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Guerilla Gardening: Environmental Improvement Or Criminal Nuisance?

A guerilla (alt. guerrilla) is a soldier. It is a term of war suggesting associations ranging from Che Guevara’s revolutionary activities to much of modern irregular warfare. A guerilla is a soldier who fights in an unconventional manner, close to the land. The Swamp Fox of the American Revolution is a guerilla fighter, but George Washington is not. Guerilla warfare requires subterfuge, careful use of tactics, opportunism and luck.
 
But what does this make guerilla gardening? Guerilla gardening is unauthorized planting on an unused, often abandoned property. The Guerrilla Gardening Home Page suggests in a logo, “Let’s fight the filth with forks and flowers.” And that is a fundamental part of what the guerilla gardener does. Using subterfuge and careful gardening tactics, guerilla gardeners will go out, often after dark, and plant daffodils or ditch lillies or essentially anything that will grow with little care.

Benefits

The mission of guerilla gardeners is to beautify the local landscape–urban landscapes, but ones that are most likely characterized by abandoned warehouses and weedy fields beside infrequently used freight rail tracks. The guerilla gardener has little to do in trendy commercial districts in places like Manhattan or Austin. Like the guerilla fighter, the guerilla gardener can bring a bit of a revolution, at least to an ugly stretch of abandoned land.
 
People benefit, for next to wide brownfield properties are often found the most disadvantaged neighborhoods of a city. Guerilla gardening provides environmental improvement to areas that need it the most, and in some cases may provide wellness benefits to neighborhood dwellers. An inhospitable wasteland can over a period of time become a place that provides improved scenery therefore encouraging interests in the outdoors.
 
Perhaps also some few visitors to a guerilla garden might be motivated to start their own gardening projects that can provide innumerable personal benefits. Also a neighborhood successfully improved by guerilla gardening activity will sometimes have rising land values, which in some cases helps the local denizens.

Community Gardening and Urban Farming

Guerilla gardening is a fundamentally urban activity. However, it is not the same as urban community gardening or urban farming. Community gardens are plots of lands usually found in mostly residential urban neighborhoods. Volunteers plant and maintain these gardens that are open to the public. They often have some flowers, but generally the emphasis is placed on crops and food sources. Community gardens are perfectly legal, and no guerilla tactics are necessary.
 
Urban farming, on the other hand, is more entrepreneurial. With high-technology methods of raising crops, some green entrepreneurs have begun investing in blighted areas in order to use intensive hydroponic agriculture. The techniques of urban farming may help contribute to diminishing the food desert, which refers to the scarcity of affordable groceries in certain parts of major cities. Again, however, no characteristic guerilla tactics are necessary.

Problems with Guerilla Gardening

Ultimately, guerilla gardening is usually an illegal activity, and will likely always remain illegal. It involves a form of trespass in most cases, and guerilla gardeners change the property in some ways. Some argue it is more akin to graffiti than to community gardens that beautify and make productive underutilized land. However, landowners could often stop guerilla gardening by simply mowing the lawn and tearing down unsafe structures.
 
Although guerilla gardening itself is on shaky legal ground, efforts to beautify brownfield lands will hopefully contribute to more community based efforts to fix the blight in cities.
 
Lindsey Davison wrote this article on behalf of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, where they have many tractors for sale for your guerilla gardening.


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