Photo by Melody

Spotlight on the Garden Watchdog and How It Works

By Melody Rose (melodyJanuary 12, 2013

With the arrival of the New Year, gardeners’ thoughts are turning to new plants and seeds. Our mailboxes are crammed full of catalogs and the gorgeous images are eye candy for winter-weary eyes. Since January is designated National Mail Order Gardening Month, many shoppers are turning to the Garden Watchdog for information, so we thought we’d explain how the feature works.

Gardening picture

Mail order gardening can be a pleasurable experience and gardeners have access to thousands of plants and seeds via mail order, that they would never be able to purchase locally. The Garden Watchdog not only helps shoppers steer away from unethical vendors, but it is also a wonderful asset for locating vendors with great customer service records.

The reviews in the Garden Watchdog are so very important to the vendors, because those reviews help them with their rankings. The first thing a reader sees on the Garden Watchdog Home Page is the directory of the Top 30 companies. The only way a vendor can be listed here is through feedback posted by their customers. Ranking is determined by an automatic calculator that updates anytime a review is posted for the entire Garden Watchdog consisting of over 7,500 companies.  There is no arbitrary committee selecting one vendor over another; the system automatically calculates the rankings based entirely on reviews. Vendors are allowed encourage their customers to post reviews, but can't offer discounts or incentives in exchange for them. Merchants doing so will be removed from this group.  The Top 30 list is posted in alphabetical order, so as to not give an unfair advantage to the one company listed at the top. These vendors have consistently proved themselves by giving good customer service and listening to their customers and it is a huge honor to be among this group.

ImageThe next list that readers will see on the Garden Watchdog page is the list of the most current reviews, where readers can see what customers are saying about the companies recently used.

Below that list are tools, so that you can customize your Garden Watchdog experience. Customers can search the Garden Watchdog by specialty, so shoppers searching for roses do not have to wade through lists with vendors offering vegetable seed or palm trees. You can also narrow the list down by country...yes, the Garden Watchdog is global. Gardeners in the UK can search for mail order vendors, as can those in Australia, Canada, or any other country. (We'd really like to expand our international directories, so let us know if your favorite vendor isn't on the list!) Once you pull up the category you wish to explore, you can even sort the list by ranking, so the vendors with the best reviews are at the top of the queue.

While the Garden Watchdog does an excellent job of warning shoppers about unethical merchants, its main service is to help gardeners find the ‘good guys' who are working hard every day to supply us with our favorite plants, seeds and tools. The reviews are overwhelmingly positive, with over 70% of the feedback falling into that category. About 10% is neutral and 20% negative. These reviews are posted "for gardeners, by gardeners" (our motto) and the admin team works hard to ensure that actual customers are posting reviews, instead of bogus feedback initiated by unethical merchants. When we discover fake feedback, we change the review to neutral and disclose the ruse for the public to see.

Rather than focusing on the negative, we prefer to keep things positive, by rewarding the best vendors. Not only do we have the Top 30 list, but each January, we announce the Top 5 vendors in each category and give them a badge. This badge is placed on their Garden Watchdog page and the vendors are also encouraged to use it on their websites and in their catalogs. Many of these vendors are small, specialized operations, often owned by a family. They may not have the volume of sales that would place them in the Top 30, but they are beloved businesses with many loyal customers. These awards are based on reviews for the previous year. Our 2013 list is being finalized and we'll announce this year's recipient's shortly. Customers need to remember that feedback is important and just one review can make the difference in whether a company makes it into the Top 5. The vendors anxiously await the announcement each January and we've already had many contacting us to see if they are in this year's group. Your opinion is very important to them and they work hard each year to be included in this elite group. A full article announcing these winners will follow in a couple of weeks.

Below is the #1 vendor in each category. Several of our categories didn't have enough reviews to have a Top 5 listed, but we want to honor those who worked so hard to give their customers such stellar service last year. And remember, these vendors love to hear what you have to say. They encourage feedback and your voice makes a difference. Please remember to report your experiences this year as the gardening season gears up. Your favorite companies are counting on you!    Beneficial Insect Co.   Jenks Farmer (Lushlife Nurseries) 
Karchesky Canna  Colorblends (Schipper & Co. USA)    Old House Gardens
Dixondale Farms    Brent & Becky's Bulbs   Irrigation Direct
Wellspring Gardens    Sporebank   Backyard Berry Plants 
Keystone Pest Solutions   Garden Tool Company   Witherspoon Rose Culture
KT Botanicals   My Pet Chicken    Neptune's Harvest
 I Must Garden  Paw Paw Everlast Label   Pedricks Corner
Eastfork Nursery   Violet Barn (Rob's Min-O-Lets)   Edelweiss Perennials
Romence Gardens & Greenhouses   Tejas Tropicals LLC   Kartuz Greenhouses
In The Country Garden & Gifts   Tropiflora   Country Garden
Arid Lands Greenhouses  Brian's Botanicals   Greer Gardens
Leilani Nepenthes   Brushwood Nursery  Glasshouse Works
Vincent Gardens  Accent Dahlias  Oakes Daylilies
Deer-Resistant Landscape Nursery  Digging Dog Nursery  Evergreen Nursery
Doug Eckel's Palms, Cycads and Platyceriums   Classy Groundcovers  Nourse Farms Inc
Double A Vineyards, Inc  Stark Brothers Nurseries & Orchards  Select Seeds Antique Flowers
Hobbs Farm & Greenery  Horizon Herbs, LLC  Katz Kuntry Kuttins
Made in the Shade Gardens   JB's Plants @  SRQHoyas
Exline Iris Garden & Crafts  Forestfarm  Bulbs & Blooms
The Lily Pad   A Nearly Native Nursery   Andy's Orchids
Greener Earth Nursery   Lazy S'S Farm & Nursery  Adelman Peony Gardens
Maui Plumeria Gardens   High Country Roses  Burlington Rose Nursery
George's Plant Farm   Onalee's Home-Grown Seeds & Plants  Tomato Girl
Summer Hill Seeds  Botanical Interests, Inc  Sacred Succulents
Quarry Farm Gourds   Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.  Everwilde Farms, Inc.
Bayou Trader's Peppermania   The Sample Seed Shop  Seeds & More
Trade Winds Fruit  Texas Tomato Cage
Greentrees Hydroponics Inc  DripWorks  EarthBox
Carter and Holmes Orchids  Novosel Enterprises
Texas Water Lilies  Earthworms 4 Sale 

  About Melody Rose  
Melody RoseI come from a long line of Kentuckians who love the Good Earth. I love to learn about every living thing, and love to share what I've learned. Photography is one of my passions, and all of the images in my articles are my own, except where credited.

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