SnapCalc – A FREE Landscape Calculator for Everyone

A while back I posted about a Mulch Calculator that I made in PHP and how I would spruce it up for use at the greenhouse. While it was a helpful tool, only one worker actually used it because he was the only other person with a smart phone and the idea of having to go to the bookmarks and search for it was a bit much for the other non tech savvy employees.  This isn’t the way I wanted this to turn out so I went back to the drawing board.

I really wanted people to get some use out of the tool so before I started I sat down and made a list of everything I wanted to see in the new calculator and things I thought were important for people using the calculator. Here is what I came up with:

  1. I want the ability to use it offline.
  2. It had to be made as a non-native webapp so I don’t have to make and keep up several versions built for several platforms
  3. It had to have the ability to calculate mulch, plant spacing, ground covers, and hedge spacing.
  4. I wanted it to be simple and clean but not just a bunch of plain html. If it looks complex it will probably seem complex.

I researched mobile app JS libraries that would allow me to make a single page app and I came up with jquery mobile as the easiest solution. I’ve used Sencha touch before but thought that the former would be quicker to get the app up and running before going back to my day job. It took me one day to finish the app itself and I’ve been working on the app landing page since.

I figured that it would be nice if there could be a way for the customers too so I generated a QR code that would take anyone with a QR reader to download the new landscape calculator. I threw the images in GIMP and added some pretty colors and this is what I came up with.


Hmmm… I think I’m being summoned to help in the kitchen. Back to real life. Here is the link to SnapCalc if you want to give it a shot.

And if you want to put SnapCalc on your website, you can copy this snippet into right into one of your html files and it will take your readers to the calculator.

Why read about plants?

Who in their right mind would ever take time from their very short lives to read about green organisms that can’t walk, talk or do cool tricks? Well, you did when you came here but should you read on?


Here is something to think about: As I write this I am in the middle of drinking a can of plant (wheat, hops,barley) to wash down the bowl of plant (lettuce, wheat, potato and more). I am wearing a shirt made from 80% recently deceased plant with 20% coming from plants whose lives ended a few hundred million years ago. The same ancient plants get me to work and make the electricity that powers my computer…

You see, we interact with plants all the time and never even notice it! Everything you do can be traced back to a plant from your first breath of air to your last.

That’s not enough to convince you to read on? Oh, hung up on the cool tricks thing… right..

Actually plants do a lot of wicked sweet stuff.

This sundew has uses bio potentials (nerve-like impulses) to sense when insects get trapped in the goo laden hairs of their leaves.

This Dodder plant can “smell” another plant and latch onto another plant like a vampire, sucking the sweet, sweet plant juices out for it’s own use.

How about this sweet robotically enhanced ficus created by Japanese researchers? They made a plant cyborg by hooking the plant to actuators, causing it respond to touch.

If that doesn’t convince you that plants are worth another look, I don’t know what else to tell you…

Sorry to pull you away from Honey Boo Boo and whatever.

Coming up in future blogs I’ll be showing that plants are everywhere and have been an inextricable part of our lives through the entire journey from Savannah to suburb. Also, I plan on demonstrating how people are finding new uses for plants, new ways of interacting with plants as well as how plants are being used in some amazing works of art.

Plants kick ass. I hope you will want to know more about them and that you’ll be back here in the future.

I Kill Plants Update


Over the Xmas and New Year’s break from my regular job I worked on for a while. Originally I was going to do the entire site from scratch so I could make it look exactly the way I wanted it to look but seeing as how I don’t have too much time on my hands I opted to use WordPress for that site too. It will have the same functionality of the site I wanted but now I will have time to focus on getting my other projects done. The banner was made using a font called Shithead that I downloaded from and the dead plant I sketched using gimp. The next step is letting everyone know that it exists, getting some content up and polishing the CSS file a bit to get the look just right.

If you have any submissions you should go to the Submit an Obit page and tell the world how you killed your green buddy.

Plant FYI #1 Prickly Ash

Prickly Ash

Prickly Ash

Common Prickly Ash (Xanthoxylum americanum) has “Ash” in the name but is more closely related to a lemon or orange than the ash tree that we plant on boulevards or in landscapes. Natives and early settlers would chew the bark of this stout shrubby tree to cure toothaches because of the numbing effect of the chemicals found in it’s cambium. How to identify this plant: Once you have entered a wooded area in the central/eastern US you will notice that your clothes are ripped and blood is beginning to soak through them. Turn around. If you see a thicket of 1-2.5 m tall shrubby trees that have ½ to 1 cm long prickles and ash-like compound leaves – that, my friend, is Prickly Ash.

Mulch Calculator

Being the manager of a greenhouse means TONS of questions. From the moment I get to work to the very last minutes of the day I am constantly called on the radio to respond to everything from minor emergencies to the “why did you even have to ask me that” type questions. Those are my least favorite.

An example of a “why did you have to ask” question:

How much mulch does this person need?

I don’t know if you’ve ever had to explain math over a walkie talkie but I’ll have you know that it isn’t an easy task when the person on the other line hasn’t had any sort of math course in the last 4 decades. I know it’s not their fault that they don’t know how to do it on their own so I usually bite my lip and run to the front counter to help. It’s pretty busy for a good part of our growing season so there isn’t a chance to teach the workers the simple process of finding the solution to these problems and I usually end up breaking out a calculator and doing it on my own.

So, I finally broke down and made a calculator that will be worked into the greenhouse website. This way the seasonal employees can easily access it on the front desk computer, on a customer’s smart phone or tablet.

Problem solved. Here is a rough version of the calculator without rounding or pizazz. It isn’t pretty but it works. Otherwise you can find it on the tools page.

That little and simple solution will help me stay focused on helping the customers I’m working with in person rather than helping others helping others. Now I have wild dreams about the next time saving programs… Plant spacing calculator, Number of plants/surface area….


Another plant blog…

This is going to be a blog about plants for plant people and non plant people alike. Besides talking about plants in general I will also write about some of the projects I’m working on in and outside of my day job at “the greenhouse”. Why quotes? I don’t have permission to use the business name until they’ve had time to review the content of this page. I don’t blame them.

If you have any recommendations for posts, questions about plants, or know of a neat plant related article I should read send it my way through the suggestions page. Here is a list of some of the topics coming up in the next few months…

  • Plant machine interface
  • Future gardening
  • Robots and Gardens
  • Rosarians vs Potheads
  • Drink Botany
  • Plant history
  • Plant Question of the week
  • Plant ID Mystery of the week
  • and more…