What Exactly Is Guerrilla Gardening?

Fed up with rubble- and litter-strewn surroundings, militant green thumbs are plotting new floral strikes in their quest for green domination.

After a long cold winter, we await spring with bated breath only to find our common areas dirty and littered. April showers wash away some of the city’s dirt and greyness, but unfortunately they don’t bring forth May flowers. However, according to Patricia, a guerrilla gardener from the Mile End, the times they are a changin’…

In recent years, some people may have noticed the number of flowers and edible plants springing up in unusual places. This is obviously not the work of our fair city, but of insurgent gardening cells that have been busy conducting covert planting operations.

Patricia informed me that some favourite places for clandestine cultivation are “back alleys, patches next to sidewalks, vacant lots, empty city planters and medians.” She adds that although digs in public spaces are technically against the law, they not only improve public property, but also keep out drug dealers and criminals who are less likely to carry on activities in areas that are clearly cared for by residents.

The guerrilla gardening manifesto is aimed at furthering the green revolution by converting dead public sites into esthetically pleasing green oases. While some guerrilla gardeners see their mission as reclaiming common spaces from encroaching corporate imagery and its endless message of buy, buy, buy, others quite simply have a green thumb and lack gardening space in the city. In Patricia’s case, she has a foot in both camps and says that both factions, regardless of their motivation, share the common goal of urban beautification.

According to Patricia, guerrilla gardening groups usually take root in the spring when members get together to scout out prospective sites. “Scouting is vital to the success of a mission,” says Patricia, “as the group must first determine the site’s soil type, the amount of sun it receives, and if any extra soil is required.” Rebel gardeners also choose sites close to home to make regular watering and weeding easier. In addition, neighbours are less likely to blow the whistle on familiar faces.

The most successful cells have a seasoned gardener among their ranks who advises members on the types of seeds or seedlings that will produce the most bountiful blossoms. Experienced cells like to take “before” and “after” pictures of their work and keep a record of what they planted with a view to creating an even more spectacular Eden the following year.

Posted by Picasa

“The fun part is planning the attack, or the plant arrangement, and the actual dig,” says Patricia. Discretion being the better part of valour, most groups actually do their clearing and digging, and subsequent weeding and watering, at night in order to avoid attracting any unnecessary attention. Gardeners arrive armed with their flashlights, gardening tools, seeds, clippings, seedlings, watering cans, composting, extra soil and extra-strength garbage bags for litter and debris. “A good cell has about five people because of all the things you have to lug to the site,” says our resident green thumb. Group members must first clear the area of garbage, till the soil, and pull out any big rocks, which can later be used to create a border. Patricia adds that anyone wishing to try this should bear in mind that clearing usually takes much longer than the actual planting.

Planting is what everyone looks forward to. Although there are many floral freedom fighters who plant strictly flowers, some Johnny Appleseeds take the eclectic approach and plant edible gardens by combining herbs, vegetables and edible flowers, while other purists opt to reintroduce native plants. Having already adapted to the local soil and climate conditions, native plants do not need to be watered or require any composting, and these hardy plants thrive in poor soil.

“Whatever weapons of mass creation you and your cell decide on, floral, edible or native, true guerrilla gardeners always water, weed and clean up after themselves,” says Patricia. “After all, we’re here to remedy urban eyesores, not create more.”

Finally, some gardening activists choose to put up signs on nearby telephone poles or fences to let people know who has actually conducted the covert operation to beautify their neighbourhood. "CLICK TO ENLARGE"


Post a Comment