“Why can’t you work in the rain?”

As someone with the double whammy of being a middle child AND a Libra, I’m the ultimate people pleaser. That becomes really tricky this time of year, when everyone wants their landscape project done yesterday and we’re booking several weeks out. Spring weather in Virginia tends to not cooperate with us, with April showers (and March showers, and May showers) pushing our schedules farther and farther back. Inevitably, one of our clients asks us why we can’t just push through and work in the rain.

not an example of landscape peeps in the rain!

Well, as sweet as we are, we don’t melt. That’s not the issue. And it’s not that we don’t like making money, either. There are practical reasons why working in the rain isn’t usually a great idea.

1. Have you SEEN what our soil looks like?

Virginia clay is great for a lot of things. It’s no accident that Colonial Williamsburg has a ton of clay brick buildings. Those same properties that make our soil hold together well enough to make bricks, also make it a huge problem to work with when wet. You can’t grade wet clay mud. If you dig a hole in heavy rains it’s just going to fill with water and take forever to drain.

If we’re planting and we backfill the planting holes with big clumps, we’ll get a lot of gaps which can be bad for the plants (a light rain, though, is awesome for planting. Just FYI). And every step we take on bare soil will leave a crater that we can’t get rid of till everything dries out. Which leads us to…

2. Cleanup and repair

Several years ago, we had a planting job scheduled. The nursery I was working with had a policy of no rain days, ever. They always showed up when scheduled and did the work. Aaaaand then a hurricane showed up. Since we were far enough inland that winds weren’t a safety issue, they sent the crew. That job is why I keep a pair of dry socks in my car.

Just from wheelbarrowing material back and forth from the driveway to the rear of the property, we obliterated a whole section of the lawn and had to resod it. The mulch was too wet to get it smooth, so we had to go back and fix it. We also had to go back with a pressure washer to clean off the driveway and the street. Was it worth not having to push everything back a day? I’m going to say no.

3. Working in the rain sucks

There’s a Ray Bradbury story called “The Long Rain,” about a group of soldiers who crash on Venus, a planet where it’s always raining. Bradbury does an excellent job of describing the bleak misery that is constantly getting rained on. While our crew doesn’t have it quite that bad, it’s no picnic. Everything takes longer, rain gear is awkward and uncomfortable to work in, and Virginia seems to offer two options of rainy working conditions: hot steamy gross rain, and cold rain. Happy, productive workers build better landscapes. That’s a FACT.

“what do you mean, 90% chance of showers?”

So if you’re all excited about seeing your new patio take shape, but we’re not there because it’s pouring down buckets, just remember this:

 

The sun will come out tomorrow

Bet your bottom dollar that

Tomorrow

There’ll be sun!*

 

* = this does not constitute a binding guarantee of sun tomorrow. Or the next day. Sometimes Virginia just kinda hates us

Dave Marciniak is a landscape designer and speaker. He lives in Culpeper, Virginia and can be found via his website and on Twitter.

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