Has your creativity ever provided a vision of what that empty space could look like? That sad disturbed piece of land, sandwiched between two buildings, perhaps without much sun at all. Or the expansive weedy terrain marked by a lonesome ‘for sale’ sign by a corporation that probably has countless other properties just like it… what are we to do with spaces like these, where it seems certain years shall pass until the breath of life is present once more?
Empty spaces are everywhere: skytrain stations, lawns, corporate vacant lots, neglected hedges rampant with stubborn blackberry bushes (Rubus armeniacus). There are those who keep tabs on these areas.. and occasionally blog about it too!
What if these spaces were productive food-bearing landscapes instead?
How many people could it feed?
What could we do to build healthy soil, that would require minimum human input?
These are the questions that face me day after day, but with minimally cohesive answers and no clear route of action. If only there were some way to gather people in a specific area for an intended purpose, a way to host a work party..
Oh wait! There is!
*I will be updating this post closer to spring when I am able gather a team and get involved in various seasonal projects once more. It is then I will have a link that is open to the public to join the proposed project. For now I have started a conversation in the forum and pitched the idea to a few interested friends.
What is Guerrilla Gardening anyway?
Filmed in February 2013 was a game-changing TED talk by self-styled guerrilla gardener Ron Finley:
This is now a global concept, and part of a growing food movement. I first came across this a few years ago upon moving to Vancouver. From my frequent meandering through the city, I noticed small urban farms popping up, people with green roofs and gardens, and strips of land in the street being transformed and `greened up`. In my city there is an initiative by local government to become the Greenest City by 2020. There are self-organized hubs dedicated to this action, such as this website based out of London. But the movement is spreading globally and now with a bit of searching and some courage, anyone can find a meetup group of folks doing this slightly mischievous act and greening their city from the ground up!
So how is this beautifully defiant act achieved?
1. Find a plot of land with a water source nearby (not a big deal in Vancouver where we have nearly 200 days of precipitation on average)
2. Take stock of the soil composition. Remove trash, weeds and debris. Some areas may have contamination issues, in which a raised bed, containers or non-edible plants can be incorporated.
3. Figure out which plants to use. Find hardy perennial species when possible, and use native plants.
4. Arrange a day to make it happen! Organize labour, tools, seeds/seedlings etc.
5. Gather materials. Make sure to bring water to establish the plants. Bring signage to let passers-by what’s growing, and not to step on delicate seedlings.
6. Get growing! Clear the land, prepare the soil, plant/water, and clean up. Voila!
7. Return to the site and check how things are going. If you have planted edibles, there will be things to harvest. Using native flowering plants that attract pollinators will cut down on labour.
8. Spread the word around the community and encourage others to help on that site or start their own.
All one must do is have some locally productive seeds and some willpower to go against the grain (and minor laws on occasion). Of course if this is a larger abandoned lot and there are owners, it is best to contact to get permission first. It’s ridiculous, but in some municipalities it is illegal to garden… now that’s a concept to wrap your head around!