Regardless of whether you are an urban, suburban, or rural dweller, there is inevitably a patch of neglected turf in your neighborhood that might need a bit of TLC to green it up. If you see hidden gardening potential between sidewalk cracks when others see decay and abandon, well then, you might be a budding guerrilla gardener and not even know it! The guerrila gardening phenomenon is sweeping the globe as folks are finding innovative ways to come together for the optimization of neglected land and paved surface area. It’s a turf war for some, a poetic gesture for others, but either way, citizens are rolling up their sleeves to create gardens in the most unlikely spaces.
The term “guerrilla gardening” might scare off some people, but the practice has a long history of both radical and community-building tactics. Liz Christy and the Green Guerrillas transformed an abandoned lot in NYC’s Bowery during the 1970’s, and the movement has gained momentum in recent years. Many “resistance gardeners” consider themselves to be vandals of sorts, but with plants or seeds as weapons; often operating covertly at night in empty lots or on public property that would otherwise remain barren.
An organized, team-driven planting project might occur along a roadside median or stretch of row houses. A simple spoonful of seed-laden compost might do the trick for the individual who wants to create an island of green near a naked telephone pole or lamp post. Seed bombs can be tossed over chainlink fences to create patches of wildflowers to help feed local bees and butterflies. If you’re interested in making your own seed balls, just follow this recipe:
Use a 5:1:1 ratio of clay, compost, and seeds. If you’re going to use flower seeds, it’s best to go for wildflower species that are native to your region, as they’ll be the most beneficial to local pollinators. Mix the components with enough water to bind them, roll them into balls, and then let them dry in a warm spot.
*Note: These can actually bake rock-hard in the sun, so if you’re going to seed-bomb neglected spaces in your area, plan to do so when there’s rain forecasted within the next day or so. The rain will help to dissolve the clay, and will activate the seed’s germination.
The Guerilla Gardening website has a friendly-though-subversive sort of tone, as it has gone from tracking the activities of “illicit cultivation around London” to being a “growing arsenal for anyone who is interested in waging war against the neglect of public space.” It focuses on reclamation, beautification, and even growing food in public spaces (a political act in and of itself as we re-educate ourselves about viable land use, especially with the very real possibility of worldwide food shortages). If you’re inclined in this direction, you can always slide a strawberry plant or two into a public planter, or pop a few squash seedlings into lesser-visited park areas.
The lighter side of the guerilla gardening campaign would probably be community gardens or grassroots gardening, which also brings folks together (during daylight hours) for neighborhood improvement and local food security. Whether as collective green graffiti or as an attempt to reclaim the neighborhood and make improvements for all, guerrilla gardening is a form of eco-activism that is catching on despite its controversial methods.