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Random Acts of Gardening

You have likely heard about people who perform random acts of kindness, but are you familiar with random acts of gardening? What about guerilla gardening?

The guerilla gardening movement started to take hold in some urban areas during the 1960s. The non- violent practitioners’ intention was to beautify the inner city. Many were environmentalists. The guerillas typically targeted unmaintained areas like abandoned properties, vacant lots, railway land, derelict public areas and back alleys where they cleaned up small parcels of land, added soil and planted seeds. In some cases the effort led to community gardens. In some instances they influenced how cities eventually improved the properties.

In his 2008 book Guerilla Gardening: A manifesto, David Tracy defines the movement as “gardening in public space without permission.” The gardeners are free to choose their “own level of commitment” and “act on their own initiative.”

Seed bombs which were made with seeds, fertilizer and clay originated with guerilla gardeners. They tossed the bombs over fences and into other hard-to-get-to areas where the seeds would then grow and bloom on the vacant land. Since then seed bombs have become mainstream. They now make their way from stores and catalogs into our backyards and the countryside. Seed bombs are manufactured to grow wildflowers appropriate for different regions of the country. There are also herbal mixes and pollinator specials.

You may have seen pictures of pothole gardens. They are wonderfully whimsical tiny gardens that warn of peril for walkers, bicyclers and automobile drivers. The gardens are made by filling potholes with soil, plants and perhaps a few dollhouse-size props. The intent is to draw attention to lack of public maintenance and help make the way safer for anyone navigating a pothole filled road, sidewalk or path. Since 2010 the idea has spread from its beginning in London around the world.

Arizona is home to a local nonprofit organization called Random Acts of Gardening. The Arizona group is “dedicated to helping people connect with nature, learn more about plants and have their day brightened through randomly leaving container gardens at their front steps.” Nice idea.

The notion of random acts of gardening is not unlike random acts of kindness. The action is frequently small and anonymous. The intent is to help, bring a smile, generate good feelings, and generally to provide something beneficial and beautiful. As with seed bombing and pothole gardens, sometimes small random acts can evolve into something far reaching.

There are any number of random acts a gardener can readily offer friends, neighbors and the community.

As you walk by your neighbor’s yard or a public space pluck the flower or seed head off a dandelion before it releases its seeds to the wind.

Cut a few flowers from your garden, put them is a bottle-vase and take them to your doctor’s staff to enjoy.

If your home is a service representative’s last call for the day, send the technician home with some tomatoes or flowers cut from your garden. Tell him the flowers are for his wife.

Leave excess fruit or vegetables from your garden on a neighbor’s doorstep. Take some extra produce to your hairdresser or other small business owner.

Surprise senior citizens by anonymously pulling weeds from their gardens.

Water wilting plants in a public planter—use your water bottle if necessary. Offer to water your neighbor’s plants during their vacation.

If you have extra plants, offer them to your neighbors. You can also put them beside the road with a sign that says FREE.

Adopt a small uncared for private or public space and care for it.

Find a spot to plant extra bulbs where they will provide surprise beauty when they bloom.

Remember that it is your own initiative that determines what you do; and, the level of commitment to any effort is up to you.

Guerilla gardening is a noble pursuit and can be fun. Use your imagination. Add unexpected beauty to an environment. Act at will. You will be a good example for other like-minded people to follow.

Reach Debbie Menchek, a Clemson Master Gardener, at dmgha3@aol.com.

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