Blogging and the Business of Gardening


I told this editor that first, gardening is all about buying stuff.  You buy plants, soil, fertilizer, tools, gloves, benches–there is a lot of consumption involved.  You can share plants and seeds and use secondhand tools, but at some point you’re going to go to a nursery and buy something.

Second, all the articles that appear around my garden column in this paper–book reviews, music reviews, movie reviews–also involved buying stuff.  If you don’t think a book or a CD or a movie or a concert or an art exhibit is about buying stuff, just go ask the artist!

Some publications have a policy of not accepting free stuff.  If you’re going to review a product, either the writer or the newspaper must buy it.  This doesn’t extend to book reviews, where publishers regularly send free copies to newspapers and magazines in the hopes that they’ll write a review. 

I actually think accepting free stuff is a perfectly fine approach and I don’t think it engenders bias.  If you  send me a crappy product, I’m either going to write a scathing review or ignore it entirely.  If you send me something I love, I will tell the world–through my blog, through my column, across the back fence, at a party, at the nursery, etc.

Most of the swag that garden writers get is not very fancy anyway.  We’re not getting power tools or hand-forged copper fountains or $5000 benches.  We’re getting seeds, gloves, bulbs, or maybe a little packet of fertilizer.  (Horticultural industry:  If you’re listening–you’d be amazed at how many people have bought an electric chipper/shredder at my recommendation.  I bet two dozen people contacted me to tell me they’d bought one after reading my article–and that doesn’t count all the people who might have purchased one without contacting me about it.)

So yeah, sure, send us some stuff.  And by the way, when my next book comes out, I’m going to get a stack of review copies and offer them to bloggers, with the specific request that they post a review–good or bad, of course.  Special consideration will go to those who also want to embed the video.  Where did I get the idea for this? From Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, of course.

Oh, and back to those industry people looking to get their products into the hands of bloggers–I’m  also in the market for a smart phone, which I’ll be using as a blogging tool (and, uh, telephone) on the next book tour.  Drop me a line and I’ll let you know where to send those Treo 700s and Motorola Qs.  Now, you’ll include the activation fees and 2-year contract with it, right?


  1. Totally correct Amy. Your post would also epitomise my own opinions on the subject.

    A large part of gardening is the resources we use from seeds, fertilisers, tools books etc and blogs have become the new neighbours fence. If I like a product I’m going to tell others about it, if I don’t, I won’t (or I’ll give it the bad press that it deserves).

    As an example, I recently wrote off a particular gardening tool as a gimmick and had the inventor post a comment on my blog chiding me for my lack of perceptiveness. He does have a point (to a degree!) though the product still has some major aesthetic flaws.

    As garden bloggers we should be vigilant and keep gardening suppliers on their toes. I (we) now have a voice and I’m shouting louder everyday.

  2. Product reviews are extremely helpful for gardeners — the variety of spades is boggling to beginners and anything that can cut through the clutter helps.
    Even more important to me are trial plants — for our Wash DC-area magazine we are sent about 10-20 plants per year to try in our climate. This is invaluable information to gather and pass on. Of course, it makes my own garden look like a disjointed hodge-podgge collection of young plants and never the mature showcase I’d like it to be — but I’m willing to sacrifice overall landscape design aesthetics to try out the viability of plants for area gardeners.


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