Green Gardener's Oscar Carmona
Paul Wellman

What do you do when the oak tree in your yard has worms? Santa Barbara City College advisor Maria Cabrera explained that conventional means, such as pesticides, don’t always work. When her oak tree became infested, it took the help of a Green Gardener graduate to find a solution. The gardener found the right type fly that would eat the worm eggs, using natural and inexpensive means to save the tree.

There seems to be no specific age group sitting in on the class orientation, with potential students that range from the young college student to the older gentlemen wanting to learn something new. Cabrera swiftly organizes everyone to fill out registration cards, rapidly giving instructions in both English and Spanish.

There are no restrictions on who can attend the Green Gardener classes being held at Santa Barbara City College, just a desire to learn new, environmentally-safe landscaping techniques. Cabrera explains the elements of the 15-week course as a basis for starting or improving a career in landscaping. Although the program is targeted at those already working in the landscaping business, anyone who is interested in the topic may sign up.

The Green Gardener classes at Santa Barbara City College are a part of the continuing education program, developed to give adults an opportunity to return to school and improve their knowledge base. The class started at SBCC as a part of a larger program run by the City of Santa Barbara for water conservation and sustainability. “Being here means you care about what goes on out there,” Cabrera told the class.

According to Water Conservation Coordinator Alison Jordan, the program evolved from conservation training workshops held by various water agencies. The workshops focused on irrigation techniques, but organizers wanted to include information on pollution prevention. The Santa Barbara Horticultural Society (SBHS) also held gardening workshops, and while they had great content, they were not widely attended. To expand both of their programs, the County of Santa Barbara Water Agency (SBWA) and the SBHS combined their workshops to improve the quality. Leonard Fleckenstein of SBWA explained that the course began as a nine-week program, and has grown to a 15-week curriculum as they gather new material to add.

The program is a win-win scenario. Those who take the course learn new methods for gardening, and at the end of the program they are placed on a list of gardeners who have completed the course, which is promoted throughout the community. In return, the city has landscapers trained in saving resources. Through SBCC, the gardening graduates receive a certificate upon completion, as well as an identification card and a hat. Memberships must be renewed on a yearly basis to ensure each gardener is up-to-date with the latest techniques. According to Jordan, one graduate is picked each month to be featured on the Green Gardener website as an additional source of promotion and reward for excellence.

Of course, the SBWA owes a great deal to its educational partner, SBCC. Besides the marketing opportunities offered by the county, the college awards a state certification to those who complete their training. “This new relationship with the state certificate program broadens City College and they help us with administrative structure,” Jordan said. “It really opens up windows and do a lot of networking, opening possibilities for our gardeners.”

Once in the class, students have the option to take their education farther by studying for an Environmental Horticulture degree. “This is a gateway class,” Cabrera said, explaining how students who have never finished high school or received a college education are inspired to achieve more. “This is a step for more learning, for earning more money.”

Thanks to the partnership between the SBWA and SBCC, the Green Gardener program has developed a more structured curriculum, which has gained notice in other areas. “Since we did that not only did it improve the class, but a number of other jurisdictions outside the county have picked up on it,” Fleckenstein said. “Now there are a number of different Green Gardener programs around California.”


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