When I attended Blogcademy in early September I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of unique individuals there alongside me. Every conversation I got myself into was different and totally engaging, and it was a great reminder to me that there are other people out there who share my aptitude for the quirky and kooky. I didn’t feel my usual awkwardness when surrounded by complete strangers; instead, I was much more accepting of myself and my hobbies and shared with pride rather than embarrassment.
Mid-interesting conversation with someone (and I honestly can’t remember who, though I’ve racked my brains over this multiple times!) I was asked if I had ever done any guerrilla gardening. As it happens, I didn’t know anything about it all. In order to cure my ignorance, I decided to do a bit of research into this interesting offshoot of gardening.
So, what is it?
Anything with the term “guerrilla” popped in front of it usually refers to an independent group fighting against the government or other, larger forces. It’s about the smaller man taking action against society’s “red tape culture” and endlessly imposed rules and regulations.
Guerrilla gardening is no different in this sense. Instead of waiting for official permission to garden or cultivate on abandoned land, guerrilla gardeners take it upon themselves to plant flowers, crops, and trees in unloved urban eyesores like disused car parks, overgrown roundabouts and even by the sides of roads in order to improve the appearance of their local environment. Usually working in the dead of night to avoid detection, these green warriors sprinkle wildflower seeds in pavement cracks and plant daffodils in potholes.
Who does it?
Gardening, guerrilla or otherwise, isn’t just for grandads or hippies anymore. As a hobby, it’s grown massively in popularity, with waiting lists for allotments hugely oversubscribed, indoor tillandsia plants taking the DIY and lifestyle blogging world by storm, and the undeniable appeal of beautifully curated balcony gardens that make even the drabbest of urban apartments look the absolute bee’s knees. People from every walk of life are beginning to take real pride in their green spaces, no matter how big or small.
The anarchic and free nature of guerrilla gardening comes with an understandable appeal to a slightly younger generation, but it isn’t uncommon to see much older folks tidying their abandoned patch of neighborhood green. There has been a marked increase in the number of guerrilla gardeners in large capital cities, and London, in particular, has a large contingent that works under the cover of dark to improve the most deprived and dull areas of the city.
Is it illegal?
Sadly, guerrilla gardening is illegal. Even though the work that is being undertaken is all in good spirit and purely to improve local areas for residents because those gardening do not own the land they are working on there can sometimes be complications. In choosing to guerrilla garden, you are running the risk of being charged with tresspassing, mischief, and/or property damage, and that’s worth bearing in mind before you begin.
As far as I can tell, no one has ever been arrested for the act of gardening on abandoned land, although during an incident in 2000 at Parliament Square in London one man was arrested for vandalizing a statue of Winston Churchill by giving him a grass mohawk. Riots and political rallies aside, the average guerrilla gardener will, if spotted, usually just be asked to move along.
How do I get involved?
Richard Reynolds’ site, the fantastic guerrillagardening.org has a forum where you can connect with other like-minded green warriors and organize meet-ups in your local area. You might be surprised by the number of like-minded folks nearby! The power of many has seen desolate and unkempt areas full of rubbish and dead plants cleared in an instant, replanted and completely transformed into places that people can appreciate and enjoy.
Over the years guerrilla gardening groups have brought us The People’s Park in Berkeley, the Garden in a Night movement from Denmark and International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day that is observed worldwide.
If, like me, you see yourself as more of a lone ranger then there are still plenty of ways you can help out. I’ve put together a quick list of tips that you can implement right now to help improve your local area without too much hassle or worry of being caught.
Three tips for total beginners
- Carry a packet of wildflower seeds in your bag. Britain has a real shortage of these traditional flowers and they are a godsend to our native birds and insects. Poke them into shallow holes on unloved grassland on a day when it’s due to rain, and these rugged lovelies will pop up and surprise you the next time you pass by.
- Find a spot close to where you live that’s in need of a bit of nature. Choose a little section, no bigger than a metre squared. If it’s safe to do so, return under the cover of darkness with a carrier bag or two filled with compost and a handful of daffodil or tulip bulbs. Use a small trowel to disturb the natural earth and mix it with compost. Lightly cover your bulbs and creep away quietly…
- Make your own seed bombs. These are the ultimate “weapon” with which to fight the green light, and there are many different methods for making them. Richard Reynolds comes up trumps with a list of six seed bombs and their pros and cons on his site. These green grenades can be tossed into difficult to reach spots and even over fences. Again, it’s usually best to deploy these little fellas when the rain is due.
What do you think?
What are your thoughts on guerrilla gardening? Is it a wonderful community-enhancing project to help improve our green-starved urban environments or an excuse for meddling hipster types to spread a false, misunderstood message of nature anarchy?
Personally, I can’t help but love the idea. My strict rule-abiding nature worries a bit about being caught and questioned, but even I can’t quite fathom what kind of unreasonable person would have a grumble about someone wanting to make a neglected area look beautiful again. If you fancy giving it a go, I would urge you to get involved! All it takes is a tiny handful of seeds or a couple of bulbs. Imagine what our grey world would look like if even 1% of the people on the planet indulged in a spot of guerrilla gardening…?