Saturday, April 9, 2011

Home-style Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla gardening refers to planting flowers or vegetables on land that is not your own. Often the land is abandoned or is a bare patch that belongs to the city. Guerrilla gardeners do these plantings for many reasons including making a green political statement (Food Not Lawns!), beautifying empty or brown spaces, and growing food for themselves and others. The practice takes its name because the plantings are often done in a secret, “guerrilla style” manner due to the fact that it is occurring on land that is not theirs. While I do not belong to a para-horticultural organization, I have done a little bit of guerrilla gardening on my own property. I will describe one such covert action that occurred when my better half went shopping.

My mission was to turn my side yard, which resembled a sparse, barren, steppe-like grassland, into a life-sustaining, food producing patch of goodness (see Potato Patch Pictorial below). I only had a couple of hours to perform the operation, so I had to move fast. I quickly overturned the sod in a semi-oval perimeter around the four clumps of zebra grass. I then worked inwards turning the grass over. Yes, I know, permaculturalists always preach against digging in preference to creating no-dig mulch gardens. However, I am not against doing a quick dig, as it can give both the plants and the soil forming process a head start. It is also handy to turn the grass over if you happen to be a little short of mulch, which is often the case. The next step was to empty a few bags of leaves onto the freshly turned earth. I always try to save my leaves just in case I get the hankering to make a new garden patch. I also added a little bit of peat moss to the soil. Please note that I try not to use peat moss because its use results in the destruction of wetlands. Potatoes were then placed in rows on top of the leaves and soil. Finally, I covered the whole patch with wood chips. You can get free wood chips from your handy dandy local tree cutter. They are usually more than happy to dump a load of chipped trees on your driveway or yard, as it means one less trip to the city recycling centre or wherever they have to bring it.

The whole operation only took about two hours or so. The best part was when my spouse came home and complimented me on my work. She liked the empty, Zen-like aesthetics of the grass coming up through the wood chips. The best part was when she said, “you aren't going to plant anything in it, are you?” You would think that she would know me better by now...

Potato Patch Pictorial

The side yard. So unproductive. So barren.

Digging around the zebra grass.

'Taters ready to be covered with wood chips.

The finished product with potato plants coming up.

Bigger potato plants!

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