Take a ride on a magic carpet of seeds

Another winter storm swept through Iowa yesterday and overnight, and yesterday morning, the TV in the lobby of my Pilates studio was quietly providing information on the low pressure system swirling across the Plains. As I pulled on my boots after class, I looked up to see if I could glean any new information about the hazard level of my upcoming drive.

But it was commercial time, not weather report time. An ad for a local glasses chain wrapped up and was followed by an ad for Roll’n’Grow, which is perhaps best described as a blanket-like piece of growing medium impregnated with seeds.

According to the ad, which featured awfully clean faux gardeners looking very frustrated at the amount of work it takes to plop a few seedlings in some dirt, you can do away with all the mess and fuss of gardening by just cutting this stuff to the appropriate size for whatever space you’re trying to plant, and then watering it. Before you know it, the ad claimed, you’ll have dozens, nay, hundreds of colorful flowers. The list of blossoms that ran up the screen—sort of like the list of songs on a Time-Life compilation album—included everything from calendula to cornflowers.

Roll’n’Grow is available in some major stores, apparently, as well as on the As Seen on TV Web site, which is also chock full of other crap destined to end up in your basement or junk closet.

A quick Google-a-thon proved that what’s too good to be true probably is false. Any number of journalists have done the requisite “we try it so you don’t have to” stories about Roll’n’Grow, and the consensus seems to be this: it’s not as easy as they make it look in the ad (this should come as a huge shock…), it dries out really fast, and you don’t get tons of “colorful” flowers. Most reports I read said they either got two colors of flowers at best, or just a single color.

I find it most hilarious that this fabulous, must-buy-now product has a money-back guarantee, but only in the first 30 days. I don’t know what’s in that growing medium, but unless it’s some kind of steroid, I’m guessing that no one who buys it could possibly know in the first 30 days whether they were going to get a panoply of colored flowers or not.

I have this to say about that…if you’re too lazy to dig a hole and drop a seedling in it, you’re going to be too lazy to water a strip of growing medium that you dropped in your yard. I mean, come on. Even I was able to dig a couple of holes in the ground.

But I have to admit, there’s something tempting about plopping down the $19.95 for this stuff on the off-chance that I might actually get some decent flower action. What stops me is not the certain knowledge that the Roll’n’Grow is most likely a big ol’ scam, but that I would be totally embarrassed to have strips of it lying inertly in my yard.

What’s your take on the Roll’n’Grow concept? Blasphemy or genius? Is anyone out there willing to admit that they’ve tried it?


42 Responses to “Take a ride on a magic carpet of seeds”

  1. 1 kate March 2, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Loved your description of the faux gardeners… I admit I was tempted a few years’ ago to try a seed roll because I, too, wanted a perfect field of wildflowers. All of those perky flowers on display and not a bare spot showing anywhere. What stopped me was the thought that I’d end up with a field of near impossible-to-eradicate plants. (years of digging out Chinese lanterns and Houttuynia Cordata cured me of planting anything that I wasn’t sure about!)

    Check out my blog to see a pic of the storm that came through Saskatchewan yesterday and the day before… it was probably the same system that passed over you. I also wrote a blog entry about a wonderful book, ‘The Lost Garden’.

  2. 2 Sally March 4, 2007 at 5:58 am

    Hi Genie – Kame-A-Part has been selling those for years. I’ve never tried them but I agree that if you’re too lazy to plant seeds you’re probably too lazy to keep the mat watered. Frankly, I rarely plant seeds as I’m impatient and want to see results NOW! My local nursery is my best friend in springtime. That was quite the snow, wasn’t it? I did get some pictures (which I posted). I don’t ever remember a February quite this bad. Although this week is supposed to warm back up. Now we can worry about flooding! Drive safe.

  3. 3 inadvertentgardener March 4, 2007 at 10:06 pm

    Sally, I’m going to try seeds this year, I think…but I’ll plan to use my local nursery (or two of them…we’ll see…) as a back-up. I’m not leaving everything to chance! This past snow wasn’t too bad here in Iowa City, all things considered, but still awfully hampering when it came to the travel. Aargh. I’m so ready for this week’s warm temps.

  4. 4 inadvertentgardener March 4, 2007 at 10:10 pm

    Kate, I’m guessing you definitely got the same system we did. Loved the pics on your blog. As for the seed carpet, I hadn’t even thought about the fact that it might introduce unwanted species. Yikes! Good point.

  5. 5 Chigiy March 5, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    Someone actually sent me some of that stuff in a letter once. You know, instead of that annoying confetti that flys out when you pull your letter out of it’s envelope. Someone put a little piece of that roll out seed stuff in instead. I accidentally recycled it.

    I find that you can tell if something is a scam by the price. It’s always $19.95. No matter what it is, A trip to hawaii–$19.95, a bottle of secret anti-aging lotion–$19.95, a lifetime supply of ferret food–$19.95.The price is the tip off. Beware of roll out garden.

  6. 6 inadvertentgardener March 5, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    Chigiy, someone sent it to you in a letter? Crazy! That’s pretty funny…a new twist on seeds by mail. I totally agree with you on the $19.95=scam. Even if (and maybe especially if) it’s multiple payments of $19.95. Plus shipping and handling, of course.

  7. 7 UnartisticInc March 29, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    I think your critiques are great except it would be even greater if somebody could actually post a critique having used the product.

  8. 8 inadvertentgardener March 31, 2007 at 10:00 am

    UnartisticInc, I totally agree — I’d love to hear what someone who has used it actually thinks!

  9. 9 Louise April 8, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I tried this product a few years ago because it was one of the items for sale through my kid’s school fundraiser. You know the type, the company gets free labor selling over-priced crap under the guise of making money for the school. I tried it, I was happy with the flowers, but they were certainly not lush like the commercials, and they were the types of seeds that if I just scratched the dirt, threw down the seeds, and watered I’d get flowers.

    The roll it came on was sucky, dried out very easily. I had to water carefully a couple times a day. The seeds fell out all over the place. And the roll certainly was not plush. It was pretty when it came up, but the 10 ft long roll is certainly not enough to create a lush garden. I have not purchased the product again. It did make me think of a garden chia pet though.

  10. 10 inadvertentgardener April 8, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    Louise, I’m so glad to get an actual report from the field (no pun intended) on this! Thanks for checking in and for posting the results you got. Yeah…sounds like it’s worth trying if it’s for a fundraiser cause, but otherwise…no way.

  11. 11 Rick April 22, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    OK folks- I am trying the roll n grow. I am using it inplanters and keeping them in a garage with windows- so drying out should not be a problem, but I will water dilengently. Today is day #1 – I promise to keep you posted. I am not particularly lazy, I have been gardening for years- but the concept sounded interesting- we will see RT

  12. 12 Rick April 26, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Day 4- I have been watering as instructed. What a soogy mess.I’m not expecting anything yet, ans am so far this product is living up to my expectations. They said this stuff was bio-degradable, maybe they are measuring this in half-lifes. Well we will see. By the way my “guarantee” is for 60 days, so I am keeping the box and receipt…..

  13. 13 inadvertentgardener April 26, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Rick, I love that you’re actually trying this…and providing updates! Can’t wait to hear more as you go through the process. You know…the bio-degradable bit sounds questionable, but they could be operating on a really broad definition. Glad you’re keeping the receipt, though!

  14. 14 Rick May 5, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    OK May 5, Earlier this week i decided that to spread a little topsiol over the Roll n grow.I know this is totally against the directions, but I have been researching this and people who actually had something grow eventually caved in and spread on some dirt. I am growing containers so I didn’t use a lot, just about a 1/4 inch cover. Yesterday i did see some sprouts in alomost all the containers – i have about 5. Granted they are tinnie-tiny. Now I know some of you are thinking-it’s from the topsoil. The topsoil is the bagged kind called Perfect Gardener with time release fertilizer and the contents are mostly peat. Any way I am giving the sprouts the benifit of the doubt for now. I am going to move the containers outside once the sprouts get to looking like they have some decent roots, for now I just put them outside in the sun and misted them. Tonight they come back in. More later…

  15. 15 inadvertentgardener May 5, 2007 at 10:23 pm

    Rick, interesting…sounds to me like good research and hopefully some actual results on their way. Thanks for continuing to keep us posted!

  16. 16 layanee May 7, 2007 at 8:28 am

    Gee, how much do 1000 seeds cost? And the cost of the environmentally friendly fabric? I’ll bet the profit is high! Oh, I forgot the cost of the ad. That is the biggest expense.

  17. 17 inadvertentgardener May 7, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Layanee, I’m sure they get crazy profits off that stuff. For one thing, how many people do you figure actually track the receipt and return it for a refund before the 30- or 60-day window is up? I’m guessing it’s not very many…

    As for the advertising, while it sounds like a big expense, I’m guessing it’s not. After all, they are able to use cable advertising, where the rates are much lower, and they use fairly low-budget production techniques for infomercials…plus, they only have to make the ad once and then run it a kabillion times.

  18. 18 Rick May 13, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    The sprouts that I saw about a week ago are still sprouts. These are some slow growing flowers! I wish the weeds in my lawn grew this slow. I did another pot of roll n grow and put some topsoil on it to see if any sprouts would come up- none did, so that pretty much proves that the roll n grow is growing something-but at this rate I won’t have flowers until September, and by the looks of things precious few. Oh, in the mean time I planted some sunflowers which popped up in about 5 days. I am very dissaponted in the roll n grow,so back it goes because I have the box with the sales reciept.I have a lot of patience, but this was simply ridiculous.You can’t say I didn’t give this product a fair chance. Save your $$ and buy seeds, plant them the old fashioned way and enjoy your garden.

  19. 19 inadvertentgardener May 13, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Rick, wow…a tragic end to a great story! Thanks for sticking with it and giving us the full update — I really appreciate it, as do others who might be interested in trying this product at some point in the future. I’d love to hear if they give you any hassle about giving you a refund…

  20. 20 tiffanylovestogarden May 20, 2007 at 5:25 pm

    Rick you keep trying, give em some miracle gro, mine did great last year , with every day watering of course until well established that was the roll n grows first year in my garden and this season i have planted some of the seeds i collected from last years flowers. Some of them came up enogugh to keep me happy, n e ways This year i am blessed with flowers that didnt even bloom last year Ill be posting some pics shortly for all. The sweet william is especially my favorite in my mat since its a biennial i didnt even know it was there until this year ,coreposis this year too.

  21. 21 inadvertentgardener May 21, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Tiffany, ah…but there are many folks who aren’t big fans of MiracleGro — it’s effective, but has so many troublesome side effects that there are many gardeners who shy away from it. But I am glad you’ve had some surprising blossoms, for sure!

  22. 22 Blooming idiot June 22, 2007 at 6:17 pm

    OK — I’m a dope. I thought the commercial looked great and my 8-year old son thought it would be so cool to roll out a mat of seeds and get a nice flower garden. I’m still waiting for something to grow. I’ve watered, watched, and thought about dumping soil over it and just planting potted plants right over the ugly strips of faded green mats. I must tell others that I did NOT receive a receipt in my order and the box had no usable return address. The website says it’s guaranteed, yet when you call it is the same crazy computer voice now selling another product. This has been very discouraged and makes me feel like a blooming idiot!

  23. 23 inadvertentgardener June 26, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    Blooming idiot, well, now you know. I’m sorry you had that type of experience…that’s definitely not fun. But the commercial does make it sound like magic…I know you can’t be the only person who got suckered…

  24. 24 alaina July 6, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    I should have listened to all the comments on line, but I thought I had to try it myself. I agree with everyone’s comments. The thin dry roll required a huge amount of water. I loyally applied water as directed. I also added a slight covering of soil as suggested buy several comments I’d read that said it was helpful. Not 30 but 60 days later, I have a row of what looks like weeds. One individual stated that an item that costs $19.95 is a hint right there that it’s a rip off. That’s a good thing to keep in mind. What a waste of money!

  25. 25 inadvertentgardener July 7, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Alaina, I’m so sorry it was a waste for you. But hopefully what you learned will help someone else resist the urge to buy the next time!

  26. 26 Brown Thumb August 17, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    I, too, like and idiot purchased this crappy “roll n die”
    back in April (I live in So. Calif so the weather was perfect) as a project for my 10 year old son & me. He watered diligently twice a day and after about a monthe some seedlings sprouted. But that was it. It’s now August (100 degrees here), he hates watering the “weeds” and I am so pissed that there is no phone # or way to reach this phoney company. Caveat Empor, in other words, “Buyer Beware”. I feel stupid that I wasted my $ on cr-p like this & now I have no recourse (except to complain here!).
    If anyone knows where this company exists, please let me know. Thanks for letting me bi*ch!

  27. 27 inadvertentgardener August 17, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Brown Thumb, I’m so sorry about your experience, but I’m glad you came on by to share it. It sounds like such a shoddy product…

  28. 28 Brown Thumb August 17, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    “Shoddy” is a nice word. I prefer to use shi*ty! ( I really feel sorry for my now 11 year old….he was so excited…oh well…he also planted sunflower seeds and green onions on the side of the house & those are growing great.)
    Thanks for having this message board up so I don’t have to call the company & scream at them! (No phone number, anyway. Maybe they’re smarter than we think!) Nah! I believe that “What goes around comes around”. They’ll get theirs. I just hope I’m around to see it…lol.
    Thanks Again,

  29. 29 inadvertentgardener August 17, 2007 at 6:16 pm

    I’m sorry for him, too, Brown Thumb…that really does suck. Let’s hope for karmic retribution…

  30. 30 sherry April 23, 2008 at 7:28 am

    I tried this product a few years ago. I was ill and did not have the time or energy to do my garden the good old fashioned way. Still did some planting of my own though because I love certain plants and you just can’t stop me. Here’s the catch though, mine worked out great. If you can’t take the time to keep it moist then you are far past lazy. The idea of being able to cut it and lay it in different places was extremely ideal. So you are still able to somewhat make your garden unique. I guess I fit in with all the poor comments above but I’m not sorry I used it and will most likely again. It also seems to me, if you have a really large garden why not have a little help and a few surprises. As for colour, I got many and the assortment of different flowers was pleasant. Kind of like Christmas presents of flowers.
    Sorry if I’m against all you stand for, but a little help a few surprises are sometimes a nice thing.


  31. 31 inadvertentgardener April 23, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Sherry, this is really good and interesting feedback — I’m glad to hear that it actually worked for someone! That kind of restores my faith in humanity…and infomercials. I do agree with you — the whole not-able-to-keep-things-moist issue is probably one of laziness…and I have been known to fall prey to that from time to time…

  32. 32 Isa May 3, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I wanted to try it out for fun, but why should I pay $10 more for the same thing because I live in Canada? I agree that this is a scam, because they try to steal from people outside of the States. Anyway, I prefer getting my hand dirty (gives me a reason not to houseclean).

  33. 33 inadvertentgardener May 6, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Isa, I think gardening as a housecleaning-avoidance method is a terrific idea. :-)

  34. 34 IL Mom May 22, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    We are not gardeners, sorry, so yes, I used this when we moved to our new home 13.5 years ago to try and regain a garden feel in a courtyard that the previous owner had filled with gravel and used as a dog run!!
    Well, we used the kind that rolls out and you water and it was a huge success. We placed it on top of an area that we cleared from the gravel and rejuvenated with fresh topsoil not even a premium kind, just ordinary run of the mill top soil. All these years later I know that I will have wildflowers in my courtyard and it does not matter that I have a black thumb! It was not messy and back the they did not have as many seeds either, so I do not believe it is a scam. Not everyone can grow a beautiful garden, but all of us can appreciate one.

  35. 35 inadvertentgardener May 23, 2008 at 9:15 am

    IL Mom, I’m definitely glad it worked for you, as I am for other folks for whom it has worked. A gravelly former dog run is definitely a gardening challenge!

  36. 36 Sara July 4, 2008 at 8:00 am

    Hello All,
    I have just seen this on TV and thought about trying it, but thanks to your feedback, I will not be. I will tell you that I bought a box of wild flower seeds for $1.00 at Walmart and it claimed to do 10×10 area, so we sprinkled it in our 10×10 flower box and lightly covered them, and I will say I am very impressed with the results and think I will be going back to buy a bigger box to do some other areas instaed of the roll-n-grow.

  37. 37 inadvertentgardener July 4, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Sara, sounds like a better plan — it’s always good to figure out what works for you and go with it!

  38. 38 Epoch April 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    I have used Roll N Grow for the past 5 years. Every year I have had great success with it. Many flowers that the as described and many colors. I can’t imagine why others aren’t having better results. I mean it’s so easy, how can you mess it up? The only thing maybe that in the beginning you may have to water it 2 or three times until you get your first sprouts. It does tell you in the directions to not let it dry out.

  39. 39 Epoch April 7, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    I have used roll N Grow for the last 5 years with great success. Every year I have a great variety of flowers and colors. I can’t understand why more people have not had the same success. It is so easy, how can you mess it up? In the beginning you have to keep it wet until your first sprouts grow. That means I had to water mine 3 times a day. However, after they started to grow (within 2 weeks), once a day was plenty. The directions do tell you to not let it dry out. That will kill seeds. It definitely is not a scam and I have no embarrassment admitting I use it. My neighbors marvel at them every year.

  40. 41 suzie q June 7, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Ok, so i bought a box this weekend so i will keep you guys posted as to what the outcome is.. the positive feedbacks above is giving me some hope.. so we will see..

  1. 1 The definitive word on Roll'n'Grow « The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on May 14, 2007 at 12:13 am

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