HORT 444

Horticulture students laying the subbase in walkway restoration.

Students of Iowa State University’s Department of Horticulture gathered to restore a walkway and staircase located on campus. The students, led by Horticulture Assistant Professor Dr. Grant Thompson, had begun the project the previous week on Sept. 1, as a part of their course: Landscape Construction Management. 

The staircase had become run down over the years due to a combination of foot traffic, snow removal and lawn maintenance. In the staircase's battered state, some saw an opportunity to educate students on the logistics of real landscaping projects.

Thompson was able to get the project approved and properly supplied through Rhonda Martin with auxiliary services and Barb Steiner with facilities services within Facilities Planning and Management Department.

The class was made for horticulture students specializing in Landscape Design, Installation and Management. While most of the curriculum for this specialization has to do with the design aspect, this course teaches students about the physical aspects of landscape installation.

“In this course, students learn the basics of residential and small scale landscape construction, everything from how to do it to how to do different calculations for slope and stormwater,” Thompson said. “The students have done the site protection and demolition work last week where we pulled up the existing brick pavers and stockpiled what we could to be reused."

Because some pavers had become damaged over time and could not be re-used, Facilities Planning and Management helped to supply replacements as well as other necessary materials.

“This week the students are working on getting the sub-grade or sub-base (fine gravely material) to the appropriate level and were gonna compact it so we have a good base,” Thompson said. “Next week we’re gonna add some sand and start laying pavers.”

The process of actually carrying out a landscaping project provides insight into the process of planning such a project. Tasks like creating a bid and planning out a project require understanding of how the actual construction process works.

“This is kind of a capstone class for some of our landscape and design students,” said Thompson. “In this they take all the design and theory they’ve been working on and put it into practice and by understanding how something gets built they can take into account all of those nuances of design.”

Iowa State’s Landscape Design, Installation and Management program is one of only seven four-year programs accredited by the National Association of Landscape Professionals, making it a safe option for students hoping to find a career in designing landscapes.

One senior at Iowa State majoring in horticulture, Savannah Michalski, explained her decision to participate in Landscape Construction Management.

“I’ve always liked horticulture so I couldn’t decide which track to take, but I ended up doing landscape design and management,” Michalski said. “I like the design part of it more but I feel like this class is pretty important because it shows you what’s behind the scenes of landscape design. It’s important to know what all goes into the construction when you’re designing those things.”

Landscape Construction and Management offers students a chance to get out of the classroom and improve their prospects in a real-life setting. A happy sidenote of having helped in the effort to upkeep campus adds to this course’s qualities.

“It’s fun, it’s nice to get outside and do stuff instead of sitting in a classroom all day, I definitely enjoy it," Michalski said. 

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