December is not the month one would usually associate with gardening, especially if you live in the centre of a city. There are people, however, who work all year round without pay, illegally, to keep our cities and green spaces looking beautiful. I am talking about Guerrilla Gardeners: groups of civilians who are fed up with abandoned and ugly public space so take it into their own hands to do something about it.
Guerrilla gardening happens all over the world for all sorts of reasons … people who have a lack of space to grow their own food, people who are sick of looking at derelict and uncared for space and people who just want to make the world a little nicer. The movement started in New York in the 1970s, with Liz Christie and her Green Guerrilla group transforming an abandoned private space into a public garden. They eventually got permission to do so legally and the garden is still cared for by volunteers today.
A more recent example of mass guerrilla action was during the 2000 May Day in Parliament Square, organised by Reclaim The Streets, a collective with a shared goal of community ownership of public space. Thousands of people planted vegetables and flowers and hung banners reading “Let London Sprout” and other slogans. Whilst this kind of action is full of impact, it’s also pretty counterproductive as it’s only going to infuriate authorities, instead of spreading the message of peace and beauty.
Guerrilla gardening doesn’t even have to be a large scale garden like the Green Guerrilla’s of the 1970s; an unkempt verge, the space outside your apartment, tree pits: all of these are excellent examples of small spaces for the individual guerrilla. All you really need is a pair of gardening gloves, a small gardening fork (these can be picked up second hand really cheap) and some seeds. It’s important to make sure that the seeds aren’t going to mess up the ecology of their surroundings, so find out what plants are native. Also, if you want to grow food, you’ll have to find out if the soil is suitable.
We’re living in a time where people are becoming increasingly unhappy with the people in charge, and with the way in which things are run. Sometimes we can feel helpless when all we want to do is make the world a little bit nicer to live in. Planting beautiful flowers and useful food is one way to do so. To quote the motto for Guerrilla gardeners everywhere, “let’s fight the filth with forks and flowers.”