area. And if you need more snow removal power, you can get a snow blade or snow blower accessory. Navigate a snowy landscaping project with confidence with a CTL or a mini excavator
- Working on muddy, soft terrain: Rainstorms can spell disaster for a landscaping project, especially if you have to use heavy machinery to make your way around the site. You can protect the soft ground when you use a CTL or a mini excavator thanks to their tracks. The last thing you want is to get your skid steer stuck in a rut. Avoid this problem by using a machine with tracks instead of wheels.
- Digging: When you need to move some earth while keeping a small form factor, a mini excavator is a prime option. You can also perform some digging tasks with a CTL. There are plenty of digging, excavating and trenching attachments to choose from. These include an auger, backhoe, wheel saw and trencher.
What Is the Best Skid Steer Brand for Landscaping?
When you’re ready to buy a skid steer for your next landscaping project, there’s only one brand you can count on. Caterpillar produces skid steers at the peak of consistency and innovation to give you a high-quality machine. As leaders in the heavy equipment market, they take pride in putting out top-of-the-line gear to help you complete even the toughest jobs.
Cat® skid steers offer the following benefits:
- Comfort: With high visibility and precise controls, Cat skid steers offer easy operation. And with more cab room than skid steers of the past, new Cat equipment offers best-in-class comfort when you’re behind the controls. Work long days with comfort and confidence in a Cat skid steer.
- Fuel efficiency: If you care about your carbon footprint, then Cat skid steers are the choice for you. Caterpillar manufactures fuel-efficient equipment to reduce emissions. All modern Cat skid steers are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Tier 4 Interim compliant. Cat skid steers can help you invest in the environment while spending less of your hard-earned money on fuel.
- Plenty of attachments: When considering a skid steer versus a tractor for landscaping, Cat skid steers always come out on top. Caterpillar offers diverse attachments so you can have access to the right tools for the job. And with a little practice, you’ll discover that Cat skid steers make it easy for you to change accessories. You can spend less time switching tools and more time putting your Cat equipment to work.
- Durability: If durability and longevity are two of your top concerns, you’ll feel confident when buying a Cat skid steer. Caterpillar performs strenuous tests on all their skid steers to make sure they can withstand even the harshest job site conditions. With proper ongoing maintenance, your Cat skid steer will perform at a high level for years to come.
Holt of California Is Your Skid Steer Destination
At Holt of California, our customers are our top priority. We’ve been in business for over 85 years, and in that time, we have excelled at providing the best customer service in the area. Our goal is to provide you with high-quality Cat machinery that can help you get your work done. When you’re ready to buy a new Cat skid steer loader, CTL or mini excavator, we’re the ones you should call.