By Reggie Solomon
How do seed catalogs and seed magazines (also referred to as “garden porn” by some especially avid readers) stack up against each other in helping gardeners plan and decide what to grow in their gardens?
Fortunately, most gardeners don’t have to worry about basic seed quality when purchasing seeds and plants from major providers.
So what largely distinguishes providers is how helpful they are to gardeners in planning and preparing their gardens.
This three-part article examines catalogs and magazines produced by three major seeds providers and reviews their comparative helpfulness to gardeners who use these magazines to decide what to grow, purchase seeds, and plan home gardens.
Three magazines representing the best of the seed-provider magazine genre were chosen from a number of competitive contenders. The top three seed-provider magazines of 2007 are from Burpee, Johnny’s Seeds, and Seeds of Change.
Seed providers use photos of tomatoes and toddlers on their covers to sell seed, the way clothing companies use anorexic models to sell jeans.
Two of the three contenders (Johnny’s and Burpee) prominently feature tomatoes on their cover. Burpee goes the extra mile and includes a photo of a blue-jean-overalls-clad toddler lovingly cradling their company’s plump tomatoes.
Seeds of Change features a busy collage of vegetables and butterflies on its cover with no tomato in sight. Though it does include a small toddler dressed in garden fatigues and another holding a handful of dried beans. (Note to self: A photo of two toddlers makes up for not featuring tomatoes on one’s seed catalog cover).
Now on to the reviews!
Seed Magazine Review
Burpee’s 136-page magazine is uber-consumer friendly!
Burpee squarely targets the everyday, backyard gardener market. Their mag features large color spreads of juicy vegetables organized to maximize visual appeal.
On one double-page spread, you’ll find radishes, flowers and tomatoes all profiled together, not because of their varietal or gardening relation, but because the color of the vegetables is visually pleasing in juxtaposition from a layout perspective.
This style of organization while certainly visually appealing at first can wear on you as you get closer to actually ordering and comparing product categories from different magazines which Burpee’s organization makes more difficult by not being strictly organized by category.
In general, Burpee’s mag is light on technical information, most likely because this added information might frighten the average consumer.
With flowery descriptions sparse on technical gobliguk, Burpee imparts the feeling that you can easily and successfully grow anything simply by buying a packet of seeds, and telling your neighbors what a great seed company you ordered from.
Conspicuously absent from Burpee’s catalog (included in some places, though not consistently throughout) is one piece of information that would have been helpful to have noted for all plants — estimated days to maturity.
Estimated days to maturity is especially important to gardeners with short growing seasons.
As an urban gardener, having the option to choose seeds with shorter growing periods is advantageous since a variety of environmental factors such as shadows cast by neighboring buildings can effectively shorten the growing season and lengthen the time needed to grow some vegetables.
Burpee’s magazine is a very accessible seed catalog overall.
Burpee gets Urban Garden Casual’s “Best Seed Magazine for the American Backyard Gardener” review.
Kudos to Burpee for making gardening appear easy and attainable.
[Click here for the 2nd article in this 3-part series]