Magazine Review: Garden Gate

by Caroline Brown

It’s time again for another magazine review. I received a sample copy of Garden Gate magazine and really enjoyed it.

Publisher. Located in Des Moines, Iowa, August Home Publishing Company, was founded by Donald Peschke in 1979 when he started Woodsmith magazine. Peschke, still the publisher, has either bought or launched several new magazines since then. Besides Garden Gate and Woodsmith, the company also publishes Woodsmith, ShopNotes, Cuisine at Home, and Workbench. August Home Publishing seems like successful company without being part of the corporate publishing world. Grade: B+

Content. I really liked the content, which is oriented towards the home gardener–and not necessarily rich home gardeners. The articles are down-to-earth and focused primarily on hands-on advice for working with plants and flowers, not design and architecture. People with a lot of money and a big property might want to know how to make their back yard look like Versailles, but I just need to know how to successfully work with plants without turning my yard into a Superfund site, so I appreciate this focus. In the sample issue I received, there were articles on how to create a “garden room” and monthly features called “Design Challenge” and “From the Drawing Board,” but I didn’t get the idea that they were targeting the Vanderbilts of the world.

The feature articles were on how to prune clematis and how to deadhead flowers. The monthly features are especially rich in content. “Editor’s Choice” focuses on a specific plant or flower; “From the Test Garden” is an in-depth “how to” about a specific plant. Also included monthly are “Weed Watch” and “Pest Watch,” as well as information about container gardening. My favorite monthly feature is “Garden Gate’s Top Picks,” which features “top ten picks” such as heirloom annuals or perennials for clay soil. The magazine carried only one article on garden crafts (“How to Sandcast a Birdbath”), which is fine with me. Some people might like crafts articles, but I ain’t Martha Stewart and I hate them. The all-color photography and drawings are spectacular. Grade: A

Ads. The best part about this magazine is they carry NO ADS. Zip, zero, zilch, nada. No ads means that advertisers don’t influence the content. I know there’s an ethics code in journalism that says that’s not supposed to happen, but as a journalism major who’s worked for years in PR, I can tell you that it does happen all the time, unfortunately. They do carry those pesky subscription cards that are always falling out but who doesn’t? And besides, with no ads, the publisher has to focus on getting newsubscribers. Grade: A+++

Website. Although they provide free access to a forum/bulletin board and a free weekly email tip, most of Garden Gate’s content is not accessible online. Again, if they gave it away online then that would whittle down their subscriber base, which is critical if they are committed to not having ads. (A lot of magazines don’t put their content online even if they do carry ads.) Grade: B

Cost. A one-year subscription (6 issues) is $20; The better deal is to subscribe for two years for $30. This is not really all that bad considering that there are no ads in the magazine. (If you’ve noticed, I give August Home Publishing a lot of leeway in all categories because of their admirable no-ad policy.) Grade: B+

Overall Evaluation. Even though they have a couple of Bs, they get an overall grade of A because of the high quality of their content and their no-ad policy. I’m definitely going to subscribe to Garden Gate.

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