By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Guerrilla gardening started in the 70’s by environmentally conscious people with a green thumb and a mission. What is guerrilla gardening? The practice is intended to make unused and neglected spaces beautiful, green, and healthy. Early guerrilla gardeners performed their work in the dead of night, though recently the practice has become more open. There are blogs and community groups that can provide you with a guerrilla grow guide and support if you want to try a little random act of growing in your neighborhood.
There are many reasons that people take up the cause of guerrilla gardening. The activity is sometimes an attempt to increase urban green space for recreation. It can also provide spaces with edible plants for neighborhood use. Some gardeners simply do it to cover up unsightly areas or take back overly developed regions. It may even be a protest against inadequate government maintenance practices. Whatever the reason, creating guerrilla gardens is a satisfying activity that can be meaningful in many ways.
Guerrilla gardeners can go about the activity with seeds, hardscape items, starts, or even cuttings salvaged from established plants. One of the most dramatic methods is the use of seed bombs. Guerrilla garden seed bombs are seeds mixed with soil or compost and coated in clay. They make excellent conveyances for seeds in closed areas. The clay cracks upon impact with dirt and eventually rain will start the germination process.
The first step is to choose a location. Ideally a spot close to home will ensure ease of care. The plants will need to be watered occasionally.
Soil preparation is your next step in guerrilla gardening. Preparation of the site is important to ensure proper growing conditions. Remove weeds, add topsoil or compost, and work in coarse sand or grit if the area doesn’t drain well. Once you have amended the site, you are ready for your guerrilla planting.
Your choice of seeds or plants will determine the success or failure of your garden. The plants must be self sufficient and hardy to survive where constant care isn’t available. Pick native plants, wildflowers, hardy shrubs, and other resilient specimens.
Ideally you should have a team of volunteers so the process goes quickly and upkeep can be shared. You can sow the seeds or plant traditionally, or lob guerrilla garden seed bombs over fences into vacant lots and open spaces.
Guerrilla planting sounds like a subversive activity, but it provides community benefit and natural ambiance.
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Bombs usually are not a good thing--the exception being a seed bomb, of course. Seed bombs are mixtures of soil, compost and seeds that can be used to plant in difficult to reach locations.
Seed bombs have long been one of the main tools of the guerrilla gardener. (Guerrilla gardening is the practice of gardening locations that the gardeners have no legal rights to--abandoned lots, grassy strips along highways and more.) Guerrilla gardening is often done as a political statement on the meaning of ownership, or addressing the very real challenges of urban food deserts affecting millions of Americans.
Seed bombs have gone way more mainstream recently, and they aren’t just for the guerrilla gardener anymore. Lots of couples have turned to using them as wedding favors. Pre-made seed bombs are available for purchase and making them is a great gardening project for kids.
Want to make your own seed bombs? You can choose to plant herbs, wildflowers, edible plants, perennials and more.
Have you had an experience like this: You're walking with your dog and you see an abandoned lot or overlooked corner of a park and you think, "Wouldn't it be great if there were flowers here?" I had such an experience recently when my dog lingered at an unsightly patch of earth in the middle of a cul-de-sac. As my dog went about her business, my imagination went wild thinking of cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias growing among the scrub grass. It was at that moment that I turned into a guerrilla gardener. I went home and, for the first time in my life, made a bomb--a seed bomb, that is.
What's a seed bomb?
A seed bomb is a mixture of rich soil, seeds, and clay that is shaped into a small ball. Once dry, these bombs can be easily distributed to areas that needs a little "flower power." Some guerrilla gardeners toss them into abandoned fields or alleys, others use them to grow flowers in their own gardens.
Once in place, the seed bomb will be watered by Mother Nature. This water will help the clay in the seed bomb to dissolve. Eventually the seeds will take root and flowers will grow to brighten up a spot that was dull.
For the purposes of this post, I focus on flower seed bombs, but there's no reason why you couldn't use vegetable seeds as well. Just consider where you're "planting" your seed bomb and whether or not it is easily accessible at harvest time.
You, too, can make a seed bomb and become a guerrilla gardener. You probably already have the supplies on hand, and if not, they're easy and inexpensive to get.
seeds (In order to avoid invasive species, be sure to purchase seeds that are native to your area. Your local cooperative extension will be helpful in identifying native species. Also, consider the conditions the seeds will be growing in. Marigold or poppy seeds are good for areas that are sunny. Foxgloves are shade friendly flowers, and cosmos grow well in most conditions.)
Note: How much of each supply you need depends on how many seed bombs you intend to make.
3 Super Easy Steps:
1. Soak the seeds overnight. This will soften their outer shells and help them to germinate faster. In an ideal world, you will soak them in compost tea, but if you don't have any, then water will work fine. If there are seeds floating, discard them.
2. Combine the soil-compost mixture with clay and seeds and shape into a golf ball sized ball.
Note: There are a seemingly infinite number of ways to make the soil-clay-seed mixture. See some variations listed below.
3. Dry seed bomb for 24 hours before you start your guerrilla gardening.
Combine one part seed with three parts compost-soil and five parts clay and combine until it is a cookie dough consistency. Add water if it is too dry.
As clay is a primary ingredient in kitty litter, some guerrilla seed bombers use kitty litter in place of clay.
Instead of mixing the seeds into the clay-soil mixture, mix the clay and soil together and form into a golf ball sized ball. Then poke your finger into the ball to make a hole. Place seeds in the hole and then gently cover the hole with a bit of clay.
Combine five parts sawdust, one part seed, and mix with a biodegradable food safe glue. You want the mixture to be not too wet but moist enough to form a ball.
Common sense goes a long way.
When it's time to let your seed bomb fly do so with (at least) an ounce of common sense. For example, don't seed bomb private property. Seed bombing a fallow field can be fun but be certain that it isn't farm land.
No, seed bombing isn't fool proof.
Perhaps one more ingredient should be added to the list of supplies: optimism. There are a number of reasons why a seed bomb may not be successful: lack of rain, poor seed quality, poor soil quality where it is expected to grow. Some guerrilla gardening skeptics even worry about over-seeding and the seeds strangling each other as they grow. (This particular concern isn't keeping me up at night.) Thankfully, none of the supplies required to make a seed bomb is very expensive. So, if the seed bomb isn't successful, at least you haven't lost a lot of cash.
Did you know?
Seed bombs were first used in the 1930s by Japanese farmer-microbiologist-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka. He created tsuchi dango (earth dumplings) to distribute seed in his farm. Fukuoka is known for other advances in sustainable farming. IMHO, it is well worth checking out this web site to learn more about his One Straw Revolution.
Making seed bombs is a great way to get kids involved with gardening. With a little help, even a toddler can help to make a seed bomb. Imagine the fun a kid could have on a neighborhood walk throwing seed bombs!
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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.
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.
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Guerrilla gardening is a term used to describe the unauthorized cultivation of plants or crops on vacant public or private land. For some practitioners, Guerrilla Gardening is a political statement about land rights or reform  X Research source for others, it is primarily an opportunity to beautify and improve neglected, barren or overgrown spaces. Guerrilla gardening can be conducted either via secretive night missions or openly in an attempt to engage others in the idea of community improvement regardless of which approach one takes, there are some basic steps that are important to successfully raise plants under the demanding conditions experienced by these gardens. Follow the steps below to learn how to start your own guerrilla garden.
If the brown in your town has got you down, it’s time to start gardening undercover. The guerrilla-gardening movement has empowered urban farmers to green abandoned urban lots and other city spaces with covert gardening techniques. In the video above, you’ll learn one of the most simple guerrilla-gardening methods that you can put to action right away: seed bombs.
Seed bombs were pioneered in the 1970s by Liz Christy, a leader in the guerrilla-gardening movement. To make seed bombs, mix powdered nontoxic clay, water and the seeds of your choice into a thick paste. Then roll the mixture into 1-inch balls (or fashion into other shapes of your choosing), and let dry.
Once the seed bombs are dry, they’re ready to toss into brown lots. After a moderate to heavy rain hits the area, the clay in the seed bombs will melt, and the seeds will start growing. It’s that easy.
Watch the video above as Urban Farm editors Lisa Munniksma and Stephanie Staton take you along on their own seed bomb greening mission.