Guerilla gardening: Transform some sad and sorry bit of land that has gone to waste because it has no-one to care for it. Turn it from the urban desert taking over our cities into something beautiful, natural and sustainable.
What is guerrilla gardening?
Guerrilla gardening has been given its name because it’s not about going through red tape to ask the Government permission to do something with the land they’ve ignored or forgotten about. Guerrilla gardening is about taking matters into your own hands to make your surroundings a better place to live.
As a guerrilla gardener you can be part of a fully-fledged green army taking on mighty battles with the city landscape, or a lone warrior of peace making small changes here and there. You can bring green to the urban desert in a full-scale or small-scale way.
You can grow a seed in a pot at home then replant it somewhere in your city, or you can join a guerilla gardening association (there are loads around) and take over a bit of wasteground, turning it into a living green community space.
There are so many bits of public land that could do with some greenery and are being completely misused – and you’d be unlikely to get into trouble for seeding them with your own wonderful plants.
You could spread your green-fingered magic in: railway embankments, abandoned back gardens, golf courses, roofs, car parks, overgrown areas and cracks in the pavement. The flower beds in your town centre could be crops you’ve sown as snacks for passers-by right under McDonald’s infamous Golden Arches.
Is Guerrilla gardening illegal?
Well, yes. It is a little bit illegal. People or the government will often own the land you’re cultivating. But you should be fine, since you’re making things prettier, so long as you stick to these 3 rules of thumb:
- Use only land that is unused or unwanted
- Leave the land in better condition than when you found it
- Don’t get caught
6 Guerrilla gardening activities to try yourself:
- Find a small barren patch of land, maybe a bit of broken earth in a corner of a tenement block’s square. Sow cantaloupe seeds and sunflower seeds and geraniums, and maybe some edible purslane. The cantaloupes and geraniums will look really pretty as they grow. The sunflowers will be edible, as will the purslane and geranium leaves (they are very spicy if you put them in salads).
- If you see a tiny roundabout why have it covered in generic green grass that doesn’t provide much nourishment for birds or beauty for sore eyes? So long as it’s physically safe to get there, plant it with daffodils or cover it with packets of wildflower seeds – cornflowers and poppies are always beautiful to see.
- When it’s conker season, pick up conkers and acorns from where they’ve landed and stick them in the ground in other areas where there are no oaks or horse chestnuts to be found. Wildlife tends to find the produce of indigenous (local) trees much more nourishing than foreign stuff. Squirrels are quite cool for planting trees because they stash nuts for the winter then forget where they’ve put them, by which time the nuts have rooted – but don’t leave all the hard work to squirrels.
- Make ‘flower bombs’ by mixing wild or cultivated flower seeds with compost and earth in a plastic bag then shaking it over roundabouts or bits of wasteground.
- Plant forget-me-not seeds in pavement cracks and let them run riot.
- Plant pumpkin seeds in your local park, in the earth where bushes have already been planted. Nothing looks better than a pumpkin plant running riot – huuuuge white flowers, tendrils everywhere adding glamour to the place – and, of course, fat droopy orange pumpkins! Better than another bunch of boring little flowers any day!
8 Guerrilla gardening tips for illegal innocents
Always have a packet of seeds to hand
If you’re in a rush, just carry a packet of seeds around with you (sunflowers give most dramatic results) and pop them in ugly bits of dirt as and when you find them on your travels. Your seeds may not always grow but if you plant enough of them, at least some will take hold!
Grow your seeds indoors initially
If you want to give your seeds more of a chance, grow them indoors in a small pot, then replant them into the ugly city ground of your choice. They don’t have to be huge, just of a size where they have a bit of a chance. You’ll be giving them a headstart and they’ll find it easier to deal with unfamiliar territory if they’ve already grown into plants.
Think about one-off beauty versus making an everlasting difference
Daffodils will look gorgeous if you plant them, but only the once – they don’t grow back. If you plant seeds (like chamomile) that come back year after year, known as perennial seeds, you will have made a long-lasting difference to the area.
Instead of ‘showpiece’ flowers, give wildflowers a chance
You can buy beautiful wildflowers and grasses by the packet. Want butterflies and bees and birds in your area? They’re attracted to wildflowers, plus wildflowers are in danger of dying out as urban space takes over. Plant wild grasses, poppies and cornflowers, all easily available as seeds, and watch them wave in the wind. Marvellous.
Don’t just grow flowers, grow food!
Lots of herbs are perennial (they come back season after season) and they’ll be a delight for passers-by who can pick them to make tea and salads, or just inhale their rich scents.
Garlic cloves can be planted in October but be warned, they spread like wild things. Sweet bay, bergamot, chamomile, geraniums, lemon balm mint, lemongrass, oregano, rosemary, sage and tarragon are all perennials so once they’ve taken root you can leave them to it. They all either look or smell beautiful, and you’ll feel great knowing you seeded a McDonald’s car park with food that is actually edible.
Grow tough plants that can take care of themselves
If you are into gardening you will want to know about what plants like which soil. If you don’t know much about gardening, you’ll have to take a chance and hope for the best.
Lavender is a tough plant, you can buy a small lavender plant very cheaply and replant it in mean soil and it should flourish into a bush without too much trouble. Lavender is also a big friend to bees, who are having enough trouble at the moment. Be kind to bees – plant lavender!Cannabis is a very very illegal plant that does nevertheless grow very hardily in all sorts of weather and soil conditions. But it is very very illegal.
Save your seeds when you eat
Where possible, use seeds from natural food sources rather than buying packets. More organic. So save your pumpkin seeds…
Compost is kindness
Improve the fertility of the land you’re working with by mixing it with compost.
And there you have it. Can your local area benefit from a flower bomb, an acorn or any other form of guerrilla gardening? Help to reverse the urban desert in cities and restore the green.
Tagged in: DIY garden ideas