Richard Reynolds, the author of 'On Guerilla Gardening' will be at Reading Central Library on Saturday 18th April to talk about his experience of improving public spaces and the history of gardening outside the law.
Saturday 18th April 3 - 4 pm Tickets £2
Information and tickets from Reading Central Library, 0118 901 5950
http://www.guerrillagardening.org/ has some tips, a basic twelve step guide.
1. Spot some local orphaned land.
You will be amazed how many little grubby patches of unloved public space there are. Neglected flower beds, concrete planters sprouting litter and untamed plants, bare plots of mud. Chose one close to home, perhaps you pass it on the way to the shops or work, and appoint yourself it's parent. This will make it much easier to look after in the long term and reduce the risk of straying into a dangerous neighbourhood.
2. Plan a mission.
Make a date in the diary for an evening attack, when trouble-making busy bodies are out of sight. Invite supportive friends, or perhaps enrole supportive strangers by announcing your attack in the Guerrilla Gardening Community here.
3. Find a local supply of plants.
The cheaper the better. For city dwellers think local DIY stores, supermarkets and whole salers. The cheapest plants are ones that are free. Sometimes garden centres will have spare plants to give you for the cause. Or befriend someone with a garden (you might even be lucky and have a garden yourself). Think of these private spaces as the training camps for harvesting seeds, cuttings and plants hardened for their big adventure in the wilds of public space. If you have things going spare please leave a message in the Community forum for guerrillas near to where you live.
4. Choose plants for front line battle.
Think hardy - resistant to water shortages and the cold, and in some locations pedestrian trampling! These plants need to look after themselves a lot of the time. Think impactful - colour, ever green foliage, scale. These plants need to really make a difference, for as much of the year as possible. Visit the Community to get advice about specific plants for your part of the world, and to share your horticultural advice with the less experienced. In London I use a lot of herbs like Lavander and Thyme, tulip bulbs, shurbs.
5. Get some Wellington Shoes.
Whilst protecting your feet from mud and providing good purchase on a fork, these rubber shoes also don't look too obviously "agricultural" as the usual boot, and blend in well with the urban environment. I've even worn these clubbing. Andy wrapped his white trainers in carrier bags which worked very effectively, and enables a very convincing clean-footed get-away should you want to whip them off quickly.
6. Bag some bags.
Plastic bags, bin liners (not only can they keep your feet clean), but they are essential for clearing up the detritus of war. Weeds, litter, flower pots, and pebbles need to be carried away. For gentle work recuse wind blown carrier bags or for more serious gardening reuse compost bags or giant sacks from builder's merchants. The thick plastic does not rip and you can lug a great deal in them to a nearby bin.
7. Regular Watering. One of the responsibilities of a Guerrilla Gardener is ongoing tendering. Water is short in many parts of the world, even drissly old London. The Guerrilla Gardener must usually carry water (though I know of New York guerrillas who have keys to road side hydrants!) I have used petrol cannisters, they are the perfect water-tight, efficiently-packed portable transportation. But it has caused passers-by to ask if I am a nocturnal arsonist. Julie came up with the genius idea of using old water dispenser bottles.
8. Seed bombs.
For gardening those areas where access is difficult or a long dig is unsuitable, use a seed bombs - seeds and soil wrapped in an explosive capsule or moulded together. The 1970s New York green guerrillas bizarrly recommended using polluting plastic and glass containers but these days guerrillas just mould soil, clay and seeds together or have been known to make delicate bombs by sucking out chicken eggs and filling them with seeds and soil.
9. Chemical Warfare.
Boost your plants with natural chemicals. Some guerrillas are lucky to have space for compost heaps. Alex (1797) lives in a flat with no garden so has employed an efficient army of red worms to help him make his chemical weapons. In a box in the kitchen his Eisenia Fetida transform food into a rich vermicompost and worm juice fertiliser.
10. Garden with a girl
Having a girl on a dig (not only is as useful as the equivalent male troop) is a brilliant diversion should the cops pass by and get inqusitive. I encourage participants to take inspiration from the appropriately named Daisy Duke, who was masterful at diverting Boss Hogg from whatever Bo and Luke were up to. Then again, dressed like Daisy, the police might assume you were into floral bedding of a very different nature.
11. Spread the word
Let people know what you have done with a few flyers under doors near the guerrilla gardening war zone, a poster taped to a phone box or bus stop, a marker in the soil. Engage passers by in conversation, perhaps even bring a few spare tools. And welcome local media (particularly if they'll help towards the cost of your gardening, which many do).
If you are not guerrilla gardening within walking distance from your home (the ideal) you will need some transportation. My solution has been capacious two seaters. Convertibles with big wide flat boots enable both trees and large trays of plants to be easily transported. The one pictured is an old Volkswagen Porsche 914 with a wipe clean vinyl interior. Andrew (1679) gets all over the place on a bicycle, with plants strapped to his back (even a Washingtonia palm).
13. Buy the book
Through building this website I have met and talked with guerrilla gardeners around the world. Some publishers encouraged me to write a book and I lept at the chance to put it all together in a beautiful handbook and find out more about why, what and how people were fighting for and against. It's not a manifesto, it's a collection of different approaches, tales and tips, history and horticulture, and although you'll learn my favourites it also raises questions about society today. I hope you find it inspiring, useful and entertaining.