venerdì 10 gennaio 2014

Guerrilla Gardening Techniques: the Defence

And now that you have planted flowers and trees, do you think you can sleep soundly?
No way!
It 's time to defend your humble petunias!

Learn this rule (for once I'll be categorical):
the area mustn't seem forlorn to itself.

If you let the ground to cover with wild grasses, after you've buried bulbs or seeds, do not expect that municipal workers would spare your tiny seedlings just sprouted.

Here are some tips. Qs usual, you are welcome to criticize if you find them foolish.

Warning sign: is a good starting point. A good sign indicating that the flowerbed was the site of an attack by unauthorized gardeners, forces bystanders and maintainers to ask themselves some questions.
However, if the sign convinces passers-by walking near (and not into) the flowerbed or not to take Rover for its daily pee, don't deceive yourself that maintenance workers will give up to use the lawn mower if there are weeds growing tall.
"One day you'll understand what really matters"
"Thanks, dad!"
Fencing: certainly is the best way to defend what you've done.
Consider always that option. Let your imagination help you, but make sure that it is visible, durable and, above all, cheap.

A border of white pebbles, for example, probably will resist very little (in particular, do not underestimate the fact that someone can find your stones particularly appealing to the fish tank at home). However, if you keep the ground clear of weeds, they might even work.

You can find plasticized in every hardware store: they come in all shapes and sizes, but they are quite expensive .
The simplest, square mesh, 100cm high, costs about 2.50 Euros per square meter. With a few well-aimed cuts, you could even triple the length at your disposal. But the mesh can't stand alone: you certainly will need to tie it to some backups (bamboo canes or recycled sticks). Over time (not so much time, believe me), even in the absence of stress, the mesh will lose the rigid attitude that you gave at the moment of placement. The result, in my view , is very ugly.
You may possibly opt for meshes more sturdy, perhaps shaped like arches in succession, but the cost becomes so high that probably you will give up willingly .
Again, remember that thieves are everywhere.

The white-red plastic tape used during roadworks: are you kidding? Such an eyesore  to protect your beautiful tulips? A bit of style, what the heck!
Joking aside: it usually tears up at the first gust of wind.

I have experimented, with considerable success, a very cheap and fairly rustic system.
I use sticks of 1-2cm in diameter, 50-60 cm tall and a cheap string (6 Euros for 90 meters in length), arranged in two parallel rows.
A tree pit sowed with sunflowers seeds
in an area heavily frequented by children
Periodically, you'll have to straighten the sticks and stretch the string, but now you've learned that you cannot leave abandoned the flowerbeds, if you want to get some results.
During autumn and winter, the string will rot and break. Not problem: in case, you'll replace it with little effort (physical and economic one) and, besides, you will show to inhabitants that even with the bad weather we can' take care of our town.

Attention: a fence made of sticks (or similar) should be avoided in areas at high risk of vandalism (eg, a stadium ). The police could remove them to prevent them from being used as a weapon.

Obviously, you can use any kind of structures, purchased or self-constructed (eg with the axes of the pallets) but in any case, it is necessary to make a clarification: any type of fence which closes (even psychologically) the access probably will induce the passers-by to not log on to the border. A fence which forces to climb over an obstacle (short as a border of stones or tall as sticks and string, doesn't matter)  to water the plants, will be understood as "trespassing" and, probably, even the most willing citizens will give up the good intent, maybe for fear of being mistaken for vandals.
So we welcome the fences to preserve our hard work, but you don't forget to draw paths or open passages which encourage people to get closer.

Let the Citizens feel that that place is really for everyone.
After all, if someone was willing to destroy or steal some plants, two sticks and a string won't be enough to discourage such a rude.

Cleaning the land from weeds
I think it's one of the first things to do.
It will allow you to make life easy to plants or seeds but not only.
The most important thing is that every passer-by or municipal worker will understand that the flowerbed is not left to its own destiny.
At first, when you are going to plant a flowerbed, you might think that it's a good idea leaving weeds untouched, so that they can act as accessory for your new flowers.
I do not agree. I believe that all around the plants (as in seed beds), there should  be only clear ground free from weeds.
I call it "Phase Zen Garden"
....and after. Now it's seed-time!
That's for two reasons:

1) your maintenance missions will be easier: if you let grass grow wild (if you're dogged to not consider it weed), in a short time it will overwhelm your cyclamens. Moreover, if you are provided with a mower, you'll have to work with a painstaking precision to not cut even the plants that you have planted.
Once, when I tried to do that, I made a chopped mixture of weeds and geraniums.

2) the second reason is a direct consequence of the first one. Municipal workers won't hesitate a second in front of a bed with a grass twenty centimeters tall. And for sure, even if they notice the faded roses in the middle of the weeds, they won't waste too much time to ring around.
Municipal workers have spared the tulip sprouts mowing around the fence
Alternatively, you could mulch: covering the ground makes weeds hard to grow. There are many elegant mulches, such as wooden chips, but it's a very expensive material: a 80-liters bag is around 8-9 euro. Believe me, 80 liters seem very much (especially when you have to carry the bag) but when you spread out the mulch, you realize that you have very little stuff (consider that a mulch, to be effective, it should be at least 10 cm thick).

Mulch, in addition to reducing weed growth, can be useful to protect roots during the cold season .
You have tons of material suitable for the purpose. While it is not as elegant as wooden chips, look around you and, for once, thank uncivilized people leaving cardboard boxes next to the dumpsters. It's a system that I have experienced with considerable success: I cut several sheets of cardboard with a central hole to accommodate the slender trunk of my guerrilla trees planted in the Fall. The reason to put many layers, lies in the fact that  the cardboard tends to become mush, when it rains.
Layers of cardboard sheets to protect plants
Above these, I usually put large amounts of dried harvested on the streets.
Mulch is effective to protect roots from cold
In short, ecological, economic and zero miles.
Can you think of a better solution?
But you could use a lot of other materials, like old carpets conveniently cutted.
It is not all! Sure, the look is not so cool but when the scorcher burns the air, this system reduce the transpiration from soil and, therefore, the need for frequent watering.
The hint is: use your fantasy to save money and protect plants.

The coat: "It's cold, cover yourself!"
How many times your mom said to you a phrase like that?
For some plants, it's equally important. If you placed trees or shrubs, and if winters where you live are hard, do not disdain to wrap the plants with adequate protections. I use the nonwoven fabric which I recycle year after  year (until it will be reduced to a rag). Sometimes I see even trees covered by plastic bags. I do not know .... I am afraid that they can't breathe as they should but I could be wrong.
An oleander wrapped with nonwoven fabric
Cleanliness: it's mandatory.
Even if you really believe in the politeness of passers-by, you will always find rubbish in your gardens. Try to be positive and pretend that they have been blown in by the wind. Make it a habit to remove the garbage immediately: guerrilla gardening is even that.
Don't forget to cut faded flowers not just to give new vigor to plants, but even because you'll make the beds look nicer. In addition , it will be a way to get noticed by the inhabitants.
OK, I'll pretend to believe that this is a kind of organic fertilizer
It's natural: some plants will not last. Replace them, if possible. Leaving dead elements, especially if huge, gives an impression of neglect.
Replace even the thefts. Do not give up to have a nice neighborhood. In case, placing a sign which draws the attention of passersby and residents about the theft can stimulate them to become themselves the Watch of the site. There are many stories of plants which have been stolen and then replaced by residents.
As they say, every cloud has a silver lining....

Selection of plants.
Use the cheapest plants. Thieves are everywhere and they never fail!
Native plants are the best choice: if someone steals the periwinkle you have harvested along the ditches of the surrounding countryside, you will have nothing to do but to take a walk to collect one more.
Fumaria officinalis harvest in the countryside
Remember, make sure that the area does not seem forlorn.
Anyone who passes by should have the impression that that place is under the loving care of someone.
Unauthorized Gardening is a funny thing that should be taken seriously .
Transforming from day to night a neglected area and let it slowly return to its original conditions, not only will not have changed the environment, but it will make yourself ridiculous to those who say, when they look at you while you're digging, "It's wasted effort".
Let's prove to birds of ill omen that they're wrong and make them to eat their own words.

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