by Charlene Burgi
Years ago, my husband Jack, a landscape professional, met some friends after work to do a little fishing. He pulled his truck alongside a run-down fishing shack and boat ramp where the fishing party was to meet. He said the proprietor of the fishing shack sauntered over and peered into the bed of his truck, still laden down with assorted landscape tools, and remarked, “Ah, tools of ignorance.”
Jack laughed as he relayed this story to me, yet I was stunned. I think of the tools a landscape professional must acquire to cover almost every trade including landscaping, plumbing, electrical and carpentry. Typically, a landscape professional is thought to carry only equipment such as a shovel, rake, pick and wheel barrow for installing plants and lawns. However, some landscape jobs require heavy equipment like a tractor, loader, backhoe, trencher, dump truck and trailer to install drainage systems, level or clear land, or create a bigger space for outdoor living if on a hillside.
Installing irrigation systems requires a bevy of plumbing tools and the know-how to use them. The landscape contractor’s design must incorporate hydraulics to get adequate water to every plant without running out of water pressure at the end of the line or to keep the water pressure from misting into the atmosphere. I am sure the students who took my irrigation class still shutter at the thought of the “Rule of Three,” which requires calculating flow, friction loss and velocity to find the worst case scenario of water available to use in designing an irrigation system.
Oft times, low voltage lighting is desired in the landscape, so the landscape professional must have the tools of an electrician on hand along with various types and sizes of wires. Electricity also needs calculations to check for wattage, amps and volts. Additionally, it is the creative landscaper who knows how to install for back light, shadows and accents to provide a beautiful safe haven for your garden.
Hardscapes require another dump truck load of tools. Stone walls and walkways, concrete patios, waterfalls and ponds need the tools and touch of a mason or concrete contractor. It takes knowledge to put in the right additives or create a formula required for the specific job. Forms, levels, floats and screeds barely touch on the tools needed for this type of work. It is yet another matter of having the knowledge to work with the materials and environmental issues that accompany this type of job. On more than one occasion I have witnessed an inexperienced person pouring concrete on a hot day to find the concrete set up before it could be worked into a smooth surface.
Carpentry projects in the garden require yet another level of tools for constructing fences, retaining walls, gazebos and decking. I shutter at the thought of chop saws, circular saws, radial arm saws, table saws, compound miter saws and various hand saws that fill our shop. Hammers include all known to mankind including jack hammers and nail guns, and I shouldn’t forget to mention the multitudes of nails, screws and bolts that are needed. Hand levels from 6 inches to 8 feet are used for laying brick, creating concrete forms and building large decks; squares and laser levels are needed to keep the project square.
Creating a “natural setting” – like you’d find walking in a forest and coming across a natural pond, waterfall or dry stream bed – takes a practiced eye. Add to this the knowledge of plants to carry the theme through by choosing plants to thrive in that particular hydrozone. Sometimes those tools come in the form of books, apps, websites or a trip to the nursery or consultation with a landscape designer or architect. Regardless, they are all required tools for the professional.
The inventory of the “tools of ignorance” is significant. I, for one, stand in awe at the amount of knowledge, skills and tools landscape professionals must master to bring such beauty, balance and light into our world. I am also in awe of the investment required for them to get a job done.
In the next few weeks I will discuss the need for maintaining the tools we have around the house.
I am thankful for my husband sharing with me just a smattering of his knowledge of his trade. That knowledge has enriched my life beyond words.
Have a great weekend!