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A Dry Sense of Gardening

January 20, 2001|MARK CHALON SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

BOOKS

Sometimes we need to be reminded that Southern California is a thirsty desert. Even with the recent storms, TV weatherfolk have been muttering about how little rain we've had overall this winter. Can a call for water conservation be far behind?

Of course, we should save water all the time, and that's a main thrust of Tom Peace's "Sunbelt Gardening" (Fulcrum Publishing, $30, 2000). The author lays out various techniques--including a gravel-based mulch for retaining moisture--to reduce watering needs.

Peace also explains what plants (including cactus; he's fond of the prickly stuff) are most adaptable to this and even hotter, more arid regions. He goes into soil content, garden organization and all manner of problem solving. Many of his suggestions are common sense but still may be overlooked, like planting branch-laden trees above sun-sensitive flowers so they don't get scorched.

GARDEN VIBES INSIDE

Bringing the bucolic vibe of a garden into the home is what "Garden Style Projects" (Better Homes and Gardens Books, $25, 2000) is all about. Editor Linda Hallam and her writers say it can be as simple as including flower and plant imagery in the living room and elsewhere (think stenciling and other arts and crafts) or as challenging as indoor mini-gardens under glass.

THE WEB / Good Sites for Woodworkers

Woodworking sites have their own Net niche, providing everything from blueprints to chatty spots where crafters can seek advice or brag about that wobbly thingamajig they made in the garage. Here are a few of the best; some new, some revamped and expanded recently:

Amateur Woodworker (http://www .amwood.com) has to be one of the most popular. Besides facts, photos and question-and-answer sections, it regularly spotlights a project or two. The current one focuses on what it takes to build a pagoda-like Japanese lamp.

Perhaps the best spot overall, especially for skilled crafters, is Woodweb (http://www.woodweb.com), with fans saying it has proved useful by cutting down on the time to complete projects. Experts (including someone called the "Wood Doctor," also known as Gene) and other woodworkers post suggestions in areas such as "Finishing and Abrasives," "Lumber and Plywood," "Tooling," "Adhesives" and "Cabinets."

Another busy destination is the Electronic Neanderthal (http://www.cs .cmu.edu/~alf/en/en.html). This simple site is dedicated to the history and lore of tools, especially antiques. It lists Web pages with a similar focus and tells visitors where to see and buy antique tools.

More on tools and how they can best be used? Go to the Museum of Woodworking Tools (http://www.antiquetools.com), which is a comprehensive tour of tools, both new and ancient. Everything starts with a diagram of a museum, and you can go to different rooms to see the various implements. A chat room allows visitors to discuss what tools fit what job and any project they're involved with, in real time.

* Send suggestions to: Home Design, The Times' Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Or send e-mail to mark.smith@latimes.com.

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