“Subversive” Gardening

As I have written about often here on Care2.com, it seems that gardening has never been more popular. Aside from growing their own fruits and veggies to help them deal with the economic downturn, many people have turned to gardening due to their desire to have a positive impact on their local environment.


One group that’s been doing this since long before gardening became trendy, are the Guerrilla Gardeners. This is a growing movement of green enthusiasts who transform abandoned patches of land in cities by planting in neglected public spaces and vacant lots. Their goals include creating a better community by improving the landscape and quality of life there, and helping urban ecosystems by planting mostly native plants to attract wildlife to those areas.


Technically, the act of planting on property that isn’t yours is a form of vandalism, like graffiti. So, not surprisingly, while many guerrilla gardeners plant out in the open in broad daylight as a community endeavor, part of the appeal for many others are the nighttime planting parties, where members go on “seed bombing” runs, secretly beautifying these abandoned lots to avoid possible arrest. However, there have been no reports of arrests, just inquisitive questioning from law enforcement and other public officials.


The act has become popular worldwide and it has gained momentum thanks to Internet gardening blogs and sites like www.guerrillagardening.org, Los Angeles Guerrilla Gardening, and Public Space in Canada.


These sites post photos of sites they have transformed, have tips on planting, making seed bombs, selecting sites and even community boards for arranging seed bomb “raids.”


Guerrilla gardening has even spawned its own industry. For example, in the UK, this week the number three nonfiction book list on Amazon.co.uk is On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook for Gardening Without Boundaries by Richard Reynolds.


This week is especially big for guerrilla gardening since May 1st has been declared International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day. Why May 1st? According to the site it’s a day that is traditionally a celebration of the first day of summer and nature’s fertility. And, native sunflowers are used because they attract wildlife, require minimal care and of course, are nice to look at.


If you are interested in planting for International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day, the same site also features tips about planting, a blog, and a board to share your adventures in guerrilla gardening!


Forest and Kim Starr from Creative Commons


Rudolf Affolter
Past Member 6 years ago

We have planted bulbs (by night) along a short bypass in East Grinstead, Sussex. It was once part of a railway until Beeching wrecked the British railways in the 1960s. Hopefully there will be a beautiful display of daffodils and chrocuses in the Spring.

Lynn C.
Lynn C6 years ago

Excellent advice Black T, I hope people will read and heed it.

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

I would also would like to suggest that a more important need is for those interested in "bringing Nature back" to blighted urban areas is to get out with others of a like mind and help in the removal of invasive species that have by and large taken over these abandoned parcels and out urban parks.
You can toss all teh seed bombs you want into a park filled with buckthorn and garlic mustard - to no avail. Park managers have such little budget for these issues - they'll take all teh public help they can get.
If you "build" the habitat back up - the birds and butterflies will follow!

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

My biggest concern is that too many people have the right heart - but teh wrong info. We discovered one manufacturer of "seed bombs" in teh US was including some very destructive "invasive" species.
Please remember that not all plant species are created equal for all parts of the globe - "green" is not helpful if it does not support a functioning food web that higher species (insects, birds, etc. on teh food chain require).
Support restoration of native ecosystems with native plants - especially in urban areas - not something marketed as just "beautiful" or "pestfree" and inherently "aggressive" by teh international flower trade.

Claudia Durand
Past Member 6 years ago


Julie van Niekerk

I always say that you dont need "green fingers" to make a successful garden. You need "brown knees"

Fire Weed
Mikem Nestor8 years ago

I participated nearly twenty years ago in a Guerilla Gardening venture...planting in meridians and back allies at nite in a major Canadian city...it was wonderful to see at least a few things actually take root and grow over the summer, like sunflowers, which are so thrilling to see growing in an unusual place that people tend to leave them alone! This kind of 'underground' activity has been going on quietly for a long time, so it's awesome to learn that it is practically becoming mainstream! Another occassion I participated in was at the G-8 summit protest in Calgary Alberta a few years ago, when 'mud people' (literally covered in wet clay 'slip') took to the streets as a form of 'direct action' with seed balls, to plant anywhere and everywhere in the cracks in the sidewalks, anywhere a bit of dirit was showing, as a symbolic act of reclaiming the concrete jungle and demonstration of earth healing, in the face of ongoing assault by corporate interests that in fact, want to destroy the rights of people to save their own seed, thereby threatening our already dangerously depleted food biodiversity. SO...horray for guerilla gardening, ANY gardening- as the way to really celebrate what is most valuable...just be sure to use open - pollinated, non-genetically modified seeds, and support heritage seed savers!

Black T.
Blacktiger P8 years ago

I have only one reason that this may be dangerous. That is some vacant lots may have chemical polution that could be absorbed into the fruit or veggies. Test the soils first then contact the owner of the lot and seek PERMISSION to plant there.

Beth Hartford-DeRoos
Beth G8 years ago

Personally I think its a sin that we have hunger in America while so many vacant lots become filled with trash and junk, rather than planted with vegetables and trees for neighborhood residents. Every church, synagogue, mosque, city vacant lot should have a garden growing. If everyone who has a garden would plant an extra row of corn, tomato, beans, and donate that to the local food bank, think of the hunger that could be fed.

Kc P.
Kc P8 years ago

This is so awesome. There's an adrenaline rush with goin' all spy-like out there, planting under cover, and sneaking away. Nice to get dirty when it's pitch dark outside, knowing it'll go from a nasty bush lot to a periennial goldmine.