The Gardenator

The Gardenator

Leaf Blowing 101

Why does this column show a gasoline-powered blower when these machines have been banned in the City of Santa Barbara since 1997? Why “advertise” this polluting and now-illegal-to-use blower?

—chiwoowa9, online blow-less-hard commenter

A professional gardener in the Santa Barbara region for more than 30 years, Gustavo the Gardenator has lots of tools in his backyard (where this picture was taken). He also works part-time on the weekends for the City of Santa Barbara, so he knows the rules and knows the business. And thanks for the questions, because it’s about time Gustavo schooled us all in the sacred gardening art of leaf blowing.

There are three different types of leaf blowers that are used, so here are the pros and cons of each.

Gas-Powered: These are affordable — handheld versions run $150-$400, while backpack ones are $250-$500 — and they work extremely well. But as the city’s rules indicate, they are noisy and not as environmentally friendly.

Corded Electric: These are really affordable — only $50-$100. However, as Gustavo notes, “Son muy baratas, pero no me gustan usarlos porque el p* cordón.” (They’re cheap, but the power cord is a pain in the butt.)

Battery-Powered (Cordless Electric): The handheld versions aren’t too much, $60-$350, but the backpacks are very expensive, like $600-$1,200. Gustavo likes those, explaining, “Están chingonas, son como bazucas — tienen buen power.” (They are pretty badass, like bazookas — very powerful.)

Despite the city’s rules, Gustavo says most gardeners use gas blowers and corded electric blowers. The city itself uses a lot of battery-powered blowers, but they only work for about an hour before needing a recharge. He uses all three types, but it really comes down to economics. The more the battery-powered blowers come down in price, the more gardeners will use them.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between doing homeowner backyard work and being a professional gardener in the field: There can be multiple job sites lined up in a day or there can be huge job sites, such as schools or Montecito houses, that need to be cleaned up in a certain amount of time. A gardener will be trimming hedges, cutting grass, and doing landscape maintenance prior to leaf blowing, so he needs to take into account arm fatigue and speed. The professional gardener is mostly concerned with getting access to the most powerful, practical, and cost-effective leaf blower to finish his job quickly.

Gustavo Uribe is a fifth-generation agricultural specialist who has worked as a professional gardener in Santa Barbara for more than 30 years. His son, Gustavo, Jr., writes this column. Send your gardening questions to

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