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Gardening guerrilla style
Sharon Bordeaux
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You see them one night as you drive alone through a gritty neighborhood. With a shiver of fear you check the door locks and consider doing a fast U–turn.

The gang, wearing murky clothing and carrying what might be shotguns, stops in front of a chain link fence and begins lobbing something over the top.  

You notice they are armed with shovels and hoes.

You relax; no harm will come to you.

These are guerrilla gardeners seed-bombing a sadly neglected bit of the earth.

What a wacky world we live in. Even with the multitudinous distractions of our high-tech society, there are people who care enough about growing plants to engage in the radical activity called guerrilla gardening — people who are willing to take a risk by planting illicitly on land they do not own for the purpose of adding beauty and creating community.

Early in the history of the movement a lot of condoms were used. I mention that just in case your attention was wavering.

A guerrilla gardener’s preferred weapon of mass creation is the seed bomb. First used in New York City in the 1970s, seed grenades were made by stuffing condoms with seeds and a growing mix. These were surreptitiously thrown into barren spaces where it was hoped that some of the seeds would sprout.

Nowadays guerrilla gardeners tend to use condoms in the predictable way and instead construct their seed balls from molded clay and fertilizer. There are recipes on the internet for all sorts of missiles, including seed bombs.

The edgy/chic retailer Anthropologie sells them. Seed bombs seem almost commonplace, as if most people keep a stash in their backpacks or purses and periodically toss them into derelict landscapes.

But we aren’t doing that in Savannah.  At least not to my knowledge. At least not yet.

Guerrilla gardening seems like a good fit for a city noted for its quirkiness. Not that I’m promoting it because it is, after all, an illegal activity....

The thrill of clandestine missions is actually what draws some folks to guerrilla gardening: secret plans, adrenalin rushes and the resulting, inevitable camaraderie. 

Yes, there are occasional skirmishes with law enforcement, but tolerance or mild irritation are more common.

Paradoxically, like many anti–establishment practices, guerrilla gardening often becomes mainstream. That has happened in New York City where guerrilla gardeners, among the first in the United States, began with one renegade garden. 

Decades later, with the support of authorities and citizens, the group has planted over 600 gardens in the metropolis.

The robust guerilla gardening faction in Los Angeles was begun by a man who prefers to be known as Mr. Stamen. Now an official nonprofit with over 900 members, the organization is well known and appreciated. 

A recent daytime landscaping in front of a liquor store was possible because the owner gave permission. He also gave out free beer. A passerby sang  “We are the World” to the volunteers That could be the theme song for the guerrilla gardening movement, with “troops” mobilized internationally. 

Covert gardening is growing and not so stealthily. A guerrilla gardener in London has written two how–to books and created a website that serves as a worldwide network for those who garden on the sly (

This peaceable revolution where grenades explode wildflower seeds and a garden appears overnight has a contagious spirit of green renewal. Seed bomb–making party, anyone?

Horror story update

In the first Green Matters column I wrote about a lawn in my neighborhood that had been purposely killed by an herbicide. The most common herbicide in both agricultural and home usage is Roundup.

A reader sent me a website link at that reveals the toxic effects of this chemical. The toxicity leaves no life untouched, from earthworms to birds to dogs to humans.

We should be alarmed, even terrified.  An extensive study of Roundup’s effects on non–target organisms found that it caused a 70 percent decline in amphibian biodiversity. 

Frogs, frogs, where art thou?

Can you visualize the famous Edvard Munch painting “The Scream?” That was my expression when I learned the following: Monsanto, the producer of Roundup, has guaranteed its market for the weedkiller.

Crops genetically engineered by Monsanto (and highly favored by agribusiness) are the only plants able to tolerate Roundup.  All other vegetation is eliminated, including non–Monsanto crop plants.

The End.