domenica 17 novembre 2013

Guerrilla Gardening Techniques: the arsenal

I'm slowly translating in (my poor) English my Manual of Unauthorized Gardening.
It's for free and, one day, will be available as a link and as a PDF file on this blog.
For now, I'm pleased to show you the chapter about the arsenal of a guerrilla gardener.
I'd like to receive comments, critiques and opinions about it.
Every chapter comes from my own experience of illicit gardening.
Enjoy it!

The Arsenal

It is guerrilla warfare!
Yes, but what do you use?
What do you need to become an invincible guerrilla?

Not much, believe me.

Often, the fear to don't have suitable material to gardening stops the momentum of a wannabe guerrilla.

Spade, shovel (provided that, in contrast to myself, you know the difference), rake, hoe, pickaxe, wheelbarrow, a lawn mower, a watering can....
Sure, they are all very useful things, but unless you live in the countryside, probably you won't have such an arsenal in your basement.

To begin you need really much less.
I suggest to you, at first, to "warm up the muscles" with little actions to feel the thrill: neglected pots are a good starting point. In this case, a trowel, some nice flowers and a garbage bag is all you need. In a second step, when you gained experience and calibrated your strenght to the type of gardening that you'll choose, you'll be able to launch more daring operations.

However, as is natural to aim for savings, you'll have to do some initial expense.
Do not choose equipment scrolling the price list to the cheapest: the trowel costing 1 euro and 99 won't resist the first stone buried. You don't have to aim for the impossible: you might find that the tool you paid 50 euros is not good for you.

Do not forget that you will be dealing with land never digged before, probably not fertile, hard and compact. It's not rare to find, in depht, pieces of asphalt, glass, broken bricks and more in general a lot of waste materials that will make your digging really hard.
On the other hand, you already know it: you're not working an agricultural field.

Here is a list that is worth browsing and that everyone can adapt to his own style of unauthorized gardening.

Gardening gloves: absolutely indispensable. Do not even think to disposable latex gloves. Although it may seem strange, you won't use gloves to keep your hands and nails clean, but to protect yourself from injury.
In fact, during the action, you'll surely remove them, maybe to wipe the sweat from your forehead or to scratch your nose. Be sure that sooner or later they will be full with stones and soil. When you'll be at home, you'll see that you have filthy hands.
So buy rather thick and sturdy ones: in addition to protect, they'll prevent blisters from coming.
In case, you could wear latex gloves beneath safer gloves to keep your hands clean.
Hey guys! Don't forget  to renew tetanus vaccination!

Trowel: choose one that has a certain consistency and a sturdy handle. Usually, the cheapest don't survive to the first stone. As explained before, it can easily substituted by other tools, unless you are going to attack a pot: in this case, a long handle would be really bulky and not very functional.

Hoe: do not attempt to use a trowel like a hoe, nor should you use it as a lever to try to break up the surface crust. Better to buy a suitable tool. Even in this case, open a bit more your wallet. Rather, don't disdain a real hoe because you are not going to deal only with pots. More often you'll work on patches of land of varying sizes. In addition to being tough, these will also terribly.... low! Working with a short-handled hoe, kneeling, it may be too hard and ineffective.

Fork-spade: I went through experience that to work compact and weed-infested soil with a spade, is an immense and ineffective effort.
The prongsof the fork have the advantage of penetrating in depth and crumble the soil, tearing up roots. At first it seems useless: do not expect to pick up clods of soil because  that's the task of other tools.
Act rotating around an imaginary axis planted in the center of the hole that you will want to dig, or with horizontal and vertical gait in the case of larger areas (like weft and warp) to use prongs in all directions. When you have worked deeply, you can switch to hoe, spade or similar.
Of course, purchase one (or recycle one from your grandfather) quite tough. The ideal would be to assemble with a short handle: mine has a long handle and it's very uncomfortable to carry.
Before you start to dig deep, perhaps it will be worthy to work with hoe to remove, possibly with roots, all the weeds.
If you work with nothing else but the fork-spade, in fact, you will obtain a carpet of grass with roots in the air. Seeds would sprout hardly or plants would grow poorly in a layer of this kind, being the fertile soil much lower.

Not only that. Even if you had removed all visible weeds (and made ​​a sort of Zen garden), sooner or later you will have to deal with the regrowth of them. So the hint is: act preventively.
From experience, I learned that when you hoe, it is quite natural to proceed backward. Bad idea. In this way, while you're moving back, you will drag clods on the ground still to be worked behind you.
Although there seem unnatural, proceed forward, leaving behind the land already worked.

An important tip: before you dispose the weeds in the bins (preferably in the organic ones), clean their roots from the soil rather than collect in buckets or in bags. because a lot of soil remains attached to the roots. Shake them, beat on the ground or on the prongs of the fork.
It is not so much to save soil: in this way you won't lift several tons. Infact, you'll try to do fewer trips to the garbage cans, so you'll be tempted to cram your bucket with the resulting material. Drag it to your destination will be a huge effort, but even more it will be when you'll have to lift it over the edge of the bin.

Bucket: can help a thousand things, not the least of which putting your arsenal into it.
You don't even need to buy it: just ask a mechanic or look for it in a construction site. Look for one with iron handle: plastic ones you really break too easily.

A sign: reclaim your action, let the Citizens know who did the work!
Better not to exceed with words (passers-by, in general, they are ashamed to be caught by someone while reading interminable proclamations hanging on a stick) .
A slogan ( "I'm your garden: offer me a drink!"), a logo and your website are all you need.
Make it resistant: plasticize it.
It's mostly an Italian way: I find it funny.

Hammer and nails: usually, the sign breaks down just as you knock it in the ground. There's nothing more depressing than a sign leaning carelessly.... And don't forget to bring scissors with you.

Plants, flowers and seeds, bulbs: it depends on your budget.
In principle, there isn't a thing better than another.
The decision is up to you, depending on the resources you have available and according to what you want to achieve.

Seeds are the cheaper solution, but the first impact will be very poor, in spite of your wonderful and colorful sign.
Remember: using grown plants or trees particolarly attractive, it's a risk because thieves never fail. It's very easy to pick up a recently planting: just pull and you'll obtain it with roots and effortless.

It would be an unbearable pain to find out that the little olive tree, planted in the center of a roundabout (and paid a lot of money), which in your dreams should become a majestic tree, has been easily removed with its root ball.

Flowers are usually a good middle way: their colors can't be ignored and the cost may even be limited.

You could try to ask for plants or flowers to nurseries.
Someone could be intrigued by your idea.
To be honest, I'm too shy to do it.
Some groups have achieved amazing results with this technique. Just put on your best smile and try.

The cheapest way consists in harvesting wild plants from the countryside: with a little care, they can grow beautiful. In this way you will contribute to the preservation of native species. Furthermore, they are plants accustomed to the weather: a guarantee, in terms of endurance!
Wild periwinkles can make....
Among other things, this will teach you to look around: you will discover that nature can offer much and you'll learn how to find nice flowers, even seemingly insignificant, which until then you've never noticed.
This, for example, is what I've experienced with the tenacious periwinkles collected by countryside or with the infesting Jerusalem artichokes.

Bulbs: essential to join the International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day and the most of Fall actions.
You just have to have lots of patience. Autumn bulbs (there are also some to be planted in the spring) have many advantages: you can strike unauthorized gardening actions also in the bad season, they exceed brilliantly even the winter snows, and they sprout when the Council workers are still dormant. At that point, only a very cruel worker could trim a field of colorful tulips with his lawnmower!

Cuttings: many plants can be reproduced in this way, some more easily than others. I admit my own peculiar inability to use this technique, but you often can transplant only well-grown cuttings and this means that you have to wait two or three years before freeing them.

Seed bombs: that's an object that excites especially who doesn't know anything about guerrilla gardening.
I find them more harmful than unnecessary.
They are clay pellets containing potting soil and a few seeds (the simplest version it's a ball made with a sheet of newspaper containing some seeds while some jokers sell them in the form of a grenade) which you should toss where you cannot go (the most classic example is an abandoned construction yard): over time, seeds will sprout breaking the clay and will root in the ground.
I think it's great fun to make them (there are lots of fun workshops for children) but they are not very effective in substance.
Imagine you see a person who throws balls around the city: at best, you would think that he is an uncivilized who is tossing junk.
In addition, results are not guaranteed because the buds will still need to be watered (I've experimented that it needs just two days of scorcher to kill all my buds. Imagine those ones behind the fence of a yard). So, I think it's better to act with calm and precision.

But as I pointed out before, the choice of plants should be motivated, overall, by the objectives of the mission.

For my part, I reassessed greatly the use of seeds.
At the beginning, I've made this choice to save two pennies, but today it became my prerogative.
Yes, I know: at first, a sown flowerbed doesn't appear to be changed from the day before, and probably you won't feel that thrill which only something subversive gives us, we must not forget that seeds require - necessarily - a constant care. Infact, you have to water every day your seeds to encourage the germination and (then) to allow the young plants to survive and grow .
Is it truly better than before?
It might seem like a wasted effort (after all, you can purchase grown flowers for two or three Euros) but it allows residents note that a flowerbed is under constant surveillance and maintenance by a Citizen. This could stimulate consideration and - probably - participation by the others.
I don't think the same it happens planting trees: trees - by their nature - they give the impression they could get away alone.
Therefore, the cultural revolution can more easily germinate (it has to be said!) from a seed, more than a tree, because plants that complete their life cycle in one year - and are therefore ephemeral - they have to be replaced. This will force you  to draw attention on you once again. Then, Citizens - involved by your enthusiasm (or your obsession, for instance!) - they might help or they could try to imitate you.
On the contrary, a tree - despite it permanently changes environment - hardly will stimulate the inhabitants to daily watering .
On the other hand, would you water a pine every day?

Watering can: not indispensable. You can in fact use plastic bottles, buckets, canisters. It becomes very useful when you have a water source at hand but if you have to put it in a car or in a wheelbarrow, you'll lose at least half of your load.
Using the "rose", you'll break up the stream of water into droplets to avoid excessive water pressure on delicate plants or on seeds just buried.
Don't overestimate the option "30 liters canister": apart from the weight, water falls too much heavily. If you really do not want to give it up with that, choose one with grooves on the outer surface of the bottom, where to grip with your hands.
I have personally used a completely smooth canister for a long time, before throwing it away: it's impossible to gently pour the water without a proper outlet. The only thing you get, is to have foot baths.
This is a big one....
....and a good one.
Comfortable old shoes: it depends on what kind of action you are planning. If you are going to dig a flowerbed, better to wear old shoes or boots. Again, don't trust the cheapest: I guarantee you that with the first water, soles will unstuck.
And, oh yes! Be careful not to buy two left boots as I did (but this is another story)!

That's it.

To recap: gloves, trowel, hoe, plants and water are everything that you really need to get into the action.

Time after time, you'll add to your equipment everything you wanted to have with you during the previous action: rakes, shears, hacksaw and so on....

I reduced and refined my standard, gardening neglected areas of Quarto Inferiore. After testing several tools, I realized that some of these may very well be replaced by other ones, when they're used with a little fantasy.
In particular, I bring with me a wheelbarrow, a bucket with a large sturdy handle, a fork-spade and a hoe, in addition to the equipment required for the fence of the flowerbeds (string and cutted sticks). No trowel: once punched and turned upside-down the ground with the fork-spade, the hoe proves perfectly capable of digging small holes in which to plant the flowers.

Over time, you will learn the motto of every unauthorized gardener:

"My weapons are everything that exists"

and then, you will be sure you will not lack anything!

2 commenti:

  1. Loved the way you explained each and everything so clearly. A person who wants to start gardening should read your post first. Thanks for sharing.

    Andrew John

    1. Thanks for your comment, Andrew! I apologise for my rough English.
      Stay tuned (if you like) for more chapters to come!