2011-08-13 Pair of Guerilla gardened papayas in Dhaka, Bangladesh.jpg
  • News ‘I call it botanarchy’: The Hackney guerrilla gardener bringing power to the people, theguardian.com (Sep 28, 2023)
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Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening – raising food, plants, or flowers – on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to cultivate, such as abandoned sites, areas that are not being cared for, or private property. It encompasses a diverse range of people and motivations, ranging from gardeners who spill over their legal boundaries to gardeners with a political purpose, who seek to provoke change by using guerrilla gardening as a form of protest or direct action.

This practice has implications for land rights and land reform; aiming to promote re-consideration of land ownership in order to assign a new purpose or reclaim land that is perceived to be in neglect or misused.

Some gardeners work at night, in relative secrecy, in an effort to make the area more useful or attractive, while others garden during the day.

Anyone can become a guerrilla gardener. If you fancy quietly filling a barren urban landscape with greenery, have a go. Many people guerrilla garden in order to...

  • Create an "urban foodscape" and allow for foraging.
  • Increase local food security (an important part of resilience) and self-sufficiency.
  • Show or investigate how easily food can grow in underused places
  • Make a political statement, similar to very informal community gardening
  • Reclaim urban land for public use and public good
  • Bringing back food-growing skills, and restoring plant life to over-developed areas.
  • Ease the decline of the industrial food system and geographically dislocated food supply systems.
  • Make the place they live more beautiful
  • Have fun!

Considerations[edit | edit source]

Guerrilla gardening differs from ordinary gardening since exclusive access to the land is not guaranteed. The best plants are fast yielding, low maintenance, and not sensitive to other land uses. Points to note about the land are:

  • Current condition (Soil, pollution)
  • Prospects (Flooding? Pollution? Microclimate? Other land users?)

Points to note about the crop are:

  • Growth habit (How long until fruiting/blooming? Soil type? Sun or shade? Water? Temperature?)
  • Environmental impact (How will it affect the soil and neighbouring plants/animals)
  • Social/cultural implications (How will it change people's behaviour?)

Species[edit | edit source]

No single species of plant grows everywhere on Earth, but only in regions with the climate and other conditions it needs. Agronomists working for the USDAW have defined a set of hardiness zonesW which give a rough guide to the types of plants that can grow in various regions of the US. Other nations have drawn up similar schemes. The local hardiness zone not only determines what plants can grow in a given region, but also how some of them can grow. For example, some tender plants that grow as perennialsW in tropical climates may only grow as annualsW in temperate climates (e.g., tomatoes, peppers).

Some regions have additional microclimate variation due to urbanization, vertical relief, or proximity to the ocean or a large lake. In such regions, a plant that grows well in one location may fare poorly in a neighboring location just a few kilometers away.

Generalized gardening information resources such as books provide lists of prospective plants to consider, but there is often no substitute for the knowledge of expert local gardeners, who learn from experience what to grow in their locality and how to grow it. If you can find local experts and study what they do, this will save you learning by trial and error.

Guerrilla gardens may receive little care after planting. Since the gardener typically does not own the land, and may not have regular or legal access to it, plants in the garden may have to do without some or all of the typical garden services such as watering, staking, weeding, fertilizing, etc.

Perennial plants may be especially advantageous for the guerrilla garden, as they typically require little care once established, can grow productively for years, compete better with weeds, and put down deep root systems that resist drought and draw nutrients from the subsoil to the surface.

Papaya[edit | edit source]

5 month old papayas growing on wasteland

Papaya is an excellent species for guerrilla gardeners in tropical urban areas, since

  1. Its shallow, soft roots, mean it can grow right beside walls and buildings without difficulty.
  2. Its sap makes it unappealing to cows.
  3. It quickly grows an attractive fruit (often within a year).
  4. It does not need much attention.
Guerrilla gardened papayas near a wall to protect from wind

The main points to watch are

  1. It cannot handle standing water, so plant on higher land.
  2. It is a demanding plant, so will not do well on poor soil.
  3. It is usually dioeciousW (male and female), so plant several together, and remove some of the males.
  4. It cannot handle wind, so right beside a wall is good.

Mabolo[edit | edit source]

If you have a large, tropical area available, and are guerrilla gardening for the longer term, Mabolos are worth thinking about. The main advantages are:

  1. Fast-growing, heavy bearing tropical fruit trees
  2. Content on a wide variety of soils
  3. Minimal care needed

The main points to watch are

  1. It does not like waterlogged soil
  2. It is dioecious, so a lone tree will not fruit
  3. Takes about 6 years to bear fruit

Tools[edit | edit source]

Fruit Tree Nursery on a Balcony
  • Seed bombs
  • Seed box. A pocket size, waterproof box is invaluable.
  • Nursery. Land on the margins of roads or paths is unsuitable for direct sewing of seeds since seedlings would likely be trodden underfoot or consumed by passing livestock. The solution a safe nursery in which to growing seedlings until they are large enough to be planted out.
  • Cardboard mulch. You may wish to plant an area covered in weeds. In this case, cover the weeds with a sheet of cardboard. Cut a small hole in the sheet and insert the seedling you're planting through this hole. The cardboard will kill the weeds by blocking out light. The weeds will then decompose and become nutrients for your plants. The cardboard will decompose too, though it takes a little longer.

External links[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Page data
Keywords gardening, urban agriculture, land tenure
SDG SDG12 Responsible consumption and production
Authors Robin Upton, Teratornis, Chris Watkins
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Related 2 subpages, 16 pages link here
Impact 1,694 page views
Created September 23, 2009 by Chris Watkins
Modified October 23, 2023 by StandardWikitext bot
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