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Guerilla Gardening

Recently I met Jane Li, a gardener in the Boston area. She calls her method of growing plants ‘guerilla gardening.’

It is a term, according to wikiHow, used to describe the unauthorized cultivation of plants or crops on vacant public or private land. For some, guerrilla gardening is a political statement about land rights or reform.

For others, like Jane, it is primarily an opportunity to beautify and improve neglected, barren or overgrown spaces.

She got her inspiration from the book Plants from Roots to Riches.

There she first saw the expression ‘guerilla gardening.’

The authors Kathy Willis, director of science at Kew, and Carolyn Fry, science writer, also gave a defintion.

They write, “Barley is a fan of guerilla gardening, where green-activists ‘take over’ unlovely or derelict spaces and transform them with plants.

“What a superb realization of the potential of public will and spontaneous opportunity.”

A History of Guerrilla Gardening

In the early 1970s gardener Liz Christy started a movement in New York, which she referred to as guerilla gardening. She called it a ‘radical act of gardening.’

Guerrilla gardening can be conducted either by 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.

WikiHow gives us the steps to proceed.


  1. Find an appropriate plot of land.
  2. Take note of the condition of the land.
  3. Determine what plants to use in your garden.
  4. Plan your initial gardening mission.
  5. Gather your materials.
  6. Start your garden.
  7. Return to take care of your garden.
  8. Spread the word about this unique, eco-friendly way to improve your community.

Jane’s Garden

Jane has been practing guerilla gardening for 12 years. Now she has two areas that she gardens, near her home.

She says, “I try to plant drought tolerant varieties. My goal is to turn it into a native flower garden.”

In the fall she plants tulips and daffodils

She once told some city workers she was doing this kind of gardening. They responded “That’s great. Thank you for doing that.”

This is Jane’s garden with three catnip plants lining one side of the circle. [below]

One of Jane’s guerilla gardens, near her home.

New Chinese Version of the Book

Jane loved the Willis and Fry book so much that she translated it into Chinese.

It, as well as the original English version, is now available. [below]. It is worth reading to learn about the history of plants in our gardens.

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