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Smart Phone Apps
updated: Jan 17, 2010, 12:00 AM

Thoughts From the Garden of Ed

Smart Phone Apps: That's Not What This Article Is About
by Billy Goodnick

[Author's note: Seems like every story last week was about hi-tech. Couldn't come up with a title this week, so I figured I'd just sound trendy...bg]

I can finally stop feeling guilty about the glorious weather Santa Barbara has seen in the past few weeks. Not that I've lost any sleep thinking about frosted friends in Fargo, where it's so cold you can cut glass with your nipples.

All the TV weather folk are in a tizzy about the "pulses" (is there a reason we can't just call them storms?) heading our way. Once again my rain gutters and downspouts will drown out my 18" Zildjian China crash, as sweet droplets douses on our gardens.

But just 'cuz rain is on the way doesn't mean we can forget about water conservation-the desiccating days of summer will be here soon enough. Fortunately, doing your part in the quest to save water just got a lot easier.

Who Wants M o n e y ? ? ?

How would you like an easy-to-use, free website loaded with galleries of local gardens and useful info about more than 1000 water-wise plants? Interested in receiving a rebate check for up to $1000 just for making some adjustments to your landscaping?

The local water agencies are using a matching grant from the State of California's water conservation fund to reimburse homeowners like you to make their gardens more sustainable. It's called the SMART Landscape Rebate Program. If you get your water from the Carpinteria, City of SB, Goleta or Vandenberg Village water agencies, you might be in luck.

[Author's note: The next three paragraphs should be read in the voice of your favorite snarky double-knit polyester overpowering automobile dealership announcer...]

Are you ready to swap out your 60's vintage, thirsty azaleas for a softly mounding 'Ivory Bells' Australian fuchsia? Then you might qualify for a 50% rebate for the plants.

Ready to trade your floods-the-sidewalk-more-than-the-garden sprinklers for a water-efficient drip system? Get a check for half the cost.

Wanna be just like the Jetsons? Hook up a space-age Smart Irrigation Controller that receives real-time weather information and adjusts your watering accordingly. Bonus! Act Now! Not only do you get back money for installing this too cool for school gizmo, but you won't have to get off your ESPN-tushie to shut off the sprinklers in the middle of the next El NiƱo deluge.

"How" you might ask, "can the water agencies afford to exchange crispy greenbacks for cool gray grevilleas while other government services are watching their own budgets hemorrhage?"

It's all about the "pockets".

The money for the rebate program (pocket A) can't be used to keep a recreation program running (pocket B).

"The State offers matching grants specifically earmarked for water conservation programs," said Madeline Ward, Water Conservation Intern at the City of Santa Barbara, who helps implement water-saving programs. "The county-wide water agencies pooled their own water conservation funds, received a match from the State and developed this very popular program."

[Author's full disclosure: Madeline had a cameo role in the most recent Garden Wise Guys episode-the one with the lagoon monster-walking my trusty sidekick, Biff the Wonder Spaniel.]

I've seen the rebate program in action. Two of my clients received hundreds of dollars for modest backyard projects they did on their own.

Right now it looks like there's enough funding for one more year, but act fast just in case.

I Robot?

I don't think my design services will be made obsolete, but the new Water Wise Gardening In Santa Barbara County website, connected to SBWATER.ORG is not only an amazingly useful plant selection program, but it's absolutely free.

To start it up, click on the gold-flowered icon. That's a flannel bush - Fremontedendron species) - in the upper left corner of the SBWater.org home page. Assuming you've paid your DSL bill, you will be instantly transported to one hell of a tricked-out planting design tool. Of primary interest to aspiring designers and do-it-yourselfers are the Garden Tours and Garden Gallery tabs at the top of the page.

Click through and have a look. When you see a picture of a landscape you like, click on the image and you'll find yourself at a virtual tour of dozens of local gardens, each featuring a particular style, like Pacific Spanish Garden or Purple Haze Garden. Click again for multiple close-up views of that same garden with little white squares around each plant.

Clicking on a plant brings up a comprehensive database for each plant, like in the Sunset Western Garden Book. Now you can research each plant's growth habits, maintenance needs, and match the plants to the style of garden you're creating.

When you find a plant you like, click on "Add This To My List" and you'll never guess what happens. Yes! (Damn, I have smart readers.) The website compiles a list that you can build on, review and revise.

The site is a great resource for newbies and sophisticated gardeners alike. I've used this site when I just need a little smack upside my cranium to unstick my creative machine.

When The Rains Come

Assuming the SkyTracker Weather Center is right, we'll all be housebound for at least a few days next week. Why not treat yourself to a visit to SBWater.org, and learn how to cut your own water bill while turning your garden into a beautiful, functional, sustainable landscape?

I'm not that saying that the impending inches of glorious rain we'll gratefully receive equates in any way with the marrow-anesthetizing temperatures in other parts of the country. But at least next week I won't have to tell my Smuggler's Notch, Vermont gardening friend at Facebook that I'm heading to Costco for another 55-gallon drum of SPF 150.

[Author's note: I have nothing left to say at this time. You may leave a comment if you wish.]

[Note to the author: Billy, you forgot to get in one last plug for your adult ed design class starting next Wednesday]

[Author's note: I just remembered something. My six-week landscape design class starts next week at the Wake Center, at 6 PM. You can sign up here.]

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Billy Goodnick is a nice guy who knows a lot about plants and garden stuff.


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Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 53741 agree helpful negative off topic

2010-01-17 08:33 AM

Does the rebate program apply to fruit and vegetable gardens as well?


 COMMENT 55894 agree helpful negative off topic

2010-01-31 08:33 AM

Cooment 53741:
Most likely your water delivery agency will require you to choose from lists of approved plants. I don't imagine most veggie and fruit trees would fit the low water use requirements, though there might be some exceptions. From the SB WATER website : "approved irrigation equipment and landscape materials (but not landscaper labor costs)" They also require a minimum of 3" of mulch.

If you are planning on relandscaping with water wise plants, it's sure worth checking out. But ASK the agency FIRST what is required. Keep your receipts.


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