Guerrilla gardening

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Guerrilla gardening on a Los Angeles street.

Guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening – raising food plants or flowers – on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to cultivate, such as abandoned sites, areas that are not being cared for, or private property. It encompasses a diverse range of people and motivations, ranging from gardeners who spill over their legal boundaries to gardeners with a political purpose, who seek to provoke change by using guerrilla gardening as a form of protest or direct action. This practice has implications for land rights and land reform; aiming to promote re-consideration of land ownership in order to assign a new purpose or reclaim land that is perceived to be in neglect or misused. Some gardeners work at night, in relative secrecy, in an effort to make the area more useful or attractive, while others garden during the day for publicity.


Guerrilla gardeners planting vegetables on previously empty space in downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Two of the earliest celebrated guerrilla gardeners were Gerrard Winstanley, of the Diggers in Surrey, England (1649), and John "Appleseed" Chapman in Ohio, USA (1801).

The earliest recorded use of the term[citation needed] guerrilla gardening was by Liz Christy and her Green Guerrilla group in 1973 in the Bowery Houston area of New York. They transformed a derelict private lot into a garden.[1] The space is still cared for by volunteers but now enjoys the protection of the city's parks department.

Guerrilla gardening takes place in many parts of the world—more than thirty countries are documented[2] and evidence can be found online in numerous guerrilla gardening social networking groups and in the Community pages of[3] The term bewildering has been used as a synonym for guerrilla gardening by Australian gardener Bob Crombie.[4]


International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day[edit]

The International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day, scheduled on 1 May of every year, is an annual international event when guerrilla gardeners plant sunflowers in their neighborhoods, typically in public places perceived to be neglected, such as tree pits, flower beds and roadside verges.[5] It has taken place since 2007, and was conceived by guerrilla gardeners in Brussels,[6] (who go by the name of The Brussels Farmers). They declared it Journée Internationale de la Guérilla Tournesol. It has been championed by guerrilla gardeners around the world, notably by[7] and participation has grown each year since then. Although sunflower sowing at this time of the year is limited to relatively temperate parts of the Northern Hemisphere, this day is also marked in other parts of the world by planting plants appropriate to the season.


Guerrilla gardening is prominent in Melbourne where most of the inner northern suburbs have community vegetable gardens; land adjoining rail lines has undergone regeneration of the native vegetation, including nature strips. There are a few minor disputes between guerrilla gardeners in Melbourne, with most falling into one of two groups: those concerned most with native planting and those concerned most with communal food growing. However, people with differing opinions still work together without dispute.[8]

There are small community groups around Australia called "Permablitz" who gather regularly to design and construct suburban vegetable gardens for free, in an effort to educate residents on how to grow their own food and better prepare them if/when food prices become too expensive.

Australian Network 10's show Guerrilla Gardeners featured a team of gardeners who make over areas of council owned property without them knowing.

Kevin Hoffman Walk[edit]

Kevin Hoffman Walk is a passive, scenic linear trail with significant indigenous vegetation, lush ground covers, flowering native shrubs and trees, that overlook part of the tranquil Hovells Creek in Lara Victoria. Originally inspired and maintained by Kevin Hoffman and his family in the early 1970s and with the support of the then Shire of Corio they commenced working together.


Arbutus Greenway, Vancouver, BC[edit]

In 1902, the Arbutus corridor was a rail line developed by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), connecting Vancouver harbour to the fishing village of Steveston on the South Arm of the Fraser River.[9] In 1905, the BC Electric Company (BCEC) leased and electrified the line to operate interurban passenger rail service between Vancouver and Richmond. The BCEC passenger service was discontinued in 1952, but CPR freight operations continued infrequently until 2001.

With the end of rail operations, CPR wanted to redevelop the 17 hectare corridor for residential and commercial purposes, but was prevented by the City of Vancouver, who wanted to acquire the area for green space and (potentially) a future light rail transportation line. In 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the city's zoning authority to prohibit CPR development,[10] but the final disposition of the area was not resolved until 2016, when the City of Vancouver purchased the land from CPR for $55 million.

In the interim, home owners adjacent to the unused rail line and local community groups had built and maintained numerous gardens and plots on the 9 km route. The homes adjacent to the corridor are large, and they are some of the most expensive properties in the city, with the green space adding to the exclusivity of the properties. In 2014, as negotiations with the city dragged on, CPR began repairing the rail line, clearing the gardens, and preparing to run trains on the line. The city filed an injunction to block the railway from reactivating the line, but that bid was dismissed in B.C. Supreme Court.[11]  In 2016, the City finalized acquisition of the land. Terms of the complex purchase agreement included a stipulation that a portion of the corridor must be dedicated for light rail transit use.

This has not entirely ended the conflict over the area. Since acquiring the Arbutus corridor, the city has built a bike and pedestrian trail, and developed an Arbutus Greenway plan, but adjacent home owners have pushed for a return to the previous state. Many would like to leave the area wild and inaccessible which would make the now public area an exclusive green space for the wealthy adjacent home owners.[12] The official Arbutus Greenway plan has divided the 9 km route into 8 different character zones that will include bicycle and pedestrian paths, public spaces, community gardens, plazas, and public art.

Guerrilla Park, Welland, ON[edit]

"Art at the Park" at Guerrilla Park in Welland, Ontario in 2015.

Whereas most areas that are subjected to guerrilla gardening are unused or abandoned areas not designated for parkland or green space, this is an exception in that it was initially designed for such a purpose. Originally a maintained parkette in Welland, this small area along the Welland Recreational Waterway fell into disuse and neglect for years. In 2013, a handful of local residents, including visual artists and guerrilla gardeners, reclaimed the space by fully restoring overgrown flower beds, adding outdoor paintings, and overseeing general landscape maintenance. Although this area is officially municipal property, there was initially a question by volunteers as to which local organization was responsible for this parkette's maintenance (whether responsibility fell into hands of Welland Recreational Canal Corporation or City of Welland Parks Department). Volunteers met with representatives of City of Welland, and an unofficial verbal agreement was made, ensuring that although the City of Welland does own the parkette land, volunteers may continue maintenance and gardening in the area. Currently, the area attracts some local artistic, musical, and creative youth. It has also been the setting for a number of small, unorganized or impromptu events, such as art shows.[13][14][15]


"Garden in a night"[edit]

In 1996, Have på en nat ("Garden in a night") was made by the Danish Økologiske Igangsættere ("Organic starters"). An empty piece of land in the middle of the city at Guldbergsgade in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, Denmark, was transformed into a garden in a single night. About 1,000 people took part in the project.[16]


Villi Vyöhyke r.y. (Wild Zone NGO)[edit]

Villi Vyöhyke registered association is Finnish nature conservation focused organisation which was founded in Tampere in 2013.[17] Founders of the association started planting meadow plants to road embankments and wastes in urban environments. Urbanization and structural change of agriculture has made many meadow plants endangered in Finland during 20st and 21st centuries. According to members planting wild plants in city area is in gray area according to Finnish law. City of Tampere has reacted positively to the functioning of the association. Villi Vyöhyke has established over 50 guerilla meadows in city of Tampere.[18] The association operates mainly in Pirkanmaa region.

New Zealand[edit]

Vacant lot of cabbages[edit]

In 1978 downtown Wellington, New Zealand artist Barry Thomas, in collaboration with Chris Lipscombe, Hugh Walton and others, planted 180 cabbages "on the demolished Duke of Edinburgh/Roxy Theatre site in the centre of Wellington. This cabbage patch, planted in such a way as to spell the word CABBAGE immediately captured the imagination of both the media and the public and engendered a flurry of other activities on the site, culminating in a week-long festival... when the cabbages were ceremonially harvested."[19] While a work of conceptual sculpture, this intervention is also an early example of guerrilla gardening in New Zealand. Thomas' work remained for six months, "astonishingly unvandalised, as a living, breathing sculpture in the heart of the city."[20] Christina Barton writes that in the months that followed, "it captured the hearts and minds of Wellingtonians, who followed the growth of the cabbages, adding their own embellishments to the site, and contributed to the week of festivities (with poetry readings, performances, and the distribution of free coleslaw) that celebrated their harvest", describing the work as "a provocation to the local council and the city's developers".[21] Thomas' documentation of the project was recently purchased by New Zealand's national gallery Te Papa, who described the work as an "important moment in New Zealand's art and social history" with links to the "Occupy movement, urban farming and guerrilla gardening".[22]

One of the actions of the Urban Guerilla Gardening; two sycamore maples (Acer pseudoplatanus L.) are planted at the site of an illegal car park

South Korea[edit]

Guerrilla gardening in South Korea is organized and carried out by individuals, volunteer groups and Internet communities. In August 2012 Richard Reynolds visited South Korea and spoke to many Korean audiences about guerrilla gardening through TEDxItaewon.[23]

United Kingdom[edit][edit][24] was created in October 2004 by Richard Reynolds as a blog of his solo guerrilla gardening outside Perronet House, a council block in London's Elephant and Castle district. At the time, his motivations were simply those of a frustrated gardener looking to beautify the neighborhood, but his website attracted the interest of fellow guerrilla gardeners in London and beyond, as well as the world's media. Reynolds's guerrilla gardening has now reached many pockets of South London, and news of his activity has inspired people around the world to get involved. He also works alongside other troops, some local and some who travel, to participate. He has also guerrilla gardened in Libya, Berlin and Montreal.

Today, is still his blog, but it also includes tips, links and thriving community[25] boards where guerrilla gardeners from around the world are finding supportive locals. His book, On Guerrilla Gardening,[26] which describes and discusses activity in 30 different countries, was published by Bloomsbury Publishing in the UK and USA in May 2008, in Germany in 2009, France in 2010 and South Korea in 2012. He regularly speaks on the subject to audiences and, in 2010, launched a campaign focusing specifically on pavements as an opportunity, to 'plant life in your street'.[27]

Leaf Street Community Garden, Manchester[edit]

Leaf Street is an acre of land in Hulme, Manchester, England, that was once an urban street until turfed over by Manchester City Council. Local people, facilitated by Manchester Permaculture Group, took direct action in turning the site into a thriving community garden.[28]

United States[edit]


In 2008, Scott Bunnell started the SoCal Guerrilla Gardening Club, adding more drought tolerant gardens, and creating several gardens in Eagle Rock, Pico Rivera, Whittier, Long Beach, Norwalk, Artesia, Venice, Los Angeles County, and the Hollywood and Skid Row areas of Los Angeles. In 2015, SoCal Guerrilla Gardening Club also planted a guerrilla "satellite" garden in Morro Bay with their sister club, the Morro Bay Guerrilla Gardening Club.[29][30]

People's Park in Berkeley became a de facto public park which was formed directly out of a community guerrilla gardening movement during the late 1960s, which took place on land owned by the University of California. The university acquired the land through eminent domain, and the houses on the land were demolished, but the university did not allocate funds to develop the land, and the land was left in a decrepit state. Eventually, people began to convert the unused land into a park. This led to an embattled history involving community members, the university, university police, Governor Reagan, and the national guard, where a protest and bloody reprisal left one person dead, and hundreds seriously wounded.[citation needed] Parts of the park were destroyed and rebuilt over time, and it has established itself as a permanent part of the city.

Greenaid, a Los Angeles-based organization founded in 2010 by Daniel Phillips and Kim Karlsrud of Common Studio, converts vintage gumball machines to dispense seed balls (a combination of clay, compost, and region-specific seeds). Seed balls are then used for seed bombing, where they are tossed or planted in any area that may benefit from wildflowers. Greenaid partners with business owners, educators and citizens to distribute seedbomb vending machines in various communities worldwide. With region-specific seedbomb mixes, Greenaid aims to integrate and beautify (rather than disrupt) traditionally bland urban areas such as sidewalks and highway medians.[31]

At the Los Angeles Green Grounds, designer Ron Finley started growing produce on a strip of parkway lawn, but came into conflict with the city council. He was successful in maintaining this urban market garden and has promoted the idea in a TED talk and appearances at international conferences, such as the Stockholm Food Forum and MAD in Copenhagen.[32][33]


In the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area during the 2010s and 2020s, activists installed gardens where people had been killed by law enforcement or during demonstrations. Gardens emerged for Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, George Floyd, Daunte Wright, Winston Boogie Smith, and Deona Knajdek. The mission of those installing and tending the gardens was to promoting healing and racial justice.[34]

New York[edit]

Adam Purple's urban garden on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1984.

From the mid-1970s, Adam Purple created and tended a circular garden (shaped like a yin-yang) in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in an abandoned lot. In 1986, when it was bulldozed by the City of New York, the garden had overtaken many lots and reached a size of 15,000 square feet.[35][36][37] The short film "Adam Purple and the Garden of Eden" tells its history.[38]


The Guerrilla Gardeners of Downtown East in York, Pennsylvania began in 2009 as a "compact" or agreement between urban flower pot gardeners and residents of the East Market/Broad Street neighborhood in York City, Pennsylvania. If residents agreed to keep their sidewalks litter free, and only placed trash out for collection the night before scheduled pick-up, guerrilla gardeners would place a garden pot with flowering annuals in the spring and summer, mums in the fall and greenery over the winter months in place of the trash pile. What began with a few homes and apartments quickly spread and, as of 2019, over 40 homes and apartments have agreed to the concept. York City's Guerrilla Gardeners routinely care for street trees, planters and front gardens that have been neglected or fallen into disrepair. Several gardeners focus on litter removal: one ensures street lamps are replaced when they burn out and two focus on seasonal leaf and snow removal. In 2013, Ralph Serpe received the Downtown, Inc. Beautification Award on behalf of the Downtown East Guerrilla Gardeners.[citation needed]


In 2009, as a collaboration between World Naked Bike Ride Seattle, Body Freedom Collaborative, and World Naked Gardening Day, permaculturists Kelda Lorax and Jacob Gabriel launched Gardens Everywhere Bike Parade, a permaculture-themed clothing-optional bike ride that spontaneously showed up at neighborhood gardening locations.[citation needed]

Toxicity risks[edit]

Edible plants that are grown near toxic waste sites and roads with heavy traffic may be contaminated. Some plants readily take up lead from soil, a problem on streets that were heavily traveled before the ban on leaded gasoline. In these areas, soil should be professionally tested before planting edible plants. Plants that grow in areas where there is known chemical contamination or water pollution or that grow on the side of high-traffic roads should not be eaten.[citation needed]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Lamborn, P., and Weinberg, B. (Eds.), (1999), Avant Gardening: Ecological Struggle in The City and The World. Autonomedia. ISBN 1-57027-092-9
  2. ^ Reynolds, R. (2008), On Guerrilla Gardening: A Handbook For Gardening Without Boundaries. Bloomsbury ISBN 978-0-7475-9297-6
  3. ^ "Index". Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  4. ^ "On the verge of a revolution, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 February 2008". Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  5. ^ "International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day". Archived from the original on 23 March 2008. Retrieved 31 January 2011.[unreliable source?]
  6. ^ "Brussels Farmer: avril 2007". 23 February 2004. Retrieved 31 January 2011.[unreliable source?]
  7. ^ "GGTV International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day Video Tutorial". YouTube. 20 April 2010. Retrieved 31 January 2011.[unreliable source?]
  8. ^ The Age, Article "Gardening guerrilla's in our midst", 10/12/08.
  9. ^ "Arbutus Corridor". Vancouver Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Canadian Pacific Railway Co. v. Vancouver (City) - SCC Cases (Lexum)". Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  11. ^ Robinson, Matthew. "Vancouver buys Arbutus corridor for urban greenway, ending dispute with CP Rail". Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Arbutus Greenway: Exclusion, the Crème de la Crème, and Getting Things Done". Price Tags. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  13. ^ Henschel, Steve (12 June 2014). "Guerrilla Gardeners Transform Park". Niagara This Week.
  14. ^ Barton, Laura (9 April 2017). "Canal Side Park Gets Spring Makeover". The Welland Tribune.
  15. ^ Tribune Staff (21 May 2015). "Art to Take Over Guerrilla Garden". The Welland Tribune.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Villi Vyöhyke ry" [Wild Zone NGO] (in Finnish). Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  18. ^ "Sissiniittyjä kylvävät miehet rakastavat luonnonkukkia: "Tämä on halpa harrastus, kerää vähän siemeniä ja viskoo sinne"" [Men sowing guerrilla meadows love wildflowers: "This is a cheap hobby, collect few seeds and throw them there"] (in Finnish). Yle. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  19. ^ "The Artists' Co-op: Barry Thomas; Eva Yuen; Ian Hunter; Ross Boyd; Terry Handscombe; Robin White". Art New Zealand (Winter, 1978).
  20. ^ Neil Rowe. "The Artists' Co-op: Barry Thomas; Eva Yuen; Ian Hunter; Ross Boyd; Terry Handscombe; Robin White". Art New Zealand (Winter, 1978).
  21. ^ Jenny Harper; Aaron Lister, eds. (2007). Wellington: A City For Sculpture. Victoria University Press, 2007. ISBN 9780864735706.
  22. ^ Sarah Farrar. "'Vacant lot of cabbages' documentation enters Te Papa's archives". Te Papa, Museum of New Zealand.
  23. ^ TEDx Talks. "Guerrilla gardening -- why people garden without boundaries: Richard Reynolds at TEDxItaewon". Youtube.
  24. ^ "The Guerrilla Gardening Home Page". Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  25. ^ "Community". Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  26. ^ "On Guerrilla Gardening". On Guerrilla Gardening. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  27. ^ Pimp Your Pavement
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 January 2008. Retrieved 15 September 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "Guerrilla gardener movement takes root in L.A. area", Los Angeles Times, 29 May 2008
  30. ^ Guerrilla Gardeners, 2009
  31. ^ "Greenaid". Commonstudio. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  32. ^ "The veggie king of South Central", Los Angeles Register, May 13, 2014, archived from the original on January 12, 2015, retrieved September 21, 2014
  33. ^ "Food is MAD", Food Programme, BBC, 21 September 2014
  34. ^ Hyatt, Kim (3 July 2021). "'Guerrilla gardens' take root across Twin Cities". Star Tribune. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  35. ^ "A/N Blog . Video> Exhibition Recalls NY′s Lost Garden of Eden". 15 February 2011. Archived from the original on 29 May 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  36. ^ Karin Westdyk. "The Garden of Eden: An Environmental "Radical Transformation"". Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  37. ^ McKinley, Jesse (22 February 1998). "Adam Purple's Last Stand". The New York Times.
  38. ^ Moynihan, Colin. "Adam Purple, Eccentric Environmentalist and Gardener in New York, Dies at 84". New York Times. Retrieved 1 October 2015.

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