Friday, November 9, 2012

Guerrilla Gardening

So, as I said in the last post, I'm realizing I'd like to work in a nursery or something, to have my hands in the dirt; merely designing landscapes or whatever isn't enough. But in the meantime, this past weekend I struck out into the world of guerrilla gardening. I've started planting trees. Trees are some of my favorite plants, because they often have that freedom thing going. Aside from some of the lower branches, they tend to grow as they will. They are impossible to ignore, towering over you. They are in themselves wildlife habitat. And, they live a long time, so planting them is a lasting effort. I could see myself becoming an arborist, a tree planter of some kind, maybe even a forester, but from a conservation angle. 

So, guerrilla gardening. I've been collecting acorns from the live oaks in the yard, and planted over 130 last weekend while house and dogsitting for my parents, mostly in a wildlife management area and in a bit of neglected, undeveloped land. I have also been planting willow cuttings. Willows are amazing because you can cut any old branch, stick it in some damp ground, and you'll get a tree from it. Their bark has loads of rooting hormone in it, and you can make "willow tea," and with it get cuttings of anything other tree to root and grow themselves.

For starters, let's just say that, though still young, I'm well on my way to being that weird, "eccentric" old gentleman stereotype (as much as you can stereotype eccentricity). I went out one afternoon to a drainage ditch by that neglected bit of land, where a few willows grew (specifically, native Coastal Plain Willows). Cut over 30 branches. I had to walk a half-mile back to the house, and watched as passing motorists slowed down to bend their necks at the weird guy with a huge bundle of leafy branches walking down the road, with more sticking up out of his backpack. I looked ridiculous. 

Later that night I made my stealthy way, dressed in black, out toward the park area in the middle of this partially developed subdivision, where there is a man-made pond. See, one thing I hate about southwest Florida is the lack of trees. It's all so newly developed here. Everything that isn't still pine forest looks bald and naked, literally scalped, and the houses just sit there, starkly dominating the scene. Horrible. So I'm working on remedying that. Also, I hate that a park has so few trees, and that this pond has no shoreline vegetation conducive to wildlife. The whole shoreline is just lawn and weeds growing a bit unruly beyond the reach of mowers. No reeds or cattails, even, which I find strange. May have to remedy that as well... 

But for the moment, I just started setting the willow branches. I put about 20 there at the pond, in select locations; another 8 or so along the ditch draining it, and the remaining 10 or so in another smaller pond that forms part of the ditch system. I figure they have a great shot at growing, given that the soil was all quite damp; and as we're heading into the dry season, if it's damp now, they'll be fine the rest of the year. 

So, this isn't quite "traditional" guerrilla gardening, which is to beautify neglected areas, especially in urban zones, or to plant food crops in the same sorts of places. Well, I think the delicate willow branches growing up there in the sun-baked park will help a lot, shading the waters a bit, sheltering frogs and minnows and birds, waving gently in the wind. That's beautiful in my book. 

I keep true to the guerrilla aspect by not asking permission, and plan to put in more trees when the time is right, probably oaks and pines. May make some seed bombs as well, though since the grass is mowed regularly it might be wasted there. I have wider plans for the trees I'm growing (I have a ton of acorns started in pots here at the house, as well as some found-seedlings). There are many places I'd like to plant acorns, but with the mowers, it is necessary to have an actual tree to put in, with stakes for a warning, or any seedling coming up will be mindlessly destroyed. 

And of course I'm still working on aligning my life in better accord with my new understanding. For now, this is a mere hobby, but eventually I know I've got to make a living this way. I just had to get started right away, in some manner, because who wants to wait, once they've figured out what they're supposed to be doing? 

(A note on seed bombs, for any who are interested: in sunny, drier climates, such as Florida in the dry season, or in the Southwest US, I hear that seed bombs made with clay may bake solid. Because unless it rains a good bit, to soften the clay, it will sit there in the sun, basically firing itself almost into a ceramic, and therefore becomes useless. I read that instead one can use a recipe of seeds, compost, and a bit of egg whites as a binder. These will come apart better when the rains do come.)


  1. If people everywhere did what you are doing (provided it was with appropriate native plants of course) then in a single generation we could reforest the continent and go a long ways towards making things right. Probably save the planet too.

    1. Right on man. Obviously trees aren't the only solution, but, at least in forest biomes, they're kind of keystone species (duh). It'd be a huge step, and solve a lot of problems. Kind of like the Greenbelt movement in Kenya. I'm sure Haiti could benefit too, if they have any soil left for it.

  2. It could be great to localize your guerilla on! I'm launching this network to promote green initiatives in cities. If you want a private access, just ask me!


  3. Keep on keeping on man. It's a righteous cause worthy of your efforts.

    I used to do some guerrilla gardening of my own, but in my case I was planting seeds in front of police stations and other government buildings.

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