Guerrillas in Our Midst: The Rise of Global Guerrilla Gardening


All over the world a new breed of deviant do-gooders are taking back cities and growing them green. As a movement, the first use of the term guerrilla gardening came from a 1970s group founded by a woman named Liz Christy, who took a derelict patch of private land in the Bowery Houston area of New York City and transformed it into a living, breathing garden. Today, the area is still kept up by volunteers.

Now, all over the world, a movement of guerrilla gardeners are seeking out dead urban spaces and bringing them to life, most often without permission – hence the word, guerrilla. Some groups garden in secrecy, descending on an area by cover of darkness and working through the night. By dawn, the area is alive with carbon eating flora. Other guerrilla gardener groups organize large scale meet-ups for big projects all working to green their urban landscape. Interested potential gardeners should check out GuerrillaGardening, to see if a guerrilla gardening “cell” exists in your area. If not, there are tips for starting one and building a community around your efforts.

Guerrilla Gardeners like to share their work and examples of typical green takeovers can be found on the site as well. Some important things to consider when covertly sowing your seeds are the species of plants you’re introducing to the urban environment. Natives plants, and low water use foliage is the best bet because irrigation and upkeep is typically out of the question.

Another popular type of guerrilla gardening is called Seed Bombing where the guerrilla practitioner lobs seeds into areas that dangerous or impossible to access by foot, such as freeway underpasses and fenced-in empty space. Often, these seed bombs are packed into inert vessels like porcelain coffee cups or similar that break on impact and then take root.

More above ground, and with a little digging (pun intended), tourists can find organized tours of landscapes transformed in cities across the globe. As a traveling activity, I highly recommend it. Taking part in a gardening episode in a foreign place gives the traveler access to urban spaces not normally championed by tourist bureaus, which of course, is a magical adventure in the making.

Image: The Seed Grenade