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Guerrilla gardening

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Subject: Urban agriculture, Cannabis cultivation, Index of gardening articles, Guerrilla gardening, Operation Overgrow
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Guerrilla gardening

Guerrilla gardening on a Los Angeles street.

Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to utilize, such as an abandoned site, an area that is 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 political influences 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.

The land that is guerrilla gardened is usually abandoned or perceived to be neglected by its legal owner. That land is used by guerrilla gardeners to raise plants, frequently focusing on food crops or plants intended for aesthetic purposes.

Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden in an effort to make the area of use and/or more attractive. Some garden at more visible hours for the purpose of publicity, which can be seen as a form of activism


Guerrilla gardeners planting vegetables on previously empty space in downtown Calgary, Canada.

The earliest recorded use of the term guerrilla gardening was by Liz Christy and her Green Guerrilla group in 1973 in the Bowery Houston area of New York. They transformed a derelict private lot into a garden.[1] The space is still cared for by volunteers but now enjoys the protection of the city's parks department. Two celebrated guerrilla gardeners, active prior to the coining of the term, were Gerrard Winstanley, of the Diggers in Surrey, England (1649), and John "Appleseed" Chapman in Ohio, USA (1801).

Guerrilla gardening takes place in many parts of the world - more than thirty countries are documented[2] and evidence can be found online in numerous guerrilla gardening social networking groups and in the Community pages of[3] The term bewildering has been used as a synonym for guerrilla gardening by Australian gardener Bob Crombie.[4]


International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day

The International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day, scheduled on the 1st of May of every year, is an annual international event when guerrilla gardeners plant sunflowers in their neighborhoods, typically in public places perceived to be neglected, such as tree pits, flower beds and roadside verges.[5] It has taken place since 2007, and was conceived by guerrilla gardeners in Brussels,[6] (who go by the name of The Brussels Farmers). They declared it Journée Internationale de la Guérilla Tournesol. It has been championed by guerrilla gardeners around the world, notably by [7] and participation has grown each year since then. In 2010, more than 5000 people signed up for the event from North America, Europe and Asia.[8] Although sunflower sowing at this time of the year is limited to relatively temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere, this day is also marked in other parts of the world by planting plants appropriate to the season.

North America

Adam Purple's Garden of Eden

Adam Purple's urban garden on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1984.

From the mid-1970s, Adam Purple created and tended a circular garden (shaped like a yin-yang) in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in an abandoned lot. In 1986, when it was bulldozed by the City of New York, the garden had overtaken many lots and reached a size of 15,000 square feet.[9][10][11] The short film "Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden" tells its history.[12]

People's Park (Berkeley, California)

People's Park in Berkeley, California is now a de facto public park which was formed directly out of a community guerrilla gardening movement during the late 1960s which took place on land owned by the University of California. The university acquired the land through eminent domain, and the houses on the land were demolished, but the university did not allocate funds to develop the land, and the land was left in a decrepit state.

Eventually, people began to convert the unused land into a park. This led to an embattled history involving community members, the university, university police, Governor Reagan, and the national guard, where protest and bloody reprisal left one person dead, and hundreds seriously wounded. Parts of the park were destroyed and rebuilt over time, and it has established itself into a permanent part of the city.

Greenaid (Los Angeles)

Greenaid is a seed balls, a combination of clay, compost and region-specific seeds. Once dispensed, seed balls are tossed or planted in any area that may benefit from wildflowers (Seed bombing). Greenaid partners with business owners, educators and citizens to distribute seedbomb vending machines in various communities worldwide. With region-specific seedbomb mixes, Greenaid aims to integrate and beautify rather than disrupt traditionally bland urban areas such as sidewalks and highway medians.[13] In July 2010, Greenaid received $10,398 in funding from the Kickstarter community. This funding will be used to spread the initiative to new locations and support current operations.[14][15]

L.A. Green Grounds

Designer Ron Finley pioneered the growing produce on a strip of parkway lawn but came into conflict with the city council. He was successful in maintaining this urban market garden and has promoted the idea with a TED talk and appearances at international conferences such as the Stockholm Food Forum and MAD in Copenhagen.[16][17]


In Northern Utah, apple trees commonly grow along the banks of canals. Asparagus grows along the smaller ditch banks. Many of these plants were seeded 150 years ago by the workers who dug the canals, by burying their lunch apple core in the freshly dug soil or by surreptitiously spreading seeds along a new ditchbank.

Guerrilla gardening continues today, as individuals secretly plant fruit trees, edible perennials, and flowers in parks, along bike trails, etc. Some guerrilla gardeners do so for the purpose of providing food. For example, the Tacamiche banana plantation workers in Honduras illegally grew vegetables on the abandoned plantation land, rather than leave with the plantation's closure in 1995.

Seattle, Washington

In 2009, as a collaboration between World Naked Bike Ride Seattle, Body Freedom Collaborative, and World Naked Gardening Day, permaculturists Kelda Lorax and Jacob Gabriel launched Gardens Everywhere Bike Parade, a permaculture-themed clothing-optional bike ride that spontaneously showed up at neighborhood gardening locations.


"Garden in a night" (Denmark)

In 1996, Have på en nat ("Garden in a night") was made by the Danish Økologiske Igangsættere ("Organic starters"). An empty piece of land in the middle of the city at Guldbergsgade in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, Denmark, was transformed into a garden in a single night. About 1,000 people took part in the project.[18] (UK)[19] was created in October 2004 by Richard Reynolds as a blog of his solo guerrilla gardening outside Perronet House, a council block in London's Elephant and Castle district. At the time, his motivations were simply those of a frustrated gardener looking to beautify the neighborhood, but his website attracted the interest of fellow guerrilla gardeners in London and beyond, as well as the world's media. Reynolds's guerrilla gardening has now reached many pockets of South London, and news of his activity has inspired people around the world to get involved. He also works alongside other troops, some local and some who travel to participate. He has also guerrilla-gardened in Libya, Berlin and Montreal.

Today, is still his blog but also includes tips, links and thriving community[20] boards where guerrilla gardeners from around the world are finding supportive locals. His book, On Guerrilla Gardening,[21] which describes and discusses activity in 30 different countries, was published by Bloomsbury Publishing in the UK and USA in May 2008, in Germany in 2009, France in 2010 and South Korea in 2012. He regularly speaks on the subject to audiences and in 2010 launched a campaign focusing specifically on pavements as an opportunity, to 'plant life in your street'.[22]

Leaf Street Community Garden (Manchester)

Leaf Street is an acre of land in Hulme, Manchester, England, that was once an urban street until turfed over by Manchester City Council. Local people, facilitated by Manchester Permaculture Group, took direct action in turning the site into a thriving community garden.[23]

Kew Bridge Eco Village, London, England

In July 2009, land rights activists moved on to a derelict piece of land near Kew Gardens in West London. Kew Bridge Eco Village was a small community of squatters who grew vegetables and built basic wooden dwellings on the land.


Guerrilla gardening is prominent in Melbourne where most of the inner northern suburbs have community vegetable gardens; land adjoining rail lines has undergone regeneration of the native vegetation, including nature strips. There are a few minor disputes between guerrilla gardeners in Melbourne, with most falling into one of two groups: those concerned most with native planting and those concerned most with communal food growing. However, people with differing opinions still work together without dispute.[24]

There are small community groups around Australia called "Permablitz" who gather regularly to design and construct suburban vegetable gardens for free, in an effort to educate residents on how to grow their own food and better prepare them if/when food prices become too expensive.

Australian Network 10's show Guerrilla Gardeners featured a team of gardeners who make over areas of council owned property without them knowing.

New Zealand

Vacant Lot Of Cabbages (1978)

In 1978 in downtown Wellington New Zealand artist Barry Thomas, in collaboration with Chris Lipscombe, Hugh Walton and others, planted 180 cabbages "on the demolished Duke of Edinburgh/Roxy Theatre site in the centre of Wellington. This cabbage patch, planted in such a way as to spell the word CABBAGE immediately captured the imagination of both the media and the public and engendered a flurry of other activities on the site, culminating in a week-long festival... when the cabbages were ceremonially harvested." [25] While a work of conceptual sculpture, this intervention is also an early example of guerrilla gardening in New Zealand. Thomas' work remained for six months, "astonishingly unvandalised, as a living, breathing sculpture in the heart of the city." [26] Christina Barton writes that in the months that followed, "it captured the hearts and minds of Wellingtonians, who followed the growth of the cabbages, adding their own embellishments to the site, and contributed to the week of festivities (with poetry readings, performances, and the distribution of free coleslaw) that celebrated their harvest", describing the work as "a provocation to the local council and the city's developers".[27] Thomas' documentation of the project was recently purchased by New Zealand's national gallery Te Papa, who described the work as an "important moment in New Zealand’s art and social history" with links to the "Occupy movement, urban farming and guerrilla gardening".[28]


South Korea

Guerrilla gardening has lately been started in South Korea. An Acting of Korea's Guerrilla gardeners is carried out by individual, volunteer group and Internet community. Richard Reynolds have visited to South Korea in August 2012 and spoked to many Korean audience about Guerrilla gardening in TEDxItaewon.


Africa South AfricaBold text The origins of The Dutch East India Company’s Garden in Cape Town are set against the dramatic background of ‘The Voyages of Discovery’ in the late 15th century. The sole purpose of these voyages of exploration was the search for a sea-route around Africa to access the fabulous wealth to be gained from the Spice Trade. Thus it was plants such as pepper, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg that played a fundamental role in the connection of Western Europe, Asia and Africa, with all the subsequent far-reaching consequences for these continents.

With the discovery of the ‘trade-winds’ that allowed ships to sail from ‘The Cape of Good Hope’ directly across the Indian Ocean to Asia came also the associated problem of provisioning ships for this arduous voyage. It was the ‘Company’s Garden’ at the half-way point on the sea route from Europe to the Spice Islands which sustained the spice trade with fresh water from Table Mountain and, through it’s production of fruit and vegetables, prevented the ravages of scurvy, thereby enabling sailing ships to embark on this voyage across the Indian Ocean.Cape Town's first garden Welcome to the Oranjezicht City Farm

The Oranjezicht City Farm (OZCF) is a non-profit project celebrating local food, culture and community through urban farming in Cape Town. It is located next to the corner of Sidmouth Avenue and Upper Orange Street, Oranjezicht, adjacent to Homestead Park. Learn all about the history of the site of the farm here. Oranjezicht City Farm

This form of activism is a growing trend in the developing world. More specifically stated South Africa. The two major contributing factors are: Large tracts of land owned by the ANC led government' . This arable land is often under utilized and overgrown by alien vegetation. More significantly a stagnant global economy and rising inflation has forced many households to become urban farmers. Furthermore, given South Africa's apartheid past 'Inclusive Guerrilla Gardening' is the process of including presently marginalized individuals. In the case of a small suburb in Cape Town called Map, near Simon town. Guerilla gardening has become a bridge building communal activity intended to unite diverse people. These types include : working class coloured people, older white middle class people and their gardeners, skateboarders, pre preschoolers other local residents . We make a point of being intentionally inclusive. The eventual harvest is one which fills the hungry tummy and celebrates our rainbow people, cultures and collective commitment to racial harmony and our blog

Toxicity risks

There are some health risks to foraging or planting edible plants near toxic waste sites and roads with heavy traffic due to chemical runoff that gets absorbed by the roots. Toxic plants tend to grow on toxic land. Scientists have learned that certain types of plants absorb toxins from the soil without dying and can thus be used as a mechanism to reduce chemical ground pollution. Guerrilla gardening could be used as a way to take independent action to clean up one's community, but eating a toxin-absorbent plant will deposit those toxins in the body.

Urban foragers face similar health risks in this manner. Care should be taken to not eat plants that grow in areas where there is known chemical contamination or water pollution. Plants that grow on the side of high-traffic roads should also not be eaten because of automobile fluid runoff.

See also



  1. ^ Lamborn, P., and Weinberg, B. (Eds.), (1999), Avant Gardening: Ecological Struggle in The City and The World. Autonomedia. ISBN 1-57027-092-9
  2. ^ Reynolds, R. (2008), On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook For Gardening Without Boundaries. Bloomsbury ISBN 978-0-7475-9297-6
  3. ^ "Index". Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  4. ^ 'On the verge of a revolution'', Sydney Morning Herald, 20 February 2008"'". Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  5. ^ "International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day". Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  6. ^ "Brussels Farmer: avril 2007". 2004-02-23. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  7. ^ "GGTV International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day Video Tutorial". YouTube. 2010-04-20. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "A/N Blog . Video> Exhibition Recalls NY′s Lost Garden of Eden". 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  10. ^ Karin Westdyk. """The Garden of Eden: An Environmental "Radical Transformation. Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  11. ^ McKinley, Jesse (22 February 1998). "Adam Purple's Last Stand". The New York Times. 
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ "The Commonstudio: Greenaid"
  14. ^ by . "Greenaid". "Kickstarter. Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  15. ^ Marty Kassowitz (2010-11-14). "GreenAid’s Guerrilla Gumball-Machine Gardening - Organic Connections". Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  16. ^ "The veggie king of South Central", Los Angeles Register, May 13, 2014 
  17. ^ "Food is MAD", Food Programme (BBC), 21 Sep 2014 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "The Guerrilla Gardening Home Page". Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  20. ^ "Community". Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  21. ^ "On Guerrilla Gardening". On Guerrilla Gardening. Retrieved 2013-06-12. 
  22. ^ Pimp Your Pavement
  23. ^ [2]
  24. ^ The Age, Article "Gardening guerrilla's in our midst", 10/12/08.
  25. ^ "The Artists' Co-op: Barry Thomas; Eva Yuen; Ian Hunter; Ross Boyd; Terry Handscombe; Robin White". Art New Zealand (Winter, 1978). 
  26. ^ Neil Rowe. "The Artists' Co-op: Barry Thomas; Eva Yuen; Ian Hunter; Ross Boyd; Terry Handscombe; Robin White". Art New Zealand (Winter, 1978). 
  27. ^ Jenny Harper & Aaron Lister (ed.). Wellington: A City For Sculpture. Victoria University Press, 2007. 
  28. ^ Sarah Farrar. "‘Vacant lot of cabbages’ documentation enters Te Papa’s archives". Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand. 
  29. ^ TEDx Talks. "Guerrilla gardening -- why people garden without boundaries: Richard Reynolds at TEDxItaewon". Youtube. 

External links

  • The global forum for guerrilla gardeners
  • Multilingual Guerrilla Gardening Site
  • Police vs guerrilla gardeners The Guardian filmed guerrilla gardeners in London encounter the police.
  • Allotmenteering Reflections on Guerrilla Gardening and Allotmenteering
  • Moss Graffiti How to make moss graffiti
  • Domestic Seed Bomb production Richard Reynolds demonstrates the Californian method of seed bomb making.
  • Interview with the author of Urban Homestead- Erik Knutzen discusses guerrilla gardening and other collective action.
  • Saving the World with Che, Mao, and Carrots - Review of On Guerrilla Gardening by Richard Reynolds for The Atlantic
  • Start-Guerrilla-Gardening - Step-by-step guide
  • Aktionsgruppe Moos - Guerrilla Gardeners from Vienna, Austria
  • 게릴라가드닝 The community for guerrilla gardeners in Korea
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