Guerilla gardening: strategies for greening up your neighborhood

by , 03/20/15

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.

Related: DIY: How to Make Your Own Green Moss Graffiti

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.

Related: Rooftop Farms on Japanese Train Stations Serve as Community Gardens

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.

+ Guerilla Gardening

+ Green Guerillas

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  1. Green Your Neighbourhoo... September 13, 2014 at 10:12 am

    […] because summer’s winding down doesn’t mean that guerilla gardening needs to slow down anytime soon! Fall is actually the ideal time to plant all kinds of flower bulbs […]

  2. Bubbi June 1, 2011 at 11:30 am

    There’s a screet about your post. ICTYBTIHTKY

  3. tgvaijizjuy June 1, 2011 at 11:05 am

    9c3qTu egreccdkxiwp

  4. Jaycee May 31, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    At last! Someone who understands! Thanks for psiotng!

  5. Loz March 13, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Hi, love this article and pics, hope it is okay if I have linked to you and put it up on my blog


  6. mr.stamen August 1, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    We are working hard in Los Angeles to green our city with a little guerrilla gardening. Check out what we’ve been up to

  7. dubster June 10, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    I\’m all for seed bombing and restoring our cities, lets remember though that some plants can be very bad for the environment. Invasive species – although green – are actually not very.

  8. Let the seeds fall wher... March 16, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    […] last article is about a rather radical approach to gardening called “Guerilla Gardening” by Abigail Doan at Inhabitat. It’s about strategies for greening city […]

  9. oakling February 12, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    I love guerrilla gardening and this certainly inspires me to keep an eye out for all the neglected parks in the neglected lower-income areas of Oakland… although maybe I should practice this stuff in my own yard first! But I don’t know about that sewer grate with the sunflowers; I hope that guerilla gardeners are keeping the original use of their gardening spaces in mind so we don’t clog up pipes or break sidewalks up further.

  10. landgrab February 11, 2008 at 11:11 am
  11. Abigail Doan February 7, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Dear Eli:

    You might check/contact the Guerilla Gardening Community forum for information on a group near you:

    They also have a “getting started” page which is very helpful:

    Thanks for reading!

    Abigail@ Inhabitat

  12. toronto February 7, 2008 at 12:44 am

    We have a branch of guerrilla gardeners, too.

  13. toronto February 7, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Toronto strikes again!

  14. Cubicle Dropout February 6, 2008 at 10:34 pm

    Having grown up in a family that grew a good portion of its own food I believe gardening of all kinds is key to improving the world. Rock on!

  15. Eli February 6, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Do you know of any organization doing guerilla gardening in San Francisco? Also, is there some sight which lists guerillia gardening organizations by city or region?

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