Kudos to GrowWrite! and Michael Nolan


Grow writeHave you seen the first issue of GrowWrite!?  It’s the online magazine for garden communicators that hit the web recently to much acclaim and kudos for its editor, Michael Nolan.  He’d previously served as editor of Garden Writers Today and when that was shuttered by its publisher (Cool Springs Press) a friend asked Michael, “You’re not done with this, right?”  He agreed and proceeded to make GrowWrite! happen.

I was so impressed with the premiere issue, I had to find out more about it.  A phone call with Michael later, I can report that it’s his first magazine project, will be published monthly, and that the goal is to pay all its contributors (actual pay, not the free ads the first contributors were paid with).  So, advertising is being pursued – with the lure of a highly targeted audience and a multiplying impact – so that this magazine can practice the professional treatment of garden communicators that it advocates.

I also learned that in future issues, GrowWrite! will cover food, too.  There’s more and more cross-over between food and garden writing, so why not include that (huge) audience, too?

Another professional practice Michael is employing is including disclaimers that describe the exact nature of any financial connection the magazine may have with a product that’s mentioned, including sales commissions on purchases readers make by clicking through (popular “affiliate agreements”).  There’s been some acrimony among gardenbloggers about money issues and I love Michael’s approach – following the law by disclosing (something he sees plenty of blogs not doing) but DO make a buck where it’s appropriate.  No shame in needing to make a living!  Again, I see this as a model for how other communicators might handle this sticky wicket.

Growwrite memorial
Something else I particularly like about the first issue is this page honoring people in our world who died in the last year.  It’ll be a regular feature.

What you may not know about Michael 

  • When he calls himself an urban gardener, that’s no stretch.  He’s gardened in cities all over the U.S. (NYC, Atlanta, Philly, etc) first as a child in a constantly relocating family and later as a constantly relocated member of the Air Force.  (Who knew?)
  • How can he look so young and claim to have been gardening for over 30 years?  Because he started gardening at the age of five and is now all of 39 (though complaints of arthritis and gray hair have already begun.  Really!)
  • He’s spent time in a Buddhist monastery and today calls himself a “sitting Buddhist”.  What type?  Composters-001Loosely Tibetan.  On Facebook he lists his religion as “compassion”.  And on the garden writers Facebook group he started the popular meme of announcing good news every Friday.
  • He’s ghost-written about not just gardening but the environment more broadly, and also food.  And that’s all he would tell me about that.
  • His favorite T-shirt says ‘Composters make shit grow’ but I couldn’t get him to send me a photo of him wearing it for this post.  Michael, it’s not too late! Here it is!
  • He’s always been bothered by the stigma that gardening is just for women, until he moved not long ago to Alabama.  Turns out, gardening crosses the gender divide there in that agriculture-dominated region.  For men living in other parts of the country his message is “Chicks dig gardeners,” and who among us can argue with that?

Message to Rant Readers

Contact Michael if you’d like to contribute, or have a topic you’d like the magazine to cover.  Also send along suggestions for the calendar of food- and garden-related events that will start in the next issue.  Here’s the website for his writing, speaking and graphic design work, which includes contact info for him.


  1. We need more Michael Nolans in the world, yet I think he’s a one-of-a-kind, kinda guy! Keep up your tireless work Michael. We appreciate it. And yes, great job on your first issue of growwrite!

  2. Love his t-shirt, but I think I’ll have to go for the “helps you hide the bodies” one I see on his website. When the neighbor kids peer over the fence and question me about the digging I’m doing I’ve often told them that’s what I’m doing.

    I was born & raised just a bit west of where Michael is now living (I think, since he doesn’t actually say the name of the city). I hope he finds his gardening niche there & isn’t driven batty by the folks who wish to change his religion of “compassion” to one more in line with their own.

  3. Be still my heart. I was the editor of Farm & Garden, an online magazine. F&G covered annual, perennial, herb and vegetable gardens. It was my favorite magazine and I’ve missed it a lot. I’m subscribing to GrowWrite. Thanks for telling us!

  4. I wish you all the best. I’m a tech neophyte — very much like the Dad in Calvin & Hobbes — who would not have a telephone in the house if he could get away with it. But I’ve discovered very recently that the web seems to be the last refuge for gardeners, and garden writing. I can’t remember the last time I read an interesting gardening article in the New York Times and the Washington Post’s garden writing has never recovered from the death of Henry Mitchell. (And don’t get me started on the Godawful personality-driven “garden show” television lately (still mourning Jim Crockett — and whatever happened to Roger Swain?). My interest in gardening was piqued long ago by Katherine White’s pieces in the New Yorker and by Elizabeth Lawrence’s books. At least to me, gardening (in the real sense of a passionate and thoughtful pursuit of lovely plantings) seems to have become a niche hobby that cannot support a mass market, and thus may be perfectly suited for blogs and on-line publications. I read garden rant and the garden professors with pleasure. So welcome to the New Year, and I wish you great success with your undertaking.

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