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Bland Landscaping Spices Up Work With Ditch Witch

Mon July 31, 2006 - Southeast Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

Bland Landscaping Inc. keeps itself busy in its neck of the woods in North Carolina.

Located in the small town of Apex just outside Raleigh, Bland Landscaping’s service area includes North Carolina’s prestigious Research Triangle anchored by Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill and major research centers of North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina.

Established by Tom and Nancy Bland in 1976, the family-owned company has grown to one of the area’s largest residential and commercial landscape contracting companies, providing a full range of landscape management and installation services for private homeowners and commercial clients. Kurt Bland is general manager, and brother Matt Bland is financial controller.

The installation division uses the highest quality plants suited to the climate and soils of the region, and personnel are trained in the correct methods of installing plant materials and constructing stone walls, water features, patios and formal gardens.

Bland crews are equipped with conventional skid steer loaders, mini-skid steer loaders, backhoes, wheel tractors and implements, mowers, snow plows, blowers and edgers and other specialized tools.

Bland recently added a new machine that combines the benefits of a skid steer loader and mini-excavator. The Ditch Witch XT850 has a digging boom and bucket on one end and tool carrier component on the other. The tool carrier can be equipped with many types of interchangeable attachments, making the machine a multi-purpose product that can excavate and perform multiple special jobs.

The machine’s dual-pivot design also sets the XT850 apart from other construction equipment and permits offset excavating adjacent to streets, fences, buildings and other surface improvements. One excavator boom pivot point is at the front of the machine where the boom connects to the tractor. A second pivot point is beneath the floor of the operator’s station, under the seat. It rotates the entire boom assembly, including the boom-swing pivot. To offset dig, the assembly is rotated in one direction from the center pivot, and the boom is swung at the front pivot point in the opposite direction. The system provides maximum excavator sweep of 260 degrees. With a loader bucket, the machine is a compact loader-backhoe on tracks.

The rubber track-mounted XT850’s compact size — it’s only 52 in. wide — allows the machine to work in small areas, making it ideally suited for landscape work.

Kurt Bland said the machine is used for a wide range of enhancements and improvements to landscaping on properties the company maintains.

“When we want to beautify a portion of an area, the machine’s small size and light weight allows us to traverse sensitive soil areas, over walks and parking lots, and across terrain with varying grades with as little disruption as possible,” Bland said.

One of the important features of the XT850, he said, is its ability to accommodate attachments.

“The quick-couple mounting plate permits us to use attachments we already owned,” he said. “We regularly use a tiller, a seedbed preparation attachment and a ’pig stick,’ a boom for moving balled and burlap-wrapped trees. We also have a trenching attachment and sometimes use the machine for site preparation.”

Bland said compactness was a key consideration in choosing to purchase this model.

“It came to a choice between it and a mini-excavator or small tractor,” he said. “We determined the XT850 is the most versatile in its class and the strongest machine of anything of its size to perform the kinds of applications we require, including operating a variety of special implements. It functions very well and can do everything we need it to do and do it very adeptly.”

In addition to the excavator-tool carrier, Bland also operates two Ditch Witch trenchers: a 10-hp 1030 walk-along model and a 37-hp model 3700 riding trencher and hydraulic drilling attachment.

“The compact model usually is transported on a small trailer pulled by our irrigation service van, and our technicians use it for system add-ons or renovation work that requires a trencher,” Bland said. “We dig trench for both residential and commercial new system installations with the larger machine.”

Over the years, Bland Landscaping has won more than 80 state and national awards for landscape excellence and environmental improvement.

Currently, the company employs more than 130 people, including landscape designers, floriculturists, turf grass and horticulture managers and chemical technicians. On staff is one landscape architect, one certified landscape contractor, five of the 12 irrigation auditors in the state, four landscape professionals and 10 landscape technicians certified by the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).

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