Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla gardening is where you can plant it. Imagination is your only limit.

Flat rooftops are idea places for a guerrilla garden. But then again, when the landlord like it because it saves on heating and cooling, your garden will be a hit.
Flat rooftops are idea places for a guerrilla garden. But then again, when the landlord like it because it saves on heating and cooling, your garden will be a hit.
Who would ever have thought that that old rag box would turn into a planter for flowers of veggies?
Who would ever have thought that that old rag box would turn into a planter for flowers of veggies?
Abandoned concrete forms make excellent large scale planters and raised bed gardens all at once.
Abandoned concrete forms make excellent large scale planters and raised bed gardens all at once.
Here are some people who are engaged in a collective guerrilla gardening project.
Here are some people who are engaged in a collective guerrilla gardening project.
Here are some before and after pictures of the result of a beautifying guerrilla gardening project.
Here are some before and after pictures of the result of a beautifying guerrilla gardening project.
This intrepid fellow has beautified a traffic flow control divider in an intersection.
This intrepid fellow has beautified a traffic flow control divider in an intersection.
One advantage of container planting is that you can move the entire plant if you are forced to. This implies some kind of back up plan.
One advantage of container planting is that you can move the entire plant if you are forced to. This implies some kind of back up plan.
Mulching is an excellent way to control weeds and to conserve water.
Mulching is an excellent way to control weeds and to conserve water.

Don't let the lack of a yard in your fifth floor flat deter you from gardening.

Be one among the few, the proud, the green. Don your balaclava and camouflage, grab your spade, pitch fork, trowels, seeds, fertilizer (organic of course) and head to your nearest unused patch of city land or rooftop and start growing your vegetables, berries, fruit, seeds and flowers. Take back your right to grow your own food. With all the shenanigans, lies and trickery these days over food production and what’s really in it, you need to take control. Either grow your own and/or harvest from the wild. I’ve heard, and no doubt, you have too, the USFDA is laying down plans in collaboration with big corporations to control and regulate all seeds. This means that if you grow and harvest your own organic seeds, you may be in contravention to some US inspired international laws. Thus you become a guerrilla, possibly even a terrorist under strange sections of the Homeland Securities Act or other obscure law.

The information available gives us to understand from local media that there are only 255 guerrilla gardeners in Vancouver, BC. It is hard to say how many there are in other cities and regions. That is something that you will have to determine on your own and link with like minded people. There should be far more guerrilla gardening for the sake of your own health and security of knowledge, should the worst occur. Always plant more than you need, simply because there are those who will take items without doing a breath of work. Alternately, plant items people are not aware off, that require too much work to prepare or spread out in such a fashion as to look like a patch of random weeds.

Doing guerrilla gardening takes some initial know how. This is what is hoped by many that will occur on a shared knowledge basis as we contribute our experiences and insights. There are many situations and problems that you will encounter and have to address, like watering, feeding, composting, what grows best and when and where. There are easy ways and there are harder routes. Consider the time that will be required in order to grow and care for a guerrilla garden. Someone working full time may find it difficult to pay the attention required for such activity. Then again, if you are not working, but have no where to grow, this may be essential. The need to do list looks something like this:

  • Know where to get cheap or free seeds

  • Know your plants from seedling to harvest

  • Know companion planting

  • Know the annual from biannual and long life plants and shrubs

  • Know the area that you are planting and the peculiarities involved

  • Know when to plant

  • Know where to get water

  • Know how to naturally control weeds and pests

  • Know which plants like heat, which don’t, which tolerate shade and those that don't and those that can “winter over”

At the end of the planting season every year, usually starting in mid July for most annual plants, seeds that no one bought for the season will be slashed to clear the shelves in any store that sells them. This is a good time to get seeds on the cheap for next year. Keep them in a cool dry place and most of them will still be viable in the next planting season. If you know your plants as mature seed laden individuals, you may be able to harvest seeds yourself on a found basis for only the effort of the harvesting. You would be surprised at how many plants are left to go to seed. Just be sure that you are not infringing on someone else and where there is doubt; ask. Usually people will be co-operative especially of you offer to remove dead or dying material for composting. Most people appreciate volunteer garden help. Do you like and eat squash? Save the seeds; even from the Jack-O-Lantern and dry them for the next season. If you like green or red-hot peppers, do the same! There are many opportunities to get seeds readily. Just recall, with all the GMOs and strange stuff going on out there, organic sources and wild are the best.

The second prerequisite is that you know your plants from first sprouted seedling to mature seed bearing adult. This is so that you don't pull the babies up with noxious weeds when you tend your guerrilla garden. This can only come with experience and experience comes with ongoing close contact with the garden. You will also need to know which plants need a lot of space, what likes a lot of sun and what will tolerate shade. Any squash needs a lot of space, a maximum growing season and plenty of sun. Tomatoes like sun, can grow in a confined space, but are heavy drinkers and feeders. Spinach,tradishes and bok choy need cooler weather or they will bolt and produce little useable substance to eat. If you want seed only, then let them bolt.

Companion planting is also known as biodiversity and is the new buzz in gardening that is better than organic. Companion planting is the opposite of monoculture. Here plants are mixed, like onions with carrots. Each have problems with parasites on their own in monoculture fields, but planted together, they discourage the parasites of each other. There are many options for companion planting and this can be easily gleaned from literature available from the library. Companion planting mimics biodiversity and done right can create a scene like a field of weeds that most will ignore.

Plants like people, have different life cycles. Some are fast, single season individuals and others are slow, taking a year or even fifteen to mature to the point of use. Annual plants that seed before the first frost are ones like peas, radish, spinach, bok choy and the like. Bi-annuals are plants like carrots, the collards, celery and the like. They do not produce seeds in the first year, but winter over and produce seeds in the second year. Per-annuals are plants like blueberries, strawberries, nuts, raspberries, grapes and the like.

Growing areas are anything that is vacant from flat top roofs, to containers, to railway siding, to waste lands, enclosed and fenced properties, community gardens (becoming more popular due to us guerrilla gardeners) and park lands (city variety). If you are guerrilla gardening, you want to be close to the action. Avoid growing those plants like marijuana as this will cause nothing but trouble! You will have enough trouble with legitimate veggies and flowers. Each region that may be available has its own peculiarities. Rooftops get hot on those blistering summer days, so aim to have maximum plant cover. This allows the plants to moderate the climate among themselves. Containers are fine if you have a sunny area. You will need a large tub like one for a single zucchini or squash plant. You will also have to water frequently. Many rail sidings are becoming popular gardening areas, especially along the abandoned lines, where there is little interference from anyone. The region near the tracks is likely a concentrated bed of pebbles, but some plants thrive in such conditions. Amaranth can grow in waste regions and rail sidings where many other plants have a tough time. So does hemp, but we have touched on that no-no. A wild edible that does grow naturally, is an item called lamb's quarters. These are good raw or cooked and you'll need a good wild edibles reference to get to know the wild edibles. It is mentioned as this plant will likely be found near rail sidings and on waste land with rocks and broken brick.

Every city has fenced properties that are otherwise empty. These may or may not be paved. You'll be looking for the non paved variety that is likely over run with a thick mat of weeds. If you chose to garden in such an area, you have your work cut out. Cut down and dry the weeds for mulch, provided they have not set seed. In these areas, it's probably a good idea to have seedlings already started as they will have a head start on competing weeds. Otherwise, you might consider planting seed potatoes as these will grow rapidly and dominate, even in the presence of weeds. You may consider getting the property manager's permission to grow as this will cut down on problems. If you can't find an owner, then there's a good chance they won't catch on to you. Alternately, you may plant the odd item in park gardens. Be aware that these are often closely monitored and changed frequently for flowering plants. Therefore chose something fast maturing like radishes and spinach. Finally, there is the ever increasing in popularity community garden where you may find space and a plenitude of fellow gardeners who are always ready to give good tips and even some spare seeds and cuttings.

Depending on where you live, the growing season starts at different times of the year. The rule of thumb is that the further north you go, the later the start of the growing season and the higher you go in elevation, the later the start of the growing season. Seeds have been selectively bred for each region, so you should be able to grow most anything unless you live over permafrost. If you are using store bought seeds, follow the planting time directions on the package.

Water can be a problem, unless you are very close to your garden and/or you live in or near a rain belt. For about 90 percent of the time, you will have to water at one time or another. Water is more crucial during the heat and for young plants. You may be able to run in a hose with some sort of irrigation system or have a set up to collect rain water against lean times. Mulching the garden with hay or dried leaves helps the soil retain water so you won't have to lug it in. These are just a few ideas, especially helpful for those heavy drinkers in the plant kingdom.

Natural weed control is best. Hemp used to be employed just for that purpose, but very few people have that right. The next best choice, especially if you have advanced prep time, is to heavily mulch the garden plot so weed seedlings can't get a foothold. Continue mulching during the growing season to control weeds. Pests have their enemies, and if you have aphids, get ladybugs as they love eating aphids. As for slugs, a dish of stale beer is enough to drown most of them.

Some plants love the heat and direct sun. Among them are the squash plants and tomatoes. Others like to be cool like potatoes, celery, spinach and bok choy. Plants that will tolerate some shade are blueberries and strawberries. Pretty well all biannuals will winter over. These plants include cabbage, celery, Brussels-sprouts, cauliflower and collards. If the flower heads are picked off, they will winter over and produce another flower in the next year.

When guerrilla gardening, there is always a risk, but then again, that is true for agricultural pursuits in the main, so at least you'll be no stranger to failure should it occur for a variety of reasons. Don't let limitations stop you from growing!

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Comments 2 comments

JosephRanseth profile image

JosephRanseth 6 years ago

This is an awesome hub... there is so much information, thank you!

I love all the pictures. The only suggestion I would make is to break up your content with more headlines or images to make it easier to read. (Only because of the sheer volume of information)

Keep up the great work!


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 6 years ago from Vancouver, Canada Author

Good suggestion. I'm still very much on a learning curve here. There's hardly a week that doesn't go by without learning a new trick that I then incorporate in a new hub.

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