It strikes one as an oxymoron. Guerrilla gardening. Hardcore soldier resistance tactics meets backyard tomato seed planting. But yes, in action in urban spaces around the world, this is the increasing truth. Growing one’s own food, as an individual or for a community, is a concept lost on more and more people in affluent societies today. The disconnect is complete; modern economics allows people to consume goods produced in ways unknown to them, in places they will never see, due both to a lack of knowledge and exposure, as well as unsuitable conditions in which to create, or grow, these goods themselves.
Guerrilla gardening is a practice and a movement aimed at changing this, and the concept is spreading through example, in the mysterious appearances of plants in forgotten patches of earth in the hearts of cities, and the growing network of support, advice and encouragement among fellow gardeners in publication and on the Internet.
You’re walking down the block in your town or city, perhaps right outside your front door, and you glance over or miss completely a barren plot of dry, trash-strewn earth; perhaps on the sidewalk where no tree or shrub grows, perhaps in a massive concrete planter, or maybe in a forgotten, chain-fenced lot with some links conveniently severed. This dirt you pass is useful; anything you might like to look at, or like to eat or use for a gift, could grow there with a bit of care and attention. But nothing does, and nothing is done about it, for the idea of planting such useful plants in an urban context doesn’t immediately make sense; it is an alien concept.
We buy what we need in the city, we don’t walk to a bus stop to harvest a stem from our favorite flower or peak into an alley to see how our pea shoots are growing on the back fence of an auto garage. But it doesn’t have to be that way. People can reclaim the space around them. You can shape it as you see fit. Do it boldly in the middle of the day, start a conversation when you get curious questions. Do it quietly in the middle of the night, away from disapproving eyes. The spirit of a guerrilla lies in disruption through unconventional, unexpected and innovative means. The disruption is the redefining of what inhabitants of a city call home, bringing the ancient into the modern, the natural into the manufactured. It is a chance to feel that you can create what you need and desire, that you need not wait for others to do it for you. And in this struggle, which is inherently communal, you are not alone. There are plenty of communities and resources on the handy worldwide web, so for ideas, info and inspiration, please see:
Guerrilla Gardening: A world community organization including tips, pictures, blogs, and local community boards.
Primal Seeds: A guide to the guerrilla gardening movement and a great resource from other guerrilla gardeners and communities.
Los Angeles Guerrilla Gardening: Even if you are not located in LA, the LA movement is going strong and has plenty of ideas for inspiration.