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Guerilla gardening is the act of taking something ugly or unused and making it beautiful or useful, with plants. It is a rebellious creation of smile-worthy planting.
Imagine a popular park with a tree recently cut down. What once was a beautiful tree is now a stump that has hollowed out in the center from rot. A guerilla gardener will see that hole as an opportunity to recreate beauty and plant the stump like a flowerpot.
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There’s a river that runs through my town. Right in the center of the river is a small island with an abandoned truck. Every summer, a guerilla gardener fills the bed of the truck with flowers.
I was able to meet him, and he told me that it bothered him to see that pollution. As an act of protest, he liked the idea of making it something pretty to behold.
Another example of guerilla gardening is using a plot of unused space to plant vegetables for a community to use. It can be as an act of protest in abandoned spaces, or a productive way to cultivate life and sharing.
This began as a way to combat food deserts. A food desert is a town that has low access to quality or affordable food, and an edible guerilla garden is a productive rebellion against that social injustice.
Guerilla gardening can be satisfying when you’re able to sit and plant greenhouse-grown flowers or plants, but that’s not always possible depending on where the spot is located, due to time or accessibility.
Another alternative to be a successful guerilla gardener is by making seed balls to drop in convenient places when you need to plant more discretely, or to avoid trespassing. The idea is that the ball of dirt, compost, and seeds will gradually break down with rain, then germinate, and finally grow.
Another perk of guerilla gardening with seed balls is that it allows you some spontaneity in your planting. Nature is spontaneous, so you may be surprised by where you find an opportunity if you are prepared.
There are a few ethical principles to consider before you decide to become a guerilla gardener:
- Not all seeds are created equal for this project. It is essential to be considerate of the ecosystem that you’re dropping seeds in. Do not plant anything invasive that will negatively impact the ecosystem. Use plants that are native to where you live. The goal is for your rebellion to complement, not contradict. This tool will help you navigate some native species in North America by typing in your zip code.
- The idea of this project is to create beauty in a place that maybe has lost its luster or has been negatively impacted by people. Examples might be a pothole, a forgotten stump, or abandoned garbage. An example of where to NOT drop a seed ball would be personal property, preserved or protected land, or in an ecosystem that new plants might be harmful.
- If you are using edible plants, make sure it is in a spot accessible to community members that might most benefit from the garden. Towns that are food deserts are a great place to consider this type of gardening. Local ordinances also impact where edible plants can be grown, so make sure you proceed with the awareness required to make your mission successful.
How to Make Seed Balls
- Clay soil, if you do not have access to clay, you can use powdered clay
- Native seeds, or the edible plant seeds intended
- Bucket or bowl
*You can increase proportions to make a large bulk-group of seed balls. This recipe made plenty for what I would want to be prepared for in one season.
In a large bowl or bucket, mix together 1/4 cup of seeds, 2 cups of compost, and 1 cup of clay. You may need to add water to make this a workable consistency, especially if you use powdered clay.
Add water to desired consistency to be able to roll balls, but be careful as too much water will make your consistency not hold together. Start with a little at a time. My compost was pretty moist, and I used clay from the ground, so I did not need to add any water.
This mixture is best to mix with your hands. You can initially stir with a stick or spoon, but to make sure the seeds are adequately dispersed you’re going to have to get messy and use your hands to thoroughly mix.
After everything is incorporated well, you can begin rolling your balls. I gauge size on easy toss-ability and vary sizes for kids vs. adults.
I wanted my size to be able to fit easily in my hand, but I also want to be able to pack a few into a bag. Pack them tight, like a meatball, to ensure that the contents adhere to one another, maintaining its desired shape.
To have the best luck with your seed balls, let them dry completely. I set them somewhere outside on a sunny day and that does the trick. You want to avoid having them fall due to the force of a toss or a throw, waiting to deploy the seeds until the desired time.
Now that your seed balls are dried, pack them with you for a hike or any other adventure. You never know where you might see an opportunity for a little guerilla gardening.
Joining the Urban Movement
Humans are arguably one of the most invasive species, and our impact on our planet cannot be denied. This movement of beautification is a way to counteract some of our impact, to restore some of the nature that we’ve naturally taken away.
Whether this is on your walking route, at your local park, or even in your own subdivision, guerilla gardening allows you to look at your day-to-day world a little differently and to make nature a lifestyle.
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