Tools Of The Landscaping Art

Just another weblog

The Water Pump December 13, 2009

Filed under: Water Tools — stevesned @ 8:16 pm

It’s fairly stunning what one of these machines can do. The ones pictured above operate in different ways – the blue one  sits in a dry place, all snug and warm and  “pulls’ the water from somewhere, conducting it on through itself to another destination. The other onet sits in water and pumps the water straight out into a pipe for wherever it is destined. The one on the right is called a “submersible pump” and its role in landscaping has just exploded.

In landscaping, the “indoor” pump requires a dry setting- the same as any swimming pool pumps sits. It being electrical and not waterproofed per se, obviously it operates out of a room or constantly dry cavity,  constructed solely for the purpose. The submersibles sit on the bottom of a water pool and function in what results in the same product – running water outward and almost always upward.

Here is a splendid look at two pumps in one water feature, both submersible and both performing separate functions:

(left click any image to enlarge)

What we see in this lower level of a water feature is a blue pump, dedicated to feeding a large pipe, routing the water far to the top and giving the waterfall its overall rate of flow. The smaller pump, as is evidenced by the rock through which a smaller, clear tube is inserted, is what landscapers call a “bubble rock”. These smaller features are for any number of purposes, from enriching the overall look of a water feature such as this one, to providing bubble rocks at anywhere in a landscape to create the sound and motion of water as well as to provide a diverting highlight, featuring the colors and structure of a pretty stone.

In the finished look below, we see the results of the two pumps, doing what they are designed for:

Often, we see smaller submersibles used in other bubble rock features as well.

Nor do “bubble rocks” simply need tiny pumps. Some are downright humongous:

Large waterfalls can be run by those water pumps driven by larger machines – even diesel engines, such as this one at Microsoft Campus in Seattle:

Whatever the effect desired, one can bet there is a pump designed for just that use. Any more, designs are based around the gallons needed, then the proper pump is ascertained. There is literally no limit on what is possible. The effects of this marvelous bit of machine insight has massive effects on landscaping and is very much the cause of the burgeoning installation of waterfalls and small water features now enhancing yards at homes all over the world.


The Plate Compactor December 9, 2009

Filed under: Machines - Other Uses — stevesned @ 8:49 pm

During the course of installing “hardscape” surfaces in landscapes, there are very primary considerations to assess. Regarding such necessarily durable surfaces as driveways and, to only a minutely lesser degree, patios and walkways, considerations of their bases takes precedence over nearly all practical concerns. Absolutely no surface will last without a truly “proper” base. The most important considerations are – as usual – right at the very bottom. The condition and the compactability of the soils under the base gravel and the paving above are hugely important.

(click all images to enlarge)

Most clayish subsurfaces meet a general standard of this compactability. Obviously, rocky and even sandy soils can also meet this level, provided they, too, are actually compacted. Generally, soils with large amounts of organic materials subject to breaking down and disappearing over their well-understood bacteriological life spans will effect a surface above by changing the structure and the shape of the ground below. When this happens, we get “heaving” – from either cold temperatures or from the natural disappearance and change of structure from “mass to gas”, as it were.

Therefore, there needs to be a permanent layer of permeable-yet stable gravel base under whatever surface may be provided. The thickness of this layer is the only variable factor in the mentioning of the above conditions. On patios we often go for about 4 inches of base material over a relatively compact base. That is what we are doing with our other favorite machine – the Skid Steer Loader or “Bobcat” in the scene above.

Once this surface is determined, in terms of depth, then the filling, leveling and “compacting” begins. We determine the finished grade, pull a string line and rake and try and approximate the perfect finish. At that point, we “compact” it. We use a Plate Compactor for this purpose.

We can see our hard-working little unit, shown here hiding in the upper right-hand shady spot after working hard. At this stage, with half the sub surface finished tamping, one can spot the difference between uncompacted and compacted gravel easily. These marvelous little machines have a vibrating plate carrying about 200 pounds of compacting energy and literally “walk” – owing to their ingenious shaping at the plate level – with a human guide behind them controlling turns and their direction as well. The finished product is a smooth-topped level of gravel which leaves an entire encrusted base for the work to commence on top of it. Compaction levels of 96-98% are actually possible with these machines, given ideal conditions and about 8-12% water content in the base material. 98% would be more than road worthy, and certainly adequate for driveways.

This is a “just add cement-ready” finish for concrete work and perfectly ready to add the inch of sand and then pavers for paver and pre fab slab patios. These little machines are a “must-have” for landscapers and they have proven themselves time and time again as reliable little machines with actually very few possible glitches.

Below are the finished products of each of those featured. First, the lower pictures:

And from the very top picture:

Interestingly, on brick paver work, the compactor is also used to level and further compact the actual bricks into place, once situated. We toss on a thin sheen of sand over which the compactor travels, sliding across the surface better and sinking the sand into the minute cracks betwen the bricks. As well it serves to pound it all down for a final time, incidentally raising the level of sheer compaction another percentage point.


First Principles December 8, 2009

Filed under: Machines - Earth and Product Moving/Shaping — stevesned @ 3:31 am

This is not a blog geared towards merchandising. It may go that direction in the future, but as of now, it is a blog begun with some pleasure. It will be something written based on experience and in-the-field information and should be something fellow landscapers should appreciate. They are my audience, in the end, along with anyone curious as to how we accomplish the transformations from such messes into something special.

How, for example, do we go from this:

(click images to enlarge)

And this?

To This?

I believe you can see a part of our helpful machine in the background of the second picture. That is but one way and one machine or tool which helps landscapers work their magic. Indeed, in this project the complete list of tools ranges pretty widely.

That is what this blog is about – those tools we use – and for what specific functions in our projects. Nothing else.


First Post – Principles

Filed under: Uncategorized — stevesned @ 3:12 am

Welcome to This is your first post. Edit or delete it anThe notion of thisd start blogging!