blank'/> 66 Square Feet (Plus): Scott's Miracle Gro and the Garden Writers Association

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Scott's Miracle Gro and the Garden Writers Association

Why did I leave the Garden Writers Association (GWA)?

In a word: Scott's. As in Miracle Gro.

Yes. I have used crack for plants, too. In The Beginning, my potted plants loved it. And since they did, I did. But then I started to listen to my conscience. I knew I was doing something bad (but it felt so good!). I knew that blue crystals do nothing for the soil itself. Contribute nothing. Send worms slithering off and nematodes to nematode heaven. Dead soil. And if you happen to be a strip mine in Florida, or a Pacific atoll, your phosphate contribution destroys you. Goodbye Florida, goodbye, coral atoll.

Soil needs to be alive and applying synthetic fertilizer is a great way to ensure that it will not be.

Scott's has now also developed a grass which is genetically engineered to resist Monsanto's Round Up herbicide, so that lawns can be heavily sprayed with Round Up. Weeds die, Frankengrass lives.

Scott's. Monsanto. I assume I am preaching to the choir.

So Scott's underwrites and partners with The Garden Writers Association. I find this jarring to say the least.You would swear that organic gardening practises and environmental awareness had not percolated through to this well-connected organization whose members are writers, editors, authors, gardening personalities, photographers. In short, people who are informed.

What century is this?

So I did not renew my membership. It did not help that the cover of their members' directory, the size of a small telephone directory (remember those?) boasts an ugly corporate planting of stiff yellow...mums. Mums. Talk about unimaginative gardening, robotic consumption, a fall monoculture.


A leading local member of the association, by way of explaining the Scott's connection, told me that since they, Garden Writers,  are an NGO, they have to accept money from whomever would like to support them...


And would Scott's advertise with the GWA if their practises were criticized vocally and visibly within those member pages? I don't think so. Admit it. The GWA wants their money and they don't care where it comes from. Somebody drank the bright blue Kool-Aid.

I cannot wrap my head around the contradiction, and I cannot be part of it.  We are awash in information. How can you call yourself a gardener of the 21st century and belong to an organization funded largely by a chemical giant? How? How can you not ask questions? Like...where do the ingredients in this fertilizer come from and how are they manufactured? How do I feel about genetically modified lawn seeds that promote the application of poison?

Does Scott's have an organic line? Yes, and I tried some of it last year. For some reason my plants (vegetables) hated it and turned yellow it. I also tried Whitney organic soil, which was great, before I realized that that company been bought by Scott's. You buy organic from Scott's and you are underwriting their chemical operations. Until they cease their chemical operations there is no cause to celebrate these sops to organic gardeners.

Would I like to belong to Garden Writers? Yes. It is a large and influential organization that offers many types of support and perks for members. And - if you pay their hefty entry fees - you can win sweet awards for writing and photography (in addition to my $80 annual membership in a tight financial year I found that too much to swallow).

In short, I believe that the GWA is a dinosaur out of touch not only with the times but the basic tenets of good gardening.

Does the GWA promote organic gardening and healthy practises? Why, yes. But explain the lie. Because as long as a chemical giant helps fund their operations, a lie it is.

I find it backward, inappropriate and downright irresponsible to provide a civilizing platform for a company that pays lip service to sustainable gardening while churning out the blue crystals and chemical-laden potting soils of dubious origin.

Update, 3-6-12 - work in progress:

Trustworthy Organic Potting Soils (if you have your own favourites, please let me know):

Organic Mechanics, just bought my first bag

Update, 3-16-12:

More reasons, if you really needed them, not to buy any Scott's products.

Pesticides used on bird food


  1. Aauugghh, you said the M word! *index fingers crossed to ward off evil* Monsanto must die. I was not aware that Scott's products (which I have used sometimes in containers)were that far on the dark side. Thanks for the information Marie, they will not be used here again.

  2. Thank goodness for my compost piles. Never could wrap my head around that blue stuff, altho it seemed too easy to be true. [There is definitely a message there .. anything "too good/easy to be" anything, is!]

    Count me in. It may be more work, but it is worth it.

  3. Perhaps it's time to organize the OGWA--there are plenty of organic magazines and websites and WWOOFers to reach out to. $80 a year membership is high indeed for preachiing to the choir, but it can be done!

    1. Great idea, Ms Smith. A splinter group. May I nominate you president?

  4. Brilliant, well put! Thanks Marie for taking a stand. If more people did it, the world WILL change. I have a similar battle here where Kinoch creates so-called 'organic' fertiliser which is basically chicken shit with the chemicals added. 'How can you say this is organic? 'I asked the sales rep at the Cape Green Trade Day. 'Because it says on the pack - look here' he points out. Ignorance or stupidity? I will never know....

  5. Ah, yes. You know as a teenager, miracle gro(before it was Scott's) was sprayed on everything to make it all better. Wasn't till I left home that I learned otherwise. My tomatoes wilted every year, and I would dump blue buckets on them week in and out. I. Did. Not. Know. What soil was!

    One of the benefits of being large is being able to buy favor. Scott's does. Monsanto tries. They buy little companies (like mg, a long island startup) and givem big names and we are always playing catchup to who owns what. Too much garden writing is just a sales pitch for one thing or another and I think there is so much room for writers to write with passionate values. Everything else is just market dung.

  6. Well said. Dinosaur in so many ways.

  7. Time to start your own gardening org Marie. I'll help you name it if Jim can be soil commissioner.

    1. I think he should be the compost commissioner, frankly. And with a face like that, how can we fail?

  8. The National Wildlife Federation recently did exactly the same thing...partner with Scott's and then claim they had to take the money because they are an NGO and membership fees alone wouldn't cover their cost. The maybe the NWF has outlived it's usefulness. While I dislike Scott's practices I actively despise Monsanto. Engineered plants? Really?

  9. Well, this is bad news for me. I've used Super Soil for years and my potted plants did very well. However, I've just checked and Super Soil is owned by Scott's so this is a problem.

    Any suggestions for good organic potting soil? I'm not able to make my own soil yet.

    Thanks for any info.

    1. Hi Nancy - you're in San Francisco? I'll ask around.

      I think that the answer for most of us, more and more, is going to be local. Local companies that produce small-scale amounts of soil or compost. A database would be a wonderful thing...

    2. Thank you. We have a huge nursery not far named Annie's Annuals and they may be able to recommend something. Plus, at the end of this month there will be a plant exchange in my town and no doubt someone there will have information.

      THanks again.


    3. If you can find Organic Mechanic on the West Coast, it is awesome soil! We have it here locally in New Jersey and Pennsylvania since it is made in PA. We love it and don't mind that it gets a little pricey when it helps our garden to be so beautiful and bountiful.

    4. Thank you - just bought my first bag.

  10. Good for you!!! I am organic all the way, but I too drank the bright blue cool aid for quite a while. How the heck do you spell that? I am so glad to know what Scott's is up to. I have a list of Monsanto seeds to boycott and now I'll make a Scott's list! Thank you,

  11. Well done, Marie! Monsanto is the Evil Empire and Scott's is but one of its minions. I have been handing out lists of seed companies owned by Monsanto and varieties of vegetable seed that Monsanto has the patent to. Some of my friends were stunned. Vigilance!

  12. "Well behaved women seldom make history!" Well done!! Its time to start your own organisation surely?

  13. Spread the woid, spread the woid.

    I wish that I were the talented founder of organizations. A fulltime job. But the message must be delivered and the more gardeners who put their feet down, the better. Vote with your dollars.

  14. Love your information and second the Bravos

  15. Love your information and second the Bravos

  16. Of course you should vote with your dollars and not belong to an organization that doesn't reflect your beliefs. I am 100% behind that.

    But for the sake of clarity, here's what I understand: GWA is a non-profit 501(c)(6) trade association, subject to the Justice Department's anti-trust laws which specifically prohibit the association from engaging in anti-competitive activities. Denying access to a member, corporation, or participant while providing access to its competitors raises antitrust issues, so the best way to protect GWA and its members is either to take all comers or take none. Eliminating the option for all sponsors would substantially increase members' costs. The impact on symposium registration alone would mean raising the registration fee by at least $140/registrant. On a not inconsequential note, GWA cannot get insurance for antitrust violations; so being wrong on an issue like this would be an extinction event for the organization.

    That's the official explanation and it's one I accept, despite the fact that personally, I do not buy Scott's products. There are many GWA members who have decided to fight the fight from within. Ex-president Jeff Lowenfels is the most anti-Scott's person I know, and he never misses an opportunity to ask them tough questions and call them on their shit, even in the middle of a Scotts sponsored breakfast.

    GWA has been a valuable organization for me. I've made true friends, seen wonderful gardens, and met important colleagues...well worth $80/year to me. We don't all agree, but the conversation is always interesting.

  17. Thanks for the shrewdly written post! I haven't purchase MG or Scott's products in years (that I am aware of) and feel it is commonsense the more you garden, the more you know what is the "fast food" segment of gardening products. By "fast food" I mean empty, low quality, nothing good in them. I also am reading more and more about Monsanto's hideous products that are RUp ready, etc...very disturbing. Thanks for bringing to light the conflict with GWA and these organizations.

  18. Great information and I think an OGWA would be a great group to establish for whomever wants to take on the task.

  19. Good for you! Thanks for taking a stand! By the way "Coast of Maine" organic soil amendments and potting soil are wonderful!


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