This was an article written by one of our managers and was recently printed in an industry trade journal.  It speaks volumes about our company’s irrigation know-how.

By Paul Thunstrom

As an irrigation technician, you will be viewed by your clients and colleagues as a technically advanced problem solver. You will be expected to get the job done where others have failed or have passed on a project or problem that has defied an easy solution. You must be prepared to take on the multiple challenges of appropriate assessment, information gathering, analysis, and the formulation of a comprehensive solution. You must also be able to resolve the challenge within a short time frame and often with little prior knowledge of the irrigation project or system you have been requested to work on.

This challenging task requires preparation, organization of thought and materials, and mastery of a tool chest of technical knowledge and specialized equipment to ensure you can accomplish the job expected of you.

To become a proficient irrigation technician requires extensive training and field experience. Once you have achieved the basic technical proficiency required by this position, you must further hone your skills to be considered among the best practitioners, capable of solving the most difficult irrigation problems.

  • Maintain an accessible library of relevant technical information. Industry manufacturers are an excellent source for this material. You should have at your disposal technical manuals from all the most commonly encountered manufacturers and familiarize yourself with the available products and specifications.
  • Develop relations with your irrigation equipment vendors and manufacturers. Seek out the most knowledgeable staff and leverage this resource to help solve problems and find the most appropriate products. Participate in manufacturer and vendor training events and product presentations.
  • Keep a detailed log book of everything you do. Questions about what was done on a project often come up long after the work is completed. Be prepared to access this information quickly with a chronological project log.
  • Understand the basic physics that are at play within irrigation systems. You may be a proficient technician with mastery of standard procedures and specifications, but an understanding of the basic theories underlying system operation and design will allow you to solve any problem you encounter. Taking an entry-level physics course is an excellent way to gain this knowledge.
  • Assess the entire system you are working on, not just the repair or project at hand. This system knowledge may lead to a quick solution and prevent unnecessary or inappropriate work being done. This information will also allow you to assess comprehensive system needs that could provide valuable information for your client and your company. Pass on any recommendations you have for system improvements or observations of deficiencies in writing to your client or manager, even if it is not related to the job you were requested to perform.
  • Always beware of coincidental problems that may seem related but are not. Perform thorough diagnostics and rule out all possibilities before formulating a solution based on preliminary observations.
  • Always check twice before you leave a project site after performing repairs, diagnostics, or system maintenance. Ensure that everything you touched is operational and ready to go. Avoid the personal embarrassment and loss of confidence you will experience from your employer and client if a valve is left on or a controller is not programmed properly. We all make mistakes, but when they are made by the technical expert, they are not so quickly forgotten or forgiven.
  • Maintain a clean, organized, and well-stocked service vehicle at all times. Track your inventory of commonly used parts and tools, and maintain it as needed. Ensure that your storage methods are highly efficient, and take the necessary action to make improvements as needed.
  • Be prepared to work with allied professionals to accomplish your projects. The irrigation technician will often need to consider paving; high-voltage electrical, structural, domestic plumbing; and other specialty trades to accomplish the project goals and should have a working familiarity with these trades. Know when your scope of work requires another trade and rely on trusted professionals to advise and assist as needed.

Paul Thunstrom is the Enhancement Division Manager for Gardeners’ Guild, Richmond, Calif., and is Landscape Industry Certified. Paul has a B.A. in Environmental Agro-ecology from UC Santa Cruz and has 23 years experience in landscape and irrigation design, construction, greenhouse nursery and agricultural systems management.  He is also a graduate of the ASLA Landscape Architecture Certification Program, UC Berkeley.  Paul most recently completed UC Berkeley’s LEED for Landscape Architecture.  He has been an employee-owner since 2000.


Recently I drove along with our President and Director of Business Development to one of our current landscape installation projects in the East Bay.  It’s the West Gate Cherry Tree Project in Berkeley.  In fact, it is right outside of the west entrance to UC Berkeley.

The purpose of the project is to recognize the societal contributions of the Japanese graduates.  It was entirely funded by the California Japanese American Alumni Association.

The project includes – planting 35 Akebono flowering Cherry trees on the University Drive medians. Incidentally, the common name for these trees is “Daybreak Cherry tree”.  Akebono means daybreak or dawn in Japanese.  They bloom magnificently in the spring and happily, they are drought resistant.

We are also planting Agapanthus, Hypericum, Prunus trees and installing mulch on the University medians.  Replacing what used to be turf with trees and plants supports Berkeley’s campus sustainability goals.  The project also includes irrigation installation.

The University expects that the conversion from turf to plants will save the University approximately 40,000 gallons of water a year.

It was a great to see the project – in progress – and to get a few photos of our smiling Gardeners’ Guild people.

See the photos.  More to follow.


An irrigation audit – essentially –  is an evaluation of an irrigation system’s performance.   The results provide a road map on how to improve irrigation performance.

It takes a trained professional, knowledgeable in irrigation and the audit process, to develop an effective irrigation audit.

There are three steps in developing an irrigation system audit.

Step one – is to test the system to confirm that all of the irrigation system components are functioning properly.  Often times, significant water savings are achieved by simply fixing and adjusting the existing irrigation system.

Step two –  is to field test each zone of the irrigation system. Each irrigation zone is operated. The precipitation rate and efficiency of each irrigation zone is collected under actual operational conditions.

Step three – in an irrigation audit is to calculate irrigation schedules that are based on plant type, soil conditions, weather patterns, and field test results.

Gardeners’ Guild has had many years experience doing irrigation audits.  In fact, we’ve been a pioneer in the area of water management and have been recognized for numerous awards by the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD).  We’ve played a leading role in the development of the Turf and Landscape Irrigation Best Management Practices.

The photos in this blog are from an audit we did this summer at one of our sites in Richmond.

On Saturday, September 30th, the Gardeners’ Guild employees celebrated its 40th anniversary together at the Miller-Knox Regional Park in Point Richmond.


It was a fun-filled day – delicious food like barbeque chicken and beef; face painting, cash prizes and featuring a sturdy piñata.  It took several tries before one – very strong boy – cracked it open and “cashed” in on its contents!



All of us are so busy at work and have little time during the week day to socialize.  So, the anniversary barbeque was an especially great opportunity to catch up, relax, laugh; eat together and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the regional park on an unusually warm day.


The photos help show the fun we had and how grateful we are to work with such a team of dedicated and creative people!


Why is it that many of us say we feel better when we are around nature?  One reason is that plants actually make us feel better; less stressed, more productive and healthier.  If you look at some of the interior plant displays in commercial buildings in San Francisco or the East Bay you can’t help but feel good, looking at their color and beautiful foliage.

Based on the findings below – it seems clear that we can’t afford not to have plants in our homes and commercial buildings.  Science is clearly telling us that interior plants are good for our health!

  • A recent study by Dr. Lohr from Washington State University found that the subjects were 12% more productive and less stressed when they worked in an environment with indoor plants versus no plants.
  • Researchers at the Agricultural University of Oslo found that subjects that worked in a building with indoor plants reported:
    • 20% less fatigue
    • 30% less headaches
    • 30% less sore/dry throats
    • 40% less coughs
    • 25% less dry facial skin than subjects working in a building without indoor plants.
  • Plant-filled rooms were found to contain 50-60% fewer disease causing airborne mold and bacteria than rooms without plants according to Bio-Safe Incorporated.
  • An 8-month study completed by researchers at Texas A&M found that the subjects working in a building with indoor plants generated 15% more ideas (measure of innovation) than those subjects that worked in a building without plants.
  • This is a great statistic for retailers: subjects in a study directed by Engel et al rated the quality of retail products on display 30% more favorably and were willing to pay 12% more for goods in an environment with plants than an environment without plants.  When we shop in retail areas with “tree” versus “non-tree” environments we visit more frequently and stay longer.

Are you looking to muffle noise in the workplace?

Here’s a suggestion taken from Women magazine:
In the workplace, there are people talking, typing and shuffling around. Sound can be stressful and distracting for some people:

Plants can be used to absorb sound. Clustering any type of green plants will make more of an impact in the workplace than just a few scattered plants. Even though any type of plant will work, plants with a lot of leaves, such as Ficus Benjamina or Pathos will do as much as carpeting to reduce noise.