If you are a gardener, it is that time of the year again where the bulk of your plants are probably in and you are hoping for some good rains before the dog days of summer. For many people, gardening is a form of therapy–a chance to get your hands in the soil and participate in the amazing cycle of the growing season. For others it is a way to save money and not support the toxic agri-business food model that is so difficult to escape in the United States. However, there are others who see gardening as a potential clandestine activity, a form of rebellion and a way to reclaim urban green space. If you have never heard of gardening as an act of rebellion, then a great resource would be a new book by David Tracey titled Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto.
Tracey is a journalist who works for an organization called EcoUrbanist based out of Vancouver, Canada. He is also the Executive Director of Tree City Canada, which describes itself as an “ecological engagement group.” Tracey said he wrote Guerrilla Gardening based on his years of reporting on urban spaces around the globe. Tracey feels that gardening is one of the most human and radical things that people can do in the world today. The book itself not only provides great examples of how to engage in clandestine gardening, it also provides a great foundation on the importance of transforming cities. Tracey believes that if cities decided to garden more it would not only provide people with healthier foods options–it would improve the quality of life for people, plants and animals.
The author does acknowledge that this may be easier said than done, since most city government structures will not be open to an aggressive ecological transformation. However, Tracey does say that it is worth it to try going to the local governing authorities and make your proposal for transforming cities with vegetables, flowers, ground cover and trees. The author believes that municipalities will eventually be your allies once they see the benefits of what you are doing by reclaiming space to grow food, improve air quality and provide greater animal and bird habitat. If they don’t, the public will. Tracey believes that anytime you reclaim space for planting trees, growing food, or green beautification you will naturally gain support since most people are in favor of that kind of work.
A problem always arises when you are attempting to transform space that is designated as “private property.” Here Tracey even provides a list of talking points you can use if approached by law enforcement or other city officials. The author also states that his experience and the experience of others who are interviewed in the book is that rarely do people get confronted. Instead, what happens is that people transform a space into a vibrant garden, where more and more people become involved and eventually it becomes accepted as a “legitimate” project.
Once readers can get past the idea of guerrilla tactics being used for urban gardening, then you can digest the rest of the book, which provides great practical information on tools to use and what plants grow best where. One of the best ideas I read was the creation of “seed grenades” or “seed bombs,” an important resource for the guerrilla gardener. Seed grenades are seeds that are embedded in a mixture of soil and other composted material that you can pack into the size of a hand grenade. Once these seed grenades have hardened a bit, you can use them to throw into areas that are not easily accessible because of fencing or walls. The seed grenade will explode on the soil it lands on are distribute the seeds over an area still covered in composted material to minimize being consumed by birds. The seeds will germinate and take root without turning the soil over and before you know it, you have a clandestine garden in a space that was once neglected.
Tracey also provides readers with several examples of where guerrilla gardening has been practiced across the country. These examples are usually accompanied by interviews with people who are veterans of guerrilla gardening. Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto is not only a great resource for people who want to transform cities, it is a delightful read that will inspire you to take action.
David Tracey, Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto, (New Society Publishers, 2007).