Dear Scotts: Just Try, One Time, Not to be So Shitty.


Trademark image from Shutterstock

Does anyone remember when we posted about the “You Can Grow That!” campaign started by garden writer C.L. Fornari? Her perfectly nice, well-intentioned idea was to start a social media campaign to encourage non-gardeners to garden, or to encourage all of us to grow new or different plants, or–well, there are a lot of different ways the phrase could be interpreted, but you get the idea.  A slogan that garden writers, nursery and hort industry people, and others could use to promote gardening.

That’s all good, right?

So she came up with the idea, got feedback, registered the domain, sent out press releases, and generally encouraged people to use it.  Bloggers were doing “You Can Grow That!” posts once a month, and so on.

She got lots of publicity for it, including this December 8, 2011 article in Garden Center magazine.

Then guess what happened? The very next day, on December 9, 2011, Scotts applied for a trademark application for the phrase “You Can Gro That.”

Get it?  Gro?  Like that blue stuff they make?


Here is their trademark application.  And by March, they had put their trademark to use by taking out an ad in Costco’s magazine.

All of this was unknown to C.L., who did not get around to trying to trademark her idea until July.  I’m surprised she got around to it at all–after all, there’s no money involved.  It was just a nice idea aimed at getting people to join together in a spirit of gardening goodness to encourage more people to join in.

Once she realized what had happened, there wasn’t much she could do.  As she explained in a blog post yesterday, she talked to a lawyer and the advice was to give it up.  Scotts will out-lawyer her all day long.   No use fighting it.

So she gave it up.  Gave up the whole idea of a website (she’d bought the URL), the campaign, whatever.

Because it’s more important that Scotts have another slogan (that C.L. thought of) to help sell blue chemicals, and Scotts has the money and the lawyers, so that’s where it ends.

Except it doesn’t have to.  Scotts could decide to stop being so shitty.  They could, right now, reach out to the very people they should care the most about–committed, impassioned, enthusiastic gardeners who talk of little else all damn day (and I should know, because I follow these people on Facebook and good lord, it is all they talk about.)  They could find someone down there at the chemical plant who is still in touch with some tiny scrap of humanity deep within their soul, and they could hand that person a piece of paper and and ask them to write a letter.

Here is what that letter needs to say.  This is the only thing it should say,

Dear Ms. Fornari,

I work here at the Scotts chemical plant, and let me tell you, this is a BIG organization.  REALLY big.  I mean, I’m just here in the Blue Division,  where we spray the blue stuff on the chemicals because we heard that ladies like pretty colors, and even in the Blue Division I don’t know the names of half the people I see every day.  We long ago gave up on having individual birthday celebrations, and now we just have a big blue sheet case delivered once a month, along with a printout of everybody who has a birthday this month.  That’s how big we are.

(blue factory via Shutterstock)

But I digress.  The reason I’m writing is because I just found out that one of our lawyers, a nice enough guy, really, except that sometimes he just tries too hard–anyway, this young man (it’s always the men who do these things, isn’t it?)–this young man read about your catchy slogan in one of the industry publications he is required under the terms of his contract of employment to read every day (and you thought spraying the blue on the chemicals was a crappy job!  He has to read–well, never mind) — anyway, the point is that this ambitious young man read about your slogan and got all fired up and filled out a trademark application THAT VERY DAY, and next thing you know, it’s the new slogan for our blue stuff.

But now it has come to our attention, here in the Blue Division and elsewhere in the company, that this was never our slogan to begin with!  It was yours! That young lawyer saw and opportunity and he took it.  And that’s where I come in.

You see, I am the co-chair of a new program at Scotts called We Don’t Have To Be Quite So Shitty All The Time. I am tasked with coming up with new, innovative, exciting ways for us to be just a little less shitty once in a while.  And when one of my spies in the legal division (we have to have a LOT of spies in Legal, as you can imagine) alerted me to this situation, I knew it was time to put WDHTBQSSATT into action.  It’s been several months since we last came up with a way to be less shitty, so we are really overdue at this point.

So.  As of right now, we are withdrawing our trademark for “You Can Gro That” and asking–no, imploring, beseeching, begging–you to take it up again (with the missing W, of course) and do as  you like with it.  Run a social media campaign to get more people gardening–honestly, that benefits us too, and I don’ t know why that young man in Legal didn’t think of that–or don’t.  It’s not up to us to decide.

It is only up to us to, once in a while, be a little less shitty. Now that I’ve done my duty for the day, I need to get back to my station.  Those chemicals aren’t going to turn blue by themselves!

Yours truly,

Louise Baker

Department of WDHTBQSSATT



  1. It’s incredible how these so-called science-based companies operate. What is even more incredible is that an actual science works for them. In this day and age of the New Age Religion of Scientism (* See Scientism Footnote by, people need to question just what kind of science is being carried out. There are countless great papers revealing the truth about how our natural world actually functions and operates. As yet there is very little Biomimicry attempting to replicate these findings. Proof of this is just looking at who is in charge of Consumerism Products shoved down the average global citizen’s throat.

    You mentioned the word/term “Conscience” ( notice the root word) and the question is how can any scientist in good conscience work for such hideous corporations and actually bastardize science itself through the creation of Death Technologies ? When called on the carpet or backed into a corner, the usual excuse is “I was only following orders”. I always am entertained by a good ‘Nuremberg Defense’. Maybe some of these people should be tried in world courts for Crimes Against Humanity ?

    I understand this patent obsession. In the past it was nearly impossible to ever get a patent on a plant. Seriously how could you. Who could own such a thing and how would it be enforced. Then comes along a degenerate company with it’s 100+ years of death technologies to corrupt nature and create so-called genetically engineered genes and patents them – Who else – Monsanto. And with government blessing. (and get a clue here folks, both Political Parties give unquestionable loyalty & needed support to this Dr Frankenstein creation organization.) Who would have ever believed your country over there with it’s championing of the little guy’s rights, would actually allow a criminal to contaminate some other citizen’s property with their poison and then proceed to sue that person in court for stealing a perverted freak of nature the Farmer never wanted. So the death creating Goliath Corporation takes on the Shepherd Boy Farmer and the government backs them.

    Like all elections before it, this November 2012 Election will be meaningless.

    * Footnote:

  2. When was it? Two, three, four years ago, even longer, that I began to notice I couldn’t find bagged dirt at the big box stores? No. Only different kinds of “soil” or “planting medium” with Scotts Blue Stuff already in them. So much for overland runoff of chemicals and nutrients into our streams and rivers, even when we don’t want the chemicals. This is selling a product by stealth, and by subterfuge. Scotts, products for the ignorant gardener. “We know what’s best for you. Don’t worry your little mind. Buy Scotts. Buy Scotts. Buy Scotts.”

    • Agreed. I nearly slapped my partner for bringing home Scotts bird seed from Big Lots, no doubt part of their toxic batch quickly shuffled off to Seconds stores once they realized they could get sued for selling it. It was promptly tossed out after much fuss and evidence presentation (thanks, Garden Rant).

      Every big box store has a “generic”/local option for soil. If you want a specialty potting soil, blend your own! Topsoil/compost/sand 1:2:1 works great for most plants and you can add whatever fertilizers or supplements you want.

    • I second that! I surely don’t “Do Blue”!
      Also tweeted about this… I didn’t see a twitter account for you CL so I just plugged your name. ^u^

    • Amen C.L. I too enjoyed the blue factory image, I can see the factory workers running around drinking in the “Blue Juice”… after all isn’t it safe??? Thanks to Louise for standing up the Blue Meanies! You ladies Rock!

        • That was shitty. It’s a shitty company, obviously. I never buy their . . . (well I don’t want to get too redundant!).

          How about “We can grow that?” “Let’s grow (it)!” (Apologies if others have suggested these, I didn’t read all the comments and I have to take a kid to school.)

          It’s an opportunity to get something trademarked that’s just as good, or better. Their tactics won’t win in the long haul. Don’t let it get you down.

  3. Just another example that for large swaths of the corporate world profit has become the supreme moral principle from which all and only good can flow. Nothing else but profit is to be considered when making decisions. That divine good out weighs all other concerns.

    Remember, corporations are people too. They just have no responsibility to act like decent people because they are protected by divine profit.

  4. Louise’s letter reminds me of the Yes Men. Their last documentary was largely about their adventures after the website they created for the “Ethics Division” of Dow Chemical got them an invitation to appear on tv in Europe on the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster as Dow spokespeople. The headlines read “Dow Does the Right Thing” until actual Dow spokespeople noticed the story and swiftly responded, no, we will not pay the medical expenses of the people permanently harmed, and no, we do not accept full responsibility.

    And that’s not their only successful caper.

    I love the “I don’t do blue”tm slogan — quick, someone trademark it before a certain company hears about it and submits a preemptive app.

  5. Looking forward to a new catchphrase. I will miss the old one, it was really great. Call to action, empowering and all that, but I have complete faith a new one will be equally awesome. I think if Scott’s actually stopped being so shitty, I’d fall down in a dead faint! 😉

  6. If there really were such a thing as the WDHTBQSSATT, it would be good for them to have a slogan of their own. Something that they could all rally around, get behind, and drive their mission.

    And since Scotts can’t come up with their own slogans, I’d like to offer my help for the We Don’t Have To Be Quite So Shitty All The Time team: More Manure, Less Shit.

  7. Scott’s blue is driven by green – as in $. So, adopting “I don’t do Blue” — and backing it up with purchasing decisions might make an impact.

  8. On the one hand, when the entire English language is trademarked, we will not longer be able to legally speak without paying tribute to corporations.

    On the one hand, she might be able to sell them her URL.

  9. I’ll buy a “I don’t do blue” bumpersticker. Where do I send my $$$?

    Actually, in some Central Texas Big Box stores you can’t find any bagged soil that doesn’t have added chemicals. Nothing. Nada. I know because I encountered that problem this spring.

    The people who buy the blue (I know some) really know very little about gardening. They love Scott’s Blue Do-Do and you can’t convince them to buy anything else. They want to pretend they are part of the gardening elite but refuse to do reading on the subject.

  10. Maybe Scotts’ actions will actually have a silver lining for C.L. Fornari…. Since she owns the URL address, she should encourage Scotts to spend as much money as they possibly can marketing their product using “their” slogan and then sit back as it drives people to HER URL 🙂 I just love a righteous underdog story!

  11. I jumped off the Scott’s escalator years ago. They are headquartered here in Ohio. A huge presence representing jobs.

    For those of you that inquired, “who buys there junk anyway”, this story:

    A few years ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Paul Tukey speak at a gardening conference. Of course part of his spiel was about the chemicals being pumped into the ground by companies selling crap like Scott’s. Went on in that vein for a while. At the break, there were quite a few people that were incensed that he had been “allowed” to go on like that, especially with no opposing viewpoints. He was the keynote speaker, it wasn’t “Point, Counterpoint”. So there are people thinking those chemicals are the only way to get that emerald swathe of golf course green. And they are probably right; the greater question for me is why would they want that? The maintenance, time, overhead, cost etc, without even getting to the damage they’re causing by using the stuff.

    Anyway, my motto, “If it goes in the ground, it goes in your mouth.” One way or the other.

    Great piece, thanks!

    • I think it’s on Paul’s website where this stat stands out: over 20 years it will cost $20,000 to maintain an acre of lawn at a park, business, etc, but only $3,000 if it’s in native grasses and plants.

  12. Well I work at a retail nursery, and we feel that we have to carry Miracle Grow and Scott’s lawn products because the name is so huge in the consumers mind. I take every opportunity to dissuade shoppers from reaching for the blue, on the grounds that it is not the best way to grow a plant (like a constant diet of junk food), and it is deleterious to the soil from all the salt build-up. We have organic fertilizers on the same aisle and they make up the bulk of our offerings-over 2/3 of that aisle, and given the opportunity I guide people over to the organics. I will have another reason to steer people clear of the blue now.

  13. Excellent article! It’s too bad stuff like this happens, isn’t it?

    I love the idea behind C.L. Fornari’s social media campaign and applaud the effort to encourage people to garden. I was unaware of the campaign until I read this post.

    I hope C.L. Fornari finds a way to continue. It would be a shame to let such an AWESOME idea die. I know it stinks, but maybe the effort can continue under a different name. I am sure all your readers plus the Department of WDHTBQSSATT would agree the idea is too good to let die.

    Great work C.L. Fornari! Don’t let them get you down!

  14. Really Scott’s? Might as well start a a blog “Better living through chemical laden gardening”. I wonder is they have an employee position as a gardening saboteur? Way to turn a good non profit idea into a corporate money grab. (can you tell I’m a little peeved.

  15. I was going to buy some Osmocote for the strawberry containers that my housemate’s small dogs like to check out. So I looked on the label: Scotts!!! Didn’t buy it. The website says Osmocote is now owned by another multinational, though. So I guess I’ll keep using homemade compost and liquid seaweed.

  16. I will try to get fellow garden buyers and managers to wear “I don’t do blue” at trade shows coming up next week in Baltimore, Atlantic City and in Salt lake City.

    Love the idea of the T shirts
    The TROLL

  17. To: Amy Stewart

    From: Scott’s Trademark Division

    RE: Trademark Notification

    Dear Ms. Stewart:

    Thank you for your kind letter about our substandard notification policies. We have taken your advice to our blue heart and are comitted to changing our ways.

    Here then is a list of some words and phrases we intend to trademark. (By reading this you legally acknowledge that you were notified by the Scott’s company of its intent.)
    To be trademarked by Scott’s:

    You Can Gro That
    U Can Gro That
    Do the Blue
    I don’t do blue!
    I don’t do blu!
    Wicked Blue
    Shut up and dig
    Uprooting the gardening world
    Gardening world
    Talk to the hand
    It’s not you, it’s me
    How are you?
    C. L. Fornari

    Thanks again for your advice!

    Sincerely (TM)
    Adolf Trump
    Director of Trademarks
    Scott’s Inc.

  18. a couple hundred years ago nobody could buy much of anything. They either made it themselves, or a neighbor (blacksmith, potter, etc) did.
    And yet here we are. Somehow they lived long enough to procreate.

    Agrarian pursuits can STILL be accomplished with very little, other than one’s two hands, and some knowledge.

  19. Actually, since Ms Fornari used that phrase IN (so to speak) PRINT – that is, she published it attached to her name – several months ago, doesn’t she already own the copy right?

  20. I’m not anti-Scotts as I use some of their products along with products from other gardening supplies companies but I do think to blatently poach someone elses idea by just dropping a ”W” and then using it as a slogan for making money is indeed a shitty thing to do. She was trying to promote gardening for the good of the masses without trying to make money from it. If they had any sense they would realise that promoting gardening would be helpful to them as well and they could have offered to sponsor and help the campaign out of goodwill. We have the blue-stuff on sale here as well sold by scotts. It used to be very good many years ago but then they changed the formula so the NPK is now high Nitrogen N which is not clever as only leaf crops require high N. I don’t use it.

  21. If anyone here is wondering why the liquid feed granules are coloured with blue dye it is done to make the water blue. Unhealthy plants are yellow. Yellow and blue together makes green. The blue is added to make the plants turn green straight away and appear that the liquid feed has performed a miracle by instantly making the plant healthy. The plant then just looks healthy until the feed gets to work and the idea is after a few days or a week the plants really will be healthy.

  22. Yet another Miracle woe for Scotts! I had first learned of the Trademarking issue from Trey Pitsenburger, ‘The Blogging Nurseryman’ site last week and wanted to leave my response to his post here too. The more people can see had stupid this trademarking of slogans is the sooner it will stop. I agree with the comment above regarding not be able to talk anymore because someone might own that word! Keep up the fight.

    “I was in ‘shock and ore’ to read what Scotts has done with trade-marking ‘you can grow that’. I guess this is ‘the taste of a new generation’, but its not ‘M’m M’m good’. As a writer I like to ‘get ready to rumble’ but I want to ‘be all that you can be’ and choose my words carefully. Still this kind of stuff can ‘put a tiger in your tank’. Scotts ‘just do it’ attitude for their marketing doesn’t leave me with a ‘we love to see you smile’ feeling, but ‘it’s so easy, even a caveman can do it’. Sure it’s ‘taking care of business’ to come up with these slogans, but to rip it off from a blogger and prevent others from using it leaves me to think that Scotts is ‘Home of the Whopper’. ‘Have it your way’, we can show disapproval by buying from the competition, words that ‘melts in your mouth, not in your hands’. What ever happened to freedom of speech, doesn’t it extend to the written word as well as the spoken word? As always Trey, your blog is ‘good to the last drop’ when exposing ‘pork, the other white meat’.”

  23. I work in a big box nursery and I (stealthily) try to inform the newbies that I train that Scott’s/Ortho are evil poison-mongerers…a couple years ago they started adding the “bluecrap” to their perlite for cripe’s sake…WTF!!!!???

  24. It’s ironic, but their stock just went up up up. Some folks may not realize that they own many brand product lines including Ortho, Round-Up,
    Morning Song, Whitney Farms, Hyponex, Supersoil, Bovung, Green Light,Country Pride, Earthgro, Black Magic, Scotts Lawn. I’m most upset about the tainted bird seed–all those songbirds that are already dealing with predation–including that from folks who let their cats roam–building and cellphone tower collisions, lack of native insects and native plants. For those who have not yet read Doug Tallamy’s “Bringing Nature Home,” I hope you’ll pick up a copy.

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