Guerrilla Gardening: Activist Planters

Guerilla_Gardening_in_front_of_Flying_Pigeon_LASometimes you do not need the loud, raucous, volatile agenda that often comes with one activist movement or another. Sometimes a statement can be made with silent action and that is exactly what guerrilla gardening has been doing. Considered pro-activism, guerrilla gardening is an underground (literally) attempt to beautify and re-use abandoned, unkempt, eyesore land rather than have to live amongst its neglect. In many cases it is not legal; as the land is often private property. However what would pro-activism be without a little illegality sprinkled in, here and there?

Johnny Appleseed Would Be Proud

Guerrilla gardening is not new. It can be documented as far back as 1649 in England when Gerrard Winstanley and his True Levellers group took over private land to plant crops. They were later referred to as Diggers. The practice continued, showing up in the U.S in 1801, as nurseryman John “Appleseed” Chapman singlehandedly established throngs of apple trees throughout Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois and parts of West Virginia through his continuous seed distribution, by hand. The concept surfaced again in 1973 as Liz Christy’s Green Guerrilla Group altered a decrepit, burnt-out lot in New York City’s Bowery district into a sprawling botanical gem. It is still cared for today, yet now officially under the park’s department.

It is Back but It Never Really Left…It is Hope

From its history up to today, guerilla gardening has left beauty in its wake year to year. Today it resurfaces with the digital popularity so many other ‘movements’ enjoy, yet this is one of the few where hope becomes visual. Currently, Guerrilla Gardening is being practiced in many cities throughout the globe with some unique approaches to boot. The organization Greenaid based out of Los Angeles dispenses seed bombs from old, re-used gumball machines since 2010. Seed bombs are a mixture of clay, compost and seeds (usually wildflowers) in a ball about the size of your palm. The bombs are tossed into ‘gray areas’ or pushed between building or sidewalk cracks where they easily adapt and grow. Greenaid claims that they also carry seed bombs that are beneficial to specific geographical regions. This is essential so as not to disrupt the eco-structure. Another group out of Australia who call themselves, ‘Permablitz’ regularly holds design meetings to determine their next dig. They are often welcomed as they not only beautify but educate local residents on how to prepare their own edible garden to stave off the rising prices of food. There is even a local television program called Guerrilla Gardeners that air the latest underground, illegal manifestation of council owned property.

As real estate, corporations, construction companies hold us hostage to their rabid building and, often neglected projects it is only fitting to fight back in any way possible. When there is little choice there is action and guerrilla gardening is as valid as any activist movement. It, however, does so without violence, noise, or unwanted obstruction. If you are forced to walk by continuous disregard for community aesthetics then why not start your own guerrilla gardening chapter?


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