Introduction: Guerilla Gardening: a Basic Guide

Picture of Guerilla Gardening: a Basic Guide

Guerilla Gardening is a type of nonviolent statement to bring about change in your community. It is just more accurately described by Wikipedia...

"Guerrilla gardening is political gardening, a form of nonviolent direct action, primarily practiced by environmentalists. It is related to land rights, land reform, and permaculture. Activists take over ("squat") an abandoned piece of land which they do not own to grow crops or plants. Guerrilla gardeners believe in re-considering land ownership in order to reclaim land from perceived neglect or misuse and assign a new purpose to it."

This is a guide to how I planted my first guerilla tree and everything I used in order to get it to this new location.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Picture of Gather Your Materials

For my tree I used several items to get it, transport it and plant it into an unoccupied space.

I used:

A shovel
a Camelbak
a camera phone
an open field
a place to steal a tree from
and of course... Common sense.

Step 2: Find Some Trees and a Place to Move Them.

Picture of Find Some Trees and a Place to Move Them.

For me, right across the road is a hillside that is just covered in trees and is almost impossible to be developed. This makes it extremely easy for me to go and find a couple of saplings and pull them right out of the ground. The easiest place to pull them out is next the the train tracks where there the ground is full of rocks and old coal.

If you can't just pull the sapling out, use a spade or shovel to loosen up the dirt around the tree. If you cannot transplant the tree immediately find a shady spot to set it in until you can move it.

Step 3: Prepare to Transplant.

Picture of Prepare to Transplant.

Speed is the key here. Assuming that you are in a place that isn't owned by you... you need to get in and out as fast as possible. Be sure you have your shovel, camelbak, tree, and common sense... You will need all four.

Go out on a nice night that you can still see by the moonlight or on a part of the day when most of the surrounding houses are busy inside and take everything with you.

Get to your digging site and set the tree on it's side and camelbak out of the way. Using your shovel, dig out the first layer of grass, keep this to the side. Dig down far enough into the ground to cover up the roots, about 8-9 inches was good for me.

Set your tree in the hole and push back in most of the dirt that you shoveled out. Pack in the grass that you set aside in order to support the tiny tree.

Pick up the camelbak and pour out all of the water onto your new tree, it will need it.

Step 4: Enjoy and Protect Your Tree

Picture of Enjoy and Protect Your Tree

Since this isn't my land I will have to take some measures to protect my tree. Eventually I will put some mulch around it and maybe a little stonework. For right now I will just be watering it and keeping the grass cut low until I am positive the city workers will mow around instead of over the poor little thing.


TheSciGuy (author)2017-05-07

Sad to hear the tree was mown down; it would be 9 years old now and possibly offering shade to picnickers that wandered out for privacy. This is inspiring me to have my students plant flower seeds around my campus without notifying admin or the district grounds crew and monitor progress throughout the year... maybe even some bulbs. Guerilla campus beautification army? GCBA... I see a t-shirt and logo coming on?

Land Shark (author)2009-03-09

I am glad there are other guerrilla gardeners out there, but what you are doing isn't productive. First of all that field looks maintained. The best guerrilla gardening locations are areas that are not being regularly maintained. For example green belts, the park perimeter (not the mowed open fields), cul de sacs, powerline corridors, rail corridors, undevelopable hillsides, etc. Secondly, you shouldn't transplant trees or bushes unless it is their dormant season. Late winter, early spring is when you should do the transplanting in most regions. Instead of focusing on trees, focus on edible landscape. That way you, the local animal population, and your neighbors can directly benefit from your work. One of my favorite guerrilla gardening tricks is to take cuttings from a Currant bush and stick them in the ground in November. The next spring, each Currant stick you put in the ground will become a new bush. Another thing I like to do is buy bare root plants from the mega home centers (Lowe's) late in the season when they are dirt cheap. I bought a bunch of blueberry bushes at $2 a pop and planted them on an unmaintained hillside at a nearby park. The best spots for guerrilla gardening are areas overrun with weeds and invasive non-native plant species. If you get caught, just tell them you are doing invasive plant removal.

LoganSix (author)Land Shark2017-05-04

I agree.

I have a greenway behind my house. The area of my yard and the greenway is separated by a creek. The greenway area is not maintained. My side is a bit of a jungle too, but I'm working on it. My plan is to grow sunflowers on my side this year and then harvest the seeds and seed bomb the green way side. Then I plan on moving up from sunflowers to other crops. I'm choosing flowers first, in order to attract pollinators.

svinteen (author)2014-03-21

How can i tell if the land will be suited best for a tree or whatever i wanna plant? Often times city crews go by and mow and bush wack everything on public land down.

Anime and The Beatles (author)2013-03-04

oh wow! i would do this in town if i had some trees to steal freely that weren't russian olives. cause their the only trees small enough to steal besides the enormous sage brush and the occasional juniper. and russian olives are invasive and thorny, the only tree that really survives by itself out here. (i live out near hanford with the radioavtive stuff leaking from the tanks)

silver912targa (author)2008-07-05

If your buying a tree, why not buy a fruit tree? So somebody else can enjoy it in different way. Michel Portugal

reedz (author)silver912targa2008-07-05

That is actually what I plan on doing for my next few trees, I want to put up apple trees and cherry trees. If only banana and coconut trees would live around here, then I would be in heaven.

silver912targa (author)reedz2008-07-06

Ooh yes. Even here in Portugal I get frost resulting in dead banana trees. I'm constantly looking for a place to live where I can grow these exotic species. Suppose I have to go abroad. Bear in mind that fruit trees only give fruit after 3 or 4 years.

There are hardy varieties of banana that will grow outside year round and sometimes even fruit in New England with a little care...palatable varieties are a little rarer. Here, in southern Massachusetts (and even in the Berkshires) I've seen a number of people landscaping with bananas. Getting them to fruit is a little more difficult because the flowers begin the year before they actually appear and usually the stalks get frost-killed too close to the ground. There are a few strategies I've heard of but haven't tried for overwintering enough of the stalk to produce fruit outside.

reedz (author)silver912targa2008-07-06

I have always wanted to live along the equator, one long growing season for the rest of eternity. I would assume that you could find a way to cover the banana trees during the frosts like you would a smaller plant in order to keep them healthy. As long as the tree lives, it doesn't matter how long it takes for it to bear fruit

silver912targa (author)reedz2008-07-06

You can cover the tree with bubble foam or even straw but it's such an ugly sight. A banana tree don't die when you -before winter- chop it off a few centimeter above ground level, cover it according to the frost standard in your zone and uncover when frost is gone in early spring. The tree will shoot again. Amazing.

Nachoman (author)silver912targa2008-07-10

Believe me: you don't want a banano (banana plant) around yourself:
*) A banano is an underground root structure that, every now and then, shoots up a pseudo-stem that becomes what you call a banana tree. Depending on the species (and there are hundreds of species other than the one single species eaten in the United States, Canada and Europe), the pseudo-stem might grow between one and six meters before bearing fruit and drying up.
1) While the pseudo-stems only live between six months and a couple of years, the root structure can live for a good hundred years.
2) A healthy, adult banano always has several pseudo-stems at different stages of growth. The more I've seen is 18 or so.
1) When a pseudo-stem bears fruit, it doesn't give it gradually: You first see how it shoots a flower, then you see how the flower begins arcing down, then you see how the flower becomes hundreds of juvenile fruits within some ten days, and then you see how all the tiny fruits develop at the same pace and ripen within days of each others. You haven't ended up eating a few bananas a day for months: you end up having to eat your own weight worth of bananas within a week.
2) The gross variety of banana varieties makes any other fruit seem plain and everyday-the-same. Bananas vary in size, shape, colour, texture, hardness, ripe-point, sugar content, acidity/alkalinity and use. One might look like oblong red grapes and nearly seem to made out of honey and butter, some others might as well be potatoes for how low their sugar content is and how high their cooking time is as well. Some have to be cooked while still fairly green, because they dissolve into useless mush when ripe. A few varieties allow you to dry them and turn them into fuor. A Mexican variety is even called apple-banana because it tastes like apple. In the end, most Western nations are accustomed to a single species and may not even touch a different one.
3) Banana-sap is an extremely powerful brown-to-black dye, that comes on clear, oxydates in the air and holds. I have a few 9 year old stains on one of my favorite kicking-around shirts, so this natural dye holds really fast.
4) Bananos tend to kill all vegetation around them. If it wasn't enough that banano sap is a very good dye when dry, if it wasn't enough that it has leaves measuring in excess of 2 meters by thirty centimeters, bananos are by definition subterranean plants, so they can simply flush out competing plants.
5) As the pseudo-stems are pretty much disposable, they rot, completely. They stink and grow all sorts of insect larvae.
6) If you wish to see a species of spider you've never seen before, go check the bananos. Tarantulas and jumping spiders are particularly fond of the habitat.

reedz (author)Nachoman2008-07-11

Umm.... wow.. That is a lot of info. I guess I will totally ditch the idea. What about coconuts?

Nachoman (author)reedz2008-07-12

And I hadn't really gotten started with bananos. Did I mention that the flower smells so strongly and so sweetly that it attracts every herbivorous scavenger from miles around? Or did I mention that when you cut off the fruiting branch from the pseudo-stem, it begins rotting all at once?

Anyway, coconuts should be fantastic for guerrilla gardening: dig a pit in the sand, fill it up with organic waste, place a ripe coconut on top of the pile and cover the pit again. The limitant is that coconuts are pretty much limited to sandy soil in tropical climates, so who knows how will they react to other soils or a harsh winter.

tech-king (author)Nachoman2008-09-18

i have some bananaa seeds at home. im planning to start them soon, and grow it indoors (its a sort of dwarf banana with non-edible plants).

Nachoman (author)tech-king2008-09-18

Wouldn't really know there. Just make sure you keep the plant well groomed.

tech-king (author)Nachoman2008-09-22

update: i started it. the directions said to soak the seeds for 24 hours, then sow in a pot with a plastic dome over it. though my plant doesnt make edible bananas :-(. nice flours though.....

mehatename (author)Nachoman2008-09-18

seems like you really don't like bananas... yes there are alot of varieties but that hardy seems like a con to me. I have bananas and some of these things seems over the top. no plant is perfect... here are some more pros 1. I live in hawaii and enjoy watching the day gecko, they love to live in the bananas, and lay eggs there. 2. Old leaves quickly compost into usable soil 3. If alot ripen at once you can always give some to friends or freeze for making banana bread. 4. They tolerant the drought in my area better than alot of plants

Nachoman (author)mehatename2008-09-18

I love bananas. I eat one or two per day, plus a fried macho banana every now and then. My school has some bananos or the grounds and always enjoy watching them, looking always green and lush despite being months since the last good rain. Thing is, I live in Cancun, you live in Hawaii: we both live in the tropic. This guy lives in an area were it freezes in winter. The pseudo-stems and leaves are composed of +90% water, which is why they rot so quickly. The pseudo-stems will freeze solid, and the root structure is likely to follow. The reason why having so much variety is a Con is because most Americans, Canadians and Western-Europeans only eat a single variety, and won't even touch a different one. How big is your freezer? Walk-in?

Banana bread??? Please tell me how to make this.

One of the problems with planting a fruit tree in this way is that they will seem much more out of place. Fruit trees make a mess, with all the fruit that falls off in the wind, or is knocked down by birds and animals. Most cities won't plant fruit trees because of this mess, as it makes maintaining their grounds more expensive. Therefore, if a city's groundskeeper notices a fruit tree, they're more likely to cut it down than they are for an ornamental tree.

Absolutely right! I haven't thought of that. What about nut trees then? At least they don't make a mess.

Nut trees can be pretty messy, too. Depending on the size of the nut, anyway. I had a chestnut tree in my yard as a kid. I don't know if you've seen what the soft outer shell of a chestnut tree looks like, but they are big, messy, and drop everywhere. They are spikey, and start out soft, but then dry into hard pointy spikes. Great fun as kids, till you get hit in the face. Some smaller nuts aren't so bad. But I suppose most trees produce some kind of mess, it's just a matter of how easy it is to clean up after them. Maple trees produce keys, for example, but they can just be picked up with the lawn clippings, or leaves.

Strange, when I was young (a long time ago) I used to play under chestnut and other nut trees for days without experiencing any problems. In fact it sometimes was fun getting chased by another member of the "gang" with chestnut shells. But it was even more fun when you were the chaser ;-) think we are focusing too much on how to create 100% perfect situations for us which is really hard to find in nature. Maybe we should bent the problems that occur in an advantage. It's all a matter of how you look at things and how you deal with them.

tincanz (author)2011-02-09

This instructable is epic!

May I add it to my "plants" group?

reedz (author)tincanz2011-02-09

   Perhaps it will bring more negative comments to this 'ible, it sure has been the subject of some high criticism so far.

tincanz (author)reedz2011-02-10

Ok, thank you.

GrandPiper (author)2008-07-05

I always wanted to do this with marijuana seeds. They grow fast and can survive under pretty harsh conditions. Im sure they would get pulled up eventually but if you hit enough spots with them and planted close to 20 or whatever a spot, i think it would really send a statement to your city. I wanted to do it preferably in the downtown area, add some green life to the dead concrete jungle.

herr_twiggie (author)GrandPiper2011-01-22

I've seriously considered this before. Have tons of people save seeds and on a set day plant as many as you can in as many places as possible. Sea of green growing done right.

Valche (author)GrandPiper2008-07-05

Usually I try to leave positive comments, but that's a stupid idea. I'm all for legalization, but planting pot isn't going to make any statement other than "Wow, some pothead thinks they're cool."

tincanz (author)Valche2010-10-30

Just so you know, Marijuana is a very useful plant. Aside from medicinal properties, Hemp plants are in many cosmetics, (I.E. natural shampoo, soap,) and, being a fast growing plant, its fibers can be used to make clothes.

Of course some people may abuse it, but that is their choice, and if it leads to their death, then natural selection has taken place.

GrandPiper (author)Valche2008-07-05

Hmm what's your idea then? Writing your politicians so they can blow us off for lobbyists? How is my idea much more different then marching in the streets? The guerrilla growing is a way to say "hey i dont think smoking marijuana is as bad as other legal drugs" and it also doesnt expose yourself to the police as a marijuana smoker. This can be done in the cover of the night and you could carry a lot of seeds without being noticed. Sorry for posting a response irrelevant to the instructable! and Valche if you want to discuss this further, send me a pm.

reedz (author)GrandPiper2008-07-05

Go ahead and discuss it here, it allows both sides to gain followers and lets other's read and "choose sides" I really find this interesting to see two totally different views on here.

Valche (author)reedz2008-07-05

Here you go photophippie. I didn't want to clutter up your instructable but felt that you were right in that discussing this is a good idea.

reedz (author)Valche2008-07-05

Thank you very much, I wish we could pop this back up on the home page to get some more people involved.

Infrah Rhed (author)GrandPiper2008-07-27

You sound like Johnny App-Bowl-Seed. ;-) Me and a buddy once planted a whole 1/2 gallon bag of seed on a small island while tubing a river in PA. Never made it back to the spot to see if it sprouted though. In my youth, I always thought it would be funny to sneak a few potted plants on the roof of the police station.

nubie (author)2008-09-17

Is the land technically unused if it has a fence and regular mowing? If the purpose is to be anti-social (either with or without justification or as retaliation), I understand. But if the purpose is just to place the tree/other plant, what harm could there be talking to the caretaker of the land? Perhaps even if "other people" have final say the caretaker would be willing to work with you, or vice versa. I may be highly pacificistic here, but I don't really get the point unless the point is contention.

xfirexstarzx (author)nubie2010-08-26

I'm with you on this one. I want to know what the point is if the land is maintained. Usually fences are put up to keep people or animals out... or in. Why was there a fence around the field? Did you think about what the land owner would think about it? If you were trying to tick them off, you probably went about it well, but if you were trying to be nice to the community, I think you might need to plan ahead a little more. I work on a farm to make a living. If someone went around planting trees in each of my hay fields (which an uneducated person might just see as a grassy field), that would really tick me off. Actually, I might press legal charges if I could find the person. I'm not saying this is a bad idea if you have the right spot (in the yard of an abandoned house, in a brush lot, etc.), but if you do this where the owner will find out (fields, ball fields, somebody's well manicured lawn, etc) be prepared to be prosecuted. I don't think many land owners/ maintenance workers would take too kindly to this.

reedz (author)xfirexstarzx2010-08-26

I believe everyone is taking this much too seriously, the fence is along the back side of the field so people don't wander into the river which is another 10 feet behind it. This field is absolutely literally unused, there is no reason whatsoever for it to be mowed. It's owned by my city and they are just sitting on it to be able to control what is built upon it, meaning, nothing will ever has been nor will be built on this land since the 1970's. And if you are so genuinely concerned about hurting someone's pride in their horribly rocky and unkempt field, the tree is gone.

likeacompass (author)2009-06-25

Guerilla Gardening is a great concept but a baseball field may not be the best example. It's obviously going to be uprooted within a week (if not days). It seems like it should be more about spaces that have more need to be repurposed and less about pissing off little leagers. Maybe more about food production too? I know its not really a baseball field but it makes it funnier... comment still applies though.

austinburke. (author)2009-06-24

uhh. sorry but.. whats a camelbak?

reedz (author)austinburke.2009-06-24

Basically it is a plastic bag that you fill with water and put in like a backpack, it has a tube with a mouthpiece so you can drink directly out of it.

austinburke. (author)reedz2009-06-25

oh. haha thanks man (: that sounds pretty cool actually

boxofscorpions (author)2009-03-09

I think strawberries are a good idea, they soon take over a small area with via the runners they produce and feed a whole manner of wildlife, not to mention us humans. I live in a council estate and have been tempted to plant a few of my garden strawberries in the beds that surround besits and bungalows, which are often littered with rubbish or weeds.

dooDIY4T7 (author)2008-07-09

I like the idea. Just i think you should do the stonework soon to help make sure they dont mow over the tree! You might want to check out a thing called operation ivy. It's where you plant ivy and vine plants in abandoned areas of citys and then eventually they grow and overtake the buildings without being noticed.

Gorfram (author)dooDIY4T72009-03-05

Noooooo! Not if it's the evergreen English Ivy, hedera helix!

Deciduous ivies like Boston Ivy and Virginia Creeper are okay; but the evergreen English Ivy is super-invasive, eventually swamping and strangling trees and whole forests. If left untrimmed for 5-6 years, it "fruits" with evil-looking poisonous berries, which don't kill the birds that eat them until after they've passed through the bird's system and been deposited elsewhere, further spreading the Ivy Menace. Worst of all, it can live just about forever.

Don't plant English Ivy! Anywhere. Ever. Please.

raskolnikov (author)2008-12-07

I have been trying to think through some guerilla gardening "attacks" for my neighborhood as well. I hadn't thought of digging up a wild tree and moving it. I like the idea of cutting out any expenses that way, but I'm not sure I would want to disturb any naturally-growing plants as long as they aren't exotic and invasive.

reedz (author)raskolnikov2008-12-07

Yeah I know what you mean, I am actually planning a big project for this spring to plant a small garden in the same field. Tomoatoes and cucumber will probably fill it up quickly.

Tarps (author)2008-09-26

How has the tree handled being transplanted?

reedz (author)Tarps2008-09-26

It's actually been cut down, it was too small to survive the tractors.

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