Guerrilla gardening is the art of altruistic horticultural intervention – gardening for the greater good, if you will. It can take place anywhere, but let’s be honest: there’s less reason for well-meaning gardeners unknown to be plugging seedlings into roadsides in the gamadoelas than there is in the inner city, where a little foliage goes a long way to brightening up otherwise dreary streets.
It starts with any green-fingered individual (such as your good self) with the time and the inclination, and generally takes place under the cover of darkness, in order for the full beauty of the act to be revealed in the light of day.
That, and the fact that it could be misconstrued as interfering with public property by the boys in blue. But let’s be honest – down here in South Africa, they’ve bigger things to worry about than friendly folk forking around in public spaces.
You can do it too
To graduate from domestic gardener to urban guerrilla gardener, all you need is the inclination and the time, and of course the tools. The choice of plants is yours. You could decide to make a gift of a naartjie tree or a matingulu (Carissa sp.) which would go on to give free fruit to passersby, or it could be aloes which would go on to brighten up a corner every winter. Then again, you could choose a medicinal plant or herb such as rosemary.
Take the time to observe the location over time; is the soil dry or moist most of the time? Does it get a lot of sun? Under the circumstances it may prove better in the long run to plant species that are hardier and have a better chance of establishing themselves, than a plant which is sensitive and may not fare that well. After all, you can’t tend them as you would your own patch.
Some seedlings or rooted cuttings, a small spade and a container of water will be all you need. That, and the resolve to smile sweetly as you answer to any pointed questions from enquiring parties as to the nature of your activities that you’re ‘just brightening up the neighbourhood’. Once you’re ready to roll, it’s simply a matter of figuring out the best time to embark on your goodwill greening mission. Our country being what it is, it would be prudent to choose a time that wouldn’t put you at personal risk. Setting out with a partner in (victimless) crime would similarly be a good idea. Keep your head down, be quick, and unobtrusive. Water your volunteer well, and scarper.
And then admire your handiwork from a distance as you pass it by, happy in the knowledge that you’ve added some life to your neck of the hoods. (Travis Lyle)
- Read more about guerilla gardening at Medium.