Horticultural Technology

Kubota_1 I have been thinking in the last few days about how technology in the garden has helped to shape horticulture in a way the likes of Gertrude Jekyll or Capability Brown would never have imagined.

Of course technology has always evolved the process even in the days when a horse drawn gang mower was replaced for the first time with a powered unit.

But what technology, in use today, has brought real time savings or quality to a task that would otherwise have taken twice as long manually or on the contrary, what technology has made tasks expensive without the cost saving?

Here are a few of my thoughts.

The gang mower, as mentioned above, has indeed revolutionised the way in which private and commercial users tackle their grass needs.

It is a little more complex than just a straight switch from fleshy horse power to mechanical horse power and the evolution of cutting equipment has taken decades, in fact well over a century.

Trailed mowers using a horse drawn system were relatively efficient as long as you had a good horse and I would imagine fairly cheap to keep and maintain (the horse that is). Moving parts were kept to a minimum and traction from the horse provided action at the cylinders through simple gear mechanisms.

The strimmer is probably one of the best technological advances for the gardener which is relatively new (last 30 years). From what I recall there was not a system like it before so I would put this down as a real plus.

In fact my very first experience with a strimmer or at the time this was called a Weedeater and at Blackmoor Golf Club where I started out it was nicknamed the 'Weedy'.

I started work on the green staff whilst the greenkeeper, Bill Moseley, was away on leave and it was left to his deputy Dave Neller to organise me in the first week.

Dave was a worrier and he would not take the responsibility of starting me off using machinery so he gave me a fag hook and a pair of shears and a spring rake and took me to the short sixth hole which has no fairway but is a marsh (or was then) with a series of drainage ditches crossing it. He wanted me to cut the grass on the banks which I diligently set about doing and it took me the best part of the week and I must say I thought looked very smart after my short back and sides.

However, the other members of staff would pick on Dave a little and urged him to let me use a strimmer because of the intensity of the chore but Dave refused.
To cut a long story shorter(er) Gordon, another assistant came down and completed 30 % of the bank which I still had to do on the other side of the sleeper bridge in less than 20 minutes with the Weedy.

In landscaping there are many advances that changed the industry and probably the single most valuable item is the Mini tracked Digger. What these little gems can achieve in a day is staggering and what would have taken a week to do manually can be done in less than half a day.

Tractor mounted rear shovels and front loaders were available for a long time before tracked 260 degree excavators and  - these could considered as revolutionary in their day and John Bamford made a very successful company from them.

360 degree machines brought a whole new versatility to excavation in confined spaces and utilising tracks instead of wheel they can tackle all sorts of terrain that would render a wheeled vehicle useless in minutes.

I think the narrowest machine available is 75cm making it easy to take into the smallest of gardens and I have even heard of this tiny machine being taken through a terraced house front door to access the work.

The laser level is also a fantastic gadget. It takes away the need for two operators and is really cheap. We used a cowley level which uses a split mirror and prism but you need someone to hold the staff.

Leica I remember having a demonstration from Leica and the instrument was awesome but for the average landscaping company a £20k rice tag is out of the question. But at least it saved huge amounts of time when used in conjunction with CAD because the software allowed uploading easy.

The laser I am talking about is the read light type. It allows the user to set up on a tripod or attach to a surface or wall giving very accurate levels but not only that you do not need help.

The rotary laser spins the light around giving the impression of a permanent read line allowing the user to mark off heights appropriately.

If used in the static position you can transmit the beam (subject to sunlight intensity and quality of the laser) great distances for land levelling well away from the datum.

I think the laser was one of my favourites but ironically I only bought one after selling my company.

Can anyone else think of a technological breakthrough in the horticulture and landscape industry that changed practises of ever?

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