By Dawna Matthews:
There is a new movement sweeping across the nation, a movement many find to be radical and defiant. This movement threatens to educate and transform people and communities, end hunger, and add beauty to our world. What is this movement? It’s gardening … guerrilla gardening, to be exact.
What is Guerrilla Gardening?
Guerrilla gardening is the practice of horticulture on public or private land, usually vacant lots and other sites owned by local city
governments. You can plant herbs, flowers, trees, vegetables, and fruits. You can garden to beautify the space, to empower communities with new life skills, or simply to grow real food and plants.
Urban gardening, as it is also known, is part of a burgeoning movement to make a statement about social change in a subtle yet powerful way. It has been around since the mid- to late 1960s in cities such as Oakland near the UC Berkeley campus, but recently has been reignited by the green movement as well as the global mindset shift towards improving our environment and landscapes, and a desire for whole, local food. Some of the cities where gardeners have started to “seed bomb” and plant are Los Angeles, New Orleans, Portland, and Detroit. People are truly embracing creating spaces for flowers to bloom and vegetables to grow in vacant, often derelict environments. Some of these spaces are in communities with limited access to fresh food in urban food deserts. Guerrilla gardening is conducted openly with people in communities or during more secretive missions at night.
How to Start?
If you are interested in this gardening concept, I urge you to see what groups already may be in your city and volunteer with them. If you are going solo, here are some beginner steps:
1- Locate a space: There are many neglected spaces in communities, both urban and suburban. Start with something small along sidewalks or between buildings. Be sure to examine the area before you start planting. Take note of the land’s condition, including soil, rocks, weeds, etc. This will help you plan for the supplies you will need when returning to the area to plant.
2- Plan What You Plant: Keep in mind that you are trying to beautify and care for the space you create, not plant it, then leave it to care for itself. Choose plants which are hardy and native to the local area, plants that can thrive with intermittent care and withstand the local varying weather conditions. Another thing to consider is selecting plants that also create areas for birds, butterflies and bees to visit.
3- Gather Tools and Plant: Prepare adequately for your planting day and gather your supplies. Make a list of what you will need before you start on your mission – items such as plants or seeds; tools such as shovels, gloves, wheelbarrows, etc.; water and trash bags. Once you arrive with your supplies, you can begin to clear the area by removing weeds or trash and digging holes. Then plant your baby plants and water them. Be sure to clean up after yourself, as you want to leave a positive impression about guerrilla gardening!
4- Follow-up Care: Revisit your garden to maintain its beauty and care for the plants. You may need to weed the garden as well as water and fertilize it. Let the community know about this garden and see who wants to join in creating more beautiful spaces, or ask for volunteers.
Guerrilla gardening is a way to make a statement, but in a subdued, subtle way. While gardening is a harmless activity, there are some things to think about and look into before you start. It is important to check local ordinances to determine whether your garden is legal or not: every city is different. Trespassing is against the law, so if you have spotted a piece of land you admire that could use some love, try to get permission from the property owner first. Last, if you want to grow food, you must be mindful of the soil you want to plant in, as it could be contaminated. Universities and other local sources in the area can conduct soil tests, a must before planting food crops. These tests give you security to know that people are not eating poisons or other toxins.
I love the vision of driving through cities and communities across the world and seeing flowers where there once were empty lots, trash or forgotten treasures. I imagine places both small and quaint with birds singing and butterflies flitting among the plants. I see people happily digging in the dirt, and creating bountiful food and flowers just because it feels good. I see it so clearly that I can touch it … and it makes me want to get out and garden. What will you plant?
For more information on guerrilla gardening:
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