Guerilla Gardening

Guerilla Gardening
    Imagine if you woke up one morning and found someone had dug up a little-used section of your garden and planted a row of turnips. The chances are you wouldn't be best pleased about it.

But consider driving past what was the ugly, disused land lying neglected in your local area and finding it had been transformed into a beautiful flowerbed – or a vegetable patch for the local community. That's much better, you might think.

A movement known as 'guerilla gardening' does just that – cultivating land that is not currently being used in order to beautify the environment or use it for producing food.

Guerilla gardeners turn up unannounced to undertake their projects, and some carry out their activities under the cover of darkness – because the problem is, they are often illegal.

These guerillas don't take their inspiration from Che Guevara, however – instead their activities echo older traditions of political activism.

The Telegraph points out that their methods hearken back to the traditions of the Diggers, a radical agrarian socialist group which fought for the right to cultivate land during the 17th century.

Later, in the 1990s, folk songwriter Maggie Holland saw community land cultivation as a distinctly English phenomenon. 

"Down behind the terraced houses, in between the concrete towers, / Compost heaps and scarlet runners, secret gardens full of flowers," she sang, referencing an English tradition that could counter some of the damaging forces of modernity

In fact, many contemporary guerilla gardeners come from the middle classes and are frustrated by the conditions in their local communities.

Richard Reynolds is one guerilla gardener who has set up a website, guerillagardening.org, devoted to the practice.

His Twitter page provides updates on his latest activities, and his blog on the guerillagardening.org website gives details of his "illicit cultivation around London".

He has written a 12-step guide to the practice and has published a book, On Guerilla Gardening, chronicling the history of the movement and featuring pictures, tales and hints and tips for the reader.

Another group, Incedible Edible, has been busy transforming the Yorkshire town of Todmorden. While some of its earlier activities were carried out without permission of the local authorities, it is now keen to eschew the 'guerilla' label, the Independent reports

The group says it works with public bodies to put their land to better use and has teamed up with schools in the area to promote local food initiatives.

It says this "will provide [people] with the skills and knowledge they need to live a healthy happy and sustainable future". 

Whatever you might think about guerilla gardening, it certainly raises some interesting questions. If something is illegal, is it thereby immoral? Advocates of guerilla gardening would probably argue not – they would say they are using disused land to provide a useful service.

If you're a landowner with plans to build on a site or use it for other purposes, and you suddenly find there's a vegetable patch being cultivated on your land, you'd probably beg to differ, however.

Guerilla gardening: a way of turning neighbourhoods into a blooming paradise – or a blooming nuisance? What do you think?

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