Guerrilla Gardening


Commenting here, Ella has on a couple of occasions likened the food movement (or whatever it might be called) to a form of guerrilla warfare against the industrial food system. I like that image. In that metaphor, our primary weapons are our gardens.

Growing our own food is important, of course.  And turning our yards into gardens is fine little jab at the empire, a bit like beating swords into plowshares.

But I especially appreciate those who take the fight to the enemy, with guerrilla gardens.


Some folks aren’t content just to put raised beds in their backyards and to grow food in their window sills.  Like modern-day Johnny Appleseeds, some commandos plant gardens in vacant lots and in unused public “green space.”  They call themselves guerrilla gardeners and this morning I salute them.  A tip of the hat to you, my comrades.


We did a bit of that, with friends, a couple of times.  One year we planted flowers in the courtyard area of a neglected apartment building, owned by a slumlord and populated by folks who could benefit from some prettiness in their otherwise ugly surroundings.  The next year we planted beans and tomatoes.  It was fun.  It left us feeling good.



Note to self–do some guerrilla gardening in 2014.


12 comments on “Guerrilla Gardening

  1. El Guapo says:

    I see guerilla gardens around the city.
    Always brings a smile to me.

    There were enough planted and maintained that it turned into a regular official program through the NYC dept of Parks.


    • Bill says:

      Very cool. I think Richmond has quitting fighting them too now. I love seeing the areas along and between the interstates, that were once mowed and sprayed with herbicides, now planted in flowers. When I see “green space” around public buildings, being maintained at great I expense, I see potential gardens. Hopefully that way of seeing things is becoming less radical.


  2. Bill, Guerrilla gardening is in my future as well. To the south of my big garden called, “Terra Nova Gardens”, is a property that has be neglected as long as mine has. Huge weeds grew there that were taller than my head last year. It reminded me of what my property looked like when I started working on it two years ago. This last fall, with the help of a neighborhood friend, the weeds were mowed down and deep mulch was spread over about a 70X30 foot area. I used fall yard waste mulch which had some grass but mostly leaves. The actual yard waste bag was laid on the ground and the next bag’s contents were dumped on top of the bag. My hope is that compostable yard bag barrier and the deep mulch will block the weeds from growing. The whole guerrilla garden area will be sweet corn this next year. It will be just for the wild life that live in the surrounding area. I’m not sure exactly how it’s all going to work out but if nothing else it will keep the weeds down.

    I think it’s interesting that 70 years ago, the government was producing brochures on how to grow victory gardens during World War II. Now I read several articles about neighborhood associations taking home owners to court to have them remove the …. “eyesores” of the neighborhood. How our culture has changed in just one life time. I grew up in a some what large city of 100,000. That’s big for Iowa. Many of our neighbors had gardens with chickens and rabbits for eggs and meat. Now even if the laws don’t prevent it, the neighbors would make life miserable for anyone who tried that in a Urban area. It’s really sad to see how reliant our society has become on big Ag providing our food.

    I hope your garden makes it through the big freeze. Predictions here are for -10 to -15 tonight with wind chills of -30 to -40. Time to hunker down and hope the heating system don’t have any issues. Have a great day in the warmer Arizonian weather.


    • Bill says:

      I remember reading about your guerrilla garden. Well done. You are one of the heroes.

      You’re right. The government used to promote urban gardens, and now many municipalities outlaw them. Over the last few years many of the laws against keeping chickens in cities have been repealed. Hopefully the anti-garden laws will someday be a thing of the past.

      Back in my lawyering days I did some work for a golf club/housing development. They had deed restrictions preventing any homeowner from parking a van or truck in their driveway. They wanted to make sure the neighborhood wasn’t spoiled by having some lowly painters or other tradespeople living there and parking there vehicles where others might see them. That became problematic when all the suburbanites started buying minivans and SUVs. I still grin thinking about that.

      It’s a pleasant morning here at 6 am. 35 and no wind. But within the hour the arctic blast is supposed to arrive, taking the temps to single digits (with high winds). Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be 20. Some of our veggies have been hanging on, but I’m not expecting much to make it through this one.

      We’re in southern Virginia, by the way.


  3. Tina Schell says:

    What a lovely idea – to create some beauty and/or nutrition where none existed before. Love it. Our local medical center (MUSC, here in Charleston SC) has a wonderful garden of veggies and flowers that’s lovely to look at and I’m sure helps to augment their food supplies. It’s right in the heart of downtown and is a great place to visit and find quiet time while a loved one is in the hospital. In Maine last summer we went to a local breakfast place that owned an entire lot next to their building which housed their veggie garden. Diners were welcome to walk through and see their meals in the making. Would that there were more like these everywhere!


    • Bill says:

      Amen. May it be so. I’m a big advocate of turning those kinds of areas into gardens. It would be so easily to radically change the way we get our food. I’m glad the vision is starting to catch.


  4. shoreacres says:

    There are some huge fights taking place in our area right now between HOAs/municipalities and people who want to plant gardens. I can’t find it in any online records now, but there was one wonderful confrontation between a homeowner and an official over the “proper” height for tomatoes. As I recall, the restrictions allowed for plants to be 12″ high, and those rascally tomatoes had dared to break the rule. 😉

    I confess the images make me a little uncomfortable, especially the bomb-thrower. But the practice itself? Flowers and veggies on unused or under-utilized land? I’m all for it. Even our town’s garden club has gotten on board, seeking and getting permission to transform grassy medians along a major thoroughfare into wildflower meadows.

    By the way – I couldn’t figure out what was with the mockingbirds pecking at their water bowls this morning. When I went out to look, I found they were frozen solid. Whoops! I hope my cactus made it – I tented them with freeze cloth and hung a work light with a 75 watt bulb out there. It’s wintertime for sure. When I went to the farm to buy my veggies on Saturday, they were busy covering acres of strawberries and picking citrus. I’ll be squeezing Myer lemons this morning and freezing the juice.


    • Bill says:

      One way guerrilla gardeners spread their seed is via “seed bombs” and “garden grenades,” which are clay balls with seeds inside. I’m sure that’s the inspiration for the bomb-thrower image.

      The front is just arriving here. The wind is howling outside and the temp as dropped 20 degrees over the last couple of hours. Right now it’s 15 with very strong northerly wind (at 7:30 pm). It’s going to be a COLD night.


  5. Steve Carlic says:

    Count me in. Expect some unexpected veggies in the Syracuse NY region this summer. I might even freak out my wife and kids by randomly hitting red light, dashing out with a packet of seeds and returning by the time the light turns green. Warfare without a certain flair just ain’t worth fightin’.


  6. EllaDee says:

    A modern day version of Robin Hood and His Merry Men, stealing power from the rich Greedy Conglomerates and giving access to good food to the poor… or at least reminding people that real food doesn’t come from a supermarket.
    In my area green space has also been embraced. “We’re pretty lucky in the City of Sydney because we’ve got nineteen community gardens and three verge footpath gardens scattered throughout our villages.” –
    Not luck. Good management.


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