You’ve heard it before, probably many times but what actually is guerilla gardening and how can you participate? Good news, you or anyone willing to see more green in your city, town or community certainly can make it happen and it’s a lot easier than you may think. Here’s 3 ways to get started..
1. Plant Some Shit!
For many who have never gardened before the idea can seem like some complicated procedure with so many rules, possibilities and responsibilities, but the truth is while some may have a little more experience then other we are all still learning and there is no better way to learn than to start planting now! Experience is an incredible teacher, you may fail many times but ultimately you will learn. So don’t wait until you feel you know enough because you never will, just get out there and plant some shit!
There are many ways to jump into the fray, start indoors, on your balcony or in your backyard with a few containers. You are only limited by your imagination. One creative way to add to the biodiversity of your local ecosystem is the quick, easy and fun practice of seed bombs. What are seed bombs? Well, they are definitely not a form of explosives, a seed bomb is a little ball made up of a combination of compost, clay and seeds which you can carry will you and drop anywhere you feel needs a little plant love. Pretty cool huh? Just throw some in your pocket and off you go being a modern day Johnny apple seed.
They are a great activity to share with children and the child in every adult. You can find many instructional videos and articles all over the internet but I want to emphasize the importance of making sure you choose native plants seeds to your region. While seeds bombs are loads of fun, many people are unaware of the ecological impacts of throwing seeds anywhere they please. With all things in life, be mindful research what is going on in your part of the world, in your local environment. Perhaps there is a need for certain pollinator plants to help the vanishing bees, talk to a local gardener get some native seeds and bombs way.
Never doubt that there may always be opposition to what you are doing, growing your own food is a revolutionary act and the status quo doesn’t ever enjoy opposition to its reign of power. Food is free and our right to eat healthy, environmentally sustainable produce is undeniable. Take the “gangster gardener” Ron Finley for example. Outside his front door, Ron planted vegetables in the curbside dirt strip next to his home. And quietly, carefully, tenderly started a revolution. “I wanted a carrot without toxic ingredients I didn’t know how to spell”, says Ron. His methods were a simple cost effective way to offer a solution to the food deserts of Los Angeles however that also led to a run-in with the authorities.
The City of Los Angeles owns the “parkways” the neglected dirt areas next to roads where Ron was planting. He was cited for gardening without a permit. This slap on the wrist did little to dissuade his green thumb. So Ron fought back. Hard. He started a petition with fellow green activists, demanding the right to garden and grow food in his neighborhood and then, the city backed off. Taking a stand and taking control in the future of our food is the cornerstone of a guerilla gardening and you can join in too!
2. Reclaim the Commons
The commons is a new way to express a very old idea—that some forms of wealth belong to all of us, and that these community resources must be actively protected and managed for the good of all. The commons are the things that we inherit and create jointly, and that will (hopefully) last for generations to come. The commons consists of gifts of nature such as air, oceans and wildlife as well as shared social creations such as libraries, public spaces, scientific research and creative works. — via On the Commons
Our world has been increasingly commodified by international corporations seeking to control traditional knowledge of natural resources, especially medicinal and agricultural plants, to create products in the name of profit and power. It is our duty as stewards to oppose the encroachment on these sacred gifts which rightfully belong to all of human kind and not a select few. By reclaiming our spaces, knowledge and resources we will pave the road to a thriving future for everyone. Below are a few examples to inspire you into action.
Smiling Hogshead Ranch is an all-volunteer urban farm located on a long-abandoned railway in Long Island City, Queens, New York. It started as a “guerilla garden”, meaning that the gardeners did not have permission from the property owner to use or occupy the land. But when the property’s owner, the Long Island Rail Road, took notice, the gardeners worked with the railroad to secure a lease to allow them to continue using the property as an urban farm. The name “Smiling Hogshead” was inspired by the pig skeleton the gardeners discovered when they were first clearing the site.
“I thought it was better to go ahead and do it and then ask for forgiveness,” said Lopez, 35. “There’s no reason for vacant lots to blight our communities.”
The land where Smiling Hogshead Ranch is located used to be a lead track to a once-large freight rail yard known as the Degnon Terminal. Starting around 1919, Degnon Terminal brought freight cars into the Long Island City industrial business district, serving the various industries located there. The Long Island Rail Road Company acquired the Degnon Terminal properties in 1928, but shortly thereafter the terminal fell into disuse. The LIRR finally deactivated the switch connecting the terminal to the rest of the rail network in 1989. The rail bed is still largely intact, and has been thoughtfully incorporated into the landscape at Smiling Hogshead Ranch.
The community led urban farm renewal of Detroit, Michigan is one of the greatest stories to come of the 2008 economic recession. While government bureaucracy left its citizens forgotten, residents have taken it upon themselves to revitalize abandoned lots, land and homes through guerilla gardening techniques. Detroit has now evolved become the country’s center for the urban agriculture movement.
The devastation that rocked Detroit after the recession left residential neighborhoods in ruin. The city was once home to 1.9 million, but is now down to just around 700,000 residents, leaving an estimated 30,000 acres of distressed land. The typical ineptitude of governance led folks to take matters into their own hands and a coalition of individuals, community organizations and non-profits began to provide for their communities by planting literal seeds of hope. On a personal note this affirms the true power that resides in people who commit to becoming the change they wish to see in the world, and taking that chance can indeed reap monolithic rewards.
3. Connect with Community
Guerilla gardening can be a solo enterprise but nothing is more fun than sharing your passion with others. Connecting with your local community is a vital process in addressing the needs of everyone. If you haven’t yet visited your neighborhood community garden, urban farm or local nursery I highly recommend it. These are shared resources and the knowledge you can gain from working with others is invaluable. If you happen to be a novice when it comes to gardening, this is a great way to acquire the skills and know how to jump into guerilla style gardening. Practice makes perfect and the more time you spend with the dirt the easier it will be, plus science says it’s good for you too!
Join a Facebook group, use your social media for more than just passing time. Step outside your comfort zone and into the unknown where the real growth occurs. Chance are you will make lasting friendships and now have a support base to launch into your guerilla gardening mission. What are some ways you plan practice guerilla gardening? Let me know in the comments below, love & blessings!