How to become a guerrilla gardener

How to become a guerrilla gardener

Guerrilla gardening is about transforming neglected urban spaces by illicitly working the soil and adding plants and flowers to reclaim them back into the public domain. There are many networks of guerrilla gardeners in many cities throughout the world, in fact there is a good chance one or two already exist where you live. With a little research you may be able to track down one of these groups and join in their activities, or alternatively start up your own local guerilla gardening team.

One of the most well known guerrilla gardening successes was begun by Liz Christy in New York City. To find out more, visit the Liz Christy Community Garden website, and if that inspires you, learn how to become a guerrilla gardener here.


Step 1

Decide what spot you are going to work on. Typical targets for guerrilla gardeners are empty tree pits, planters or any neglected bare piece of ground. Try to choose somewhere within walking distance from your home so once your guerrilla garden is complete it will be easy to return to and nurture.

Assess the quality of the site and work out which plants will best suit the spot. You may need to choose whether shade loving or sun loving plants are the best choice.

Step 2

Make a plan of what you intend to do. For example, ensure you have all the equipment such as a spade, trowel, fork and compost you will need. Include a design and what kind of plants you will need, and make a note of sources of water. A timetable for planned guerilla gardening excursions may also be helpful.

Step 3

Invite people to take part. There may be neighbours who share your passion for envigorating the local environment, as well as friends and friends of friends. Someone with a reliable form of transport will be useful, especially for bringing the gardening equipment to the designated site. Make sure you collect the numbers of their cell phones because communication during guerrilla gardening activities is essential.

Step 4

Collect plants for the site and try to source free or cheap plants. Maybe you know someone with a garden who has spare plants, or you can grow some yourself. Local newspapers often carry adverts by amateur gardeners who sell their excess plants cheaply. Some gardening centres also offer deals on plants. In fact sourcing cheap plants offers many solutions and a little inventiveness in collecting specimens can go a long way.

Remember that the plants need to be quite hardy because they probably won’t recieve the same level of attention as those in a private garden. Water hardy plants would be a good choice.

Step 5

On the night of the guerrilla gardening ‘attack’ make sure everyone is aware of the plan and they arrive on time. When it is safe to begin text your team so they can spring into action. Everyone should know their job by this stage, including the look-outs who should be watching for anyone who may take too much interest in what you are doing. Use cell phones to keep one step ahead of such people coming in your direction.

If anyone asks what you are doing tell them you are clearing up the area, and they will probably leave you alone. On no account become verbally defensive with anyone but remian calm and polite.

If necassary complete initial tasks such as ground clearance on the first site visit, and set manageable tasks for future visits. Carry out each stage of the plan as quickly as possible and then clean up the site.

When your guerrilla garden is finally complete, water the plants and again clean up. There is no point launching a guerrilla garden if the site looks a mess afterwards.

Step 6

Now that all the soil preparation and planting is done, make plans to return to the site to water and maintain it. Work out a rota amongst your team and agree tasks — guerrilla gardening is not a ‘plant and run’ exercise but a long term commitment.

Post leaflets in the local area to tell everyone what has been done and to encourage them to support your good work. After all, guerrilla gardening is as much about building communities as anything else.

Now its time to look for the next neglected spot to attack!

Things Needed
• Basic gardening equipment such as a spade, fork and rake.
• A neglected spot, such as an empty tree pit, empty planters or unused ground.
• A small team of helpers.
• A nearby water supply for the ‘garden’.

Tips & Warnings
• Be organised and have a plan for your guerrilla gardening activities.
• Make sure you have the cell phone numbers of members of the team.
• Prepare some flyers about your activities for local distribution.
• Include a few look-outs in your team.
• Transport can be useful if the chosen spot is some distance, (although choosing somewhere local makes maintainance much easier).


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