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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Sep 24


Posted on September 24, 2018 at 9:14 AM by Emma Detwiler

by Charlene Burgi

Knowledge, or lack thereof, can cause problems. At least that statement held true for yours truly this past month.
The irrigation system at the ranch consisted of dragging hoses from one planting area to another. This brain knew what to do, but the brawn to run the ditch witch and perform other heavy work was lacking. With that, I hired a landscape contractor prior to my leaving for Canada. Departure in the midst of construction felt comfortable as instructions on needs were communicated, materials purchased—and, after all, he was a licensed contractor. Surely, I could feel safe knowing the job would be installed with gallons of water needed per valve correctly calculated, the psi measured at the point of connection, good head-to-head coverage on rotators assured, and drip systems delivering gallons per hour not mixed with spray systems using gallons per minute.

Unfortunately, upon my return from an awesome trip, I learned otherwise. All the aforementioned criteria were lacking. I thought about my own knowledge and experience, which I’ve enjoyed sharing with countless landscape professionals and homeowners in classes I’ve taught over the years. I thought of the knowledge my husband, who was a landscape contractor, shared with me, and of witnessing his professionalism in leaving each job spotless at day’s end. I also thought of the many licensed contractors I worked with in Marin over the years, and the beautiful landscape jobs and well-designed irrigation systems they installed … and I wondered.

I wondered what if I didn’t have this knowledge to know better? Would I be left with questions when my tomato plants were starving for water with soil dry as a bone, while the raised beds around were drenched on the same valve? Would I be concerned by the sprays mixed with drip emitters? Would I notice that the driveway was saturated with overspray, and there was no return spray coming back to those rotators? Would it register that the smart controller was programmed to run twice a day for a half hour each time? Without my background knowledge, would I know my controller was smart enough to figure out the runtimes if programmed correctly? Needless to say, it was an education! My lesson learned is that having a license doesn’t necessarily equate to having the knowledge to do the job properly.

The good news is that many landscape professionals have taken the time to expand their knowledge and skills, for example by completing the Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) program. This blog is to thank all those professionals who have taken that extra step to become QWEL-certified and employ what they have learned. It is also a reminder that we all have gifts and talents and it is okay to let others know our capabilities and expertise. It is also a reminder that with knowledge comes responsibility and understanding. With that, my responsibility is to share my painful experience to raise your awareness as well as my understanding that we need to better educate ourselves in our professions to do the best job we can for others.


Anonymous User
September 24, 2018 at 9:44 AM
Harrowing tale. I hope you were able to salvage the garden. That sounds like a dreadfully bad hire.
Anonymous User
September 24, 2018 at 9:54 AM
Please also write on the need to write out the specifications of what one wants and needs and including in the contract in addition to discussing pre-contract to make sure there is a common understanding of the requirements for the bid. You've cleanly articulated some of the most important ones in your narrative on your disappointment that the contractor didn't follow your wishes based on his/her own knowledge and experience. Including the specs in the contract is first and foremost to ensure a common agreement and understanding of what is to be done by all parties and secondarily as a last resort to be the guiding post to withheld payment and as a very last resort as the factual basis for a lawsuit if that proves necessary. Also, sometimes a referall to BBB can result in a conversation that will result in a mutually agreable fix.

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