Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla Gardening

I stole this term from an article in a magazine from

Vegetable Gardener

. The essential idea is that you garden on land that does not belong to you. Usually, you would do this with permission from the landowner. Some folks, however, are bolder than that and will use vacant lots or DOT land for planting. The drawback of illicit gardening is that other people have the right to dig up or destroy what you have done. With permission, however, it can be beneficial to all parties.

One site I would recommend for some guerrilla gardening is public school grounds--with permission, of course. When schools are built, bricks and block often take precedence over the grounds, and while the original budget for construction may have included dollars for landscaping, any shortages in another area of construction will eradicate those "unessential" landscape dollars. This despite the

preponderance of evidence

which shows increases in academic achievement, reductions in attention deficit symptoms and increases in healing and overall well-being connected to that unessential greenery.

If you decide to take up your shovel in defense of the students (and teachers!), make a plan first of what, ideally, you and the school would like to accomplish. Remember that new plants must be maintained. If you suspect that you might be the only one maintaining anything, take little bites out of your plan at a time. Maybe the first year you plant two trees. Watered well enough to get established, they might not need any attention at all after the first year, freeing you to move on to another bite. Be sure to invest in large enough specimens that they will not be mowed down by overzealous grounds crews. Also make sure a fairly large mulched area is used around the tree and that the trunk is either wrapped or protected with a plastic collar, since these same grounds crews can wreak havoc with their string trimmers, killing any tree with a trunk under a foot in diameter.

If you can (after consulting with the other "stakeholders"), try to stay away from using all flowering trees, or trees known for growing very quickly. Fast growers are typically weaker trees--more likely to lose branches or snap in a strong wind. Remember the Bradford Pear-- a pretty tree if all goes well. Usually everything does not go well, and the trees become a liability that gets cut down. Research what trees are native to your area of the country and see if some of those can be added to your project. They are far more likely to do well, and will encourage wildlife that students and teachers will enjoy and have the opportunity to study.

Schools, as a public property, are great places to add plants that can feed the hungry. Be they kids or the homeless. (I once had a student take an egg from a nighthawk's nest because he was hungry.) Serviceberry trees are a beautiful small tree that might not fit in a smaller home yard, but would be an asset on school grounds because you can eat the berries as well as enjoy the color and shade. Blueberries are another winner, for the same reasons. More than likely, if you decide to take on a project that adds to the public good, you will be able to enlist help from area Master Gardeners and Cooperative Extensions. You won't have to do it alone, and you're likely to make a pile of new friends while you are at it.

A partial "guerrilla" bed... everything from the speedwell to the right is on our neighbor's property.

Guerrilla gardening projects don't have to be as big as a schoolyard. We have been fortunate that one of our neighbors has allowed us to "bleed" a bed onto their property. Our neighbors had decided to take down a couple of Norway Spruces, which opened up a very large, sunny area between us. Now this bed contains not only annuals and perennials, but also shrubs and a new tree! In our planning for this bed, we made sure to include some purple-flowering plants, as that is a favorite color of our neighbors. We take responsibility for maintaining the bed, and both properties get a more open, welcoming view.

Have you been a guerrilla gardener? Participated in a community garden? Let us know your successes and disappointments--your advice for other gardeners. Happy gardening!

Where Wrens Go When They Fledge

Where Wrens Go When They Fledge

Who's Using What

Who's Using What