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How to Guerrilla Garden-12 easy steps

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2011 12:41 pm    Post subject: How to Guerrilla Garden-12 easy steps Reply with quote

On balmy summer evenings my mother and her friend would choose a garden to raid. It sounds exciting but this generally entailed walking down the driveway and taking a cutting from a plant they didn't have and repotting it into their own gardens. They never got caught and in hindsight I think the garden owners' probably just let them get on with it as their antics did no harm. The same could be said for the popular sport of Guerrilla Gardening. This is bit more organised than my mother's misdemeanour and achieved a slightly different result. You are not gardening for yourselves, more for your community.

Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla gardeners transform scraps of public land into urban gardens. The sites are generally wastelands, lay-bys and pavements. For some people it's about the love of gardening; for others, it is explicitly a political act, posing questions concerning land rights and the use of public space. The movement has spread its seeds far and wide in over thirty countries, with "cells" existing in places as far flung as Australia and Brazil. Indeed, any country that has a community of obsessive gardeners is likely to have an underground community of guerrillas, taking back public spaces.

This seemingly glamorous, yet illegal venture risks charges of trespass or criminal damage, although as yet no-one has been prosecuted. Could you imagine the outcry of charging people for tying to improve a local eyesore? Council officials in the UK are even endorsing projects that have the backing of the community. Their main grounds for objection are that planting by night on a busy roundabout is a health and safety nightmare.

Night time Raids
Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden. Some garden at more visible hours to be seen by their community. It has grown into a form of proactive activism or pro-activism.

Richard Reynolds began his London based project in 2003. "I had no garden of my own but right outside my flat was a grotty bit of public land," he says. Frustrated by the neglect, Reynolds armed himself with a trowel and set to work. "I just did it. I felt I was morally justified because no one else was. The fear about why and how we are doing it has diminished in the UK," says Reynolds. "If you adopt a piece of land and go about it responsibly, there are no problems."

Basic Tips
Richard has 12 basic tips for a successful raid, should you be brave enough to venture out one summer evening. Here is an abbreviated summary. For the full list go to his website
1. Spot some local orphaned land.
You will be amazed how many little grubby patches of unloved public space there are. Neglected flower beds, concrete planters sprouting litter and untamed plants, bare plots of mud. Chose one close to home, perhaps you pass it on the way to the shops or work, and appoint yourself its parent. This will make it much easier to look after in the long term.
2. Plan a mission.
Make a date in the diary for an evening attack, when trouble-making busy bodies are out of sight. Invite supportive friends or perhaps enrol supportive strangers by announcing your attack on social networking sites.
3. Find a local supply of plants.
The cheaper the better. The cheapest plants are ones that are free so grow your own or see if the garden centres have any to give away for the cause.
4. Choose plants for front line battle.
Think hardy - resistant to water shortages and the cold, and in some locations pedestrian trampling! These plants need to look after themselves a lot of the time. Think impactful - colour, ever green foliage, scale. These plants need to really make a difference, for as much of the year as possible. In London Richard uses a lot of herbs like Lavender and Thyme, tulip bulbs and shrubs.
5. Get some Wellington Shoes.
Whilst protecting your feet from mud and providing good purchase on a fork, these rubber shoes also don't look too obviously "agricultural" as the usual boot, and blend in well with the urban environment.
6. Bag some bags.
Plastic bags, bin liners (not only can they keep your feet clean), but they are essential for clearing up afterwards. Weeds, litter, flower pots, and pebbles need to be carried away. For gentle work reuse wind blown carrier bags or for more serious gardening reuse compost bags or giant bin bags. The thick plastic does not rip so easily and you can lug a great deal in them to a nearby bin.
7. Regular Watering.
One of the responsibilities of a Guerrilla Gardener is ongoing tending. Water is short in many parts of the world, even in Ireland. The Guerrilla Gardener must usually carry water. Use drinking water bottles as these don't attract attention.
8. Seed bombs.
For gardening those areas where access is difficult or a long dig is unsuitable, use a seed bombs (sometimes called green grenades) which are seeds and soil held in an explosive or degradable capsule. There are many different methods, some you can easily make at home out of seeds, compost and water. There are even companies manufacturing them now too.
9. Chemical Warfare.
Boost your plants with natural chemicals. Some guerrillas are lucky to have space for compost heaps. Collect the juices from wormeries too.
10. Garden with a member of the opposite sex
Richard feels that having a girl involved on his digs is a brilliant diversion should anyone pass by and get inquisitive.
11. Spread the word
Let people know what you have done with a few flyers under doors near the guerrilla gardening war zone, a poster taped to a lamp post or bus stop, a marker in the soil. Engage passersby in conversation, perhaps even bring a few spare tools. And welcome local media (particularly if they'll help towards the cost of your gardening, which many do).
12. Transportation.
If you are not guerrilla gardening within walking distance from your home (the ideal) you will need some transportation. Richard's solution are spacious two seaters. Convertibles with big wide flat boots enable both trees and large trays of plants to be easily transported.

You can read more about Guerrilla Gardening in Richards book, On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening without Boundaries..

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