The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Long-Term Maintenance

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“The Garden Table” – Rebecca Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – This is my last project… Not so much a guerrilla garden as we have a ten-year lease on the property… But urban none the less… No budget… All recycled and salvaged materials…

Long Term Maintenance

This post is part of a larger body of work titled ”The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

Long-term maintenance is the killer of most guerrilla gardens. ALL GARDENS REQUIRE REGULAR MAINTENANCE! Whether organic or chemical, food or ornamental, water or soil, privately owned or guerrilla, no garden is completely sustainable without maintenance. Way too many people plug “no work” gardening into Google and find themselves reading my blog, there is no such thing as a completely work free garden… Actually… I take that back… If you are searching the internet for no work gardening… Then you need to pay someone to install and maintain your garden, because essentially, that is what you are asking for… And that is what myself, as well as many others like me do for a living…

With that said, a garden should not be all work. I find all too often that the general public sees gardening as nothing but work. There are some steps you can take to cut down on the amount of maintenance that will be required over the life of your garden. The solution can be as simple as digging a small canal from the downspout of a nearby vacant building, to as complex as soil nutrient alterations in an attempt to discourage a certain type of weed. I find all too often most problems can be solved with minimal work using nothing more than your brain… If you only learn one thing here I would want it to be “work smarter, not harder”…

Litter is a constant problem in my neighborhood, people throw their shit everywhere. When the wind blows that litter around, it will usually stick to anything in its path… Often it will be your garden… You can look at this one of two ways… Either you can get pissed off about all the litter, and subsequently give up gardening in disgust… Or you can be happy over the fact that your garden makes litter removal a little bit easier… I am saying this because I truly believe that if you are going to guerrilla garden on someone else’s land, you should maintain that plot of land as if it were your own… And that typically means cleaning up trash and litter that you had nothing to do with…

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“Daylily before Blight” – Rebecca Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Daylily make great guerrilla garden plants… Extremely hardy and tolerant of the harshest conditions… They require division every once in a while… You can see this as work or as a cheap source of plants…

Organic debris like leaves and grass clippings are very valuable in the guerrilla garden, they can provide a good percentage of the nutrient needs of a garden. Grass clippings are one of the most versatile materials available in urban environments, landscapers are often happy to part with them.

Many of the herbaceous perennials grown in formal gardens are cut back in the fall, most of these plants can be left through the winter. Winter weather breaks organic material down quickly, what is left of these plants in the spring quickly gets covered by new growth. A growing plant mines nutrients from the soil, nutrients that are stored in the leaves, these nutrients will have to be replaced if the organic material is removed so it is often best practice to leave the plants as they are.

Garden debris that is created can often be simply buried in the garden. Trench composting is a style of composting that involves digging a hole and filling it with whatever scrap organic material is available. In the case of a small guerrilla garden, any organic material you come in contact with can technically be buried. I do suggest sticking to smaller pieces in miniature gardens, digging through a layer of woven sticks and grass can prove to be impossible. Remember the bigger the material, the longer it will take to break down.

Guerrilla gardening is an opportunistic activity, sometimes soil, mulch or plants will suddenly become available… Successful guerrilla gardeners are always ready to take these items… Sometimes you will have to take some crap in order to get some good, beggars can’t be choosers… Vacant lots and guerrilla gardens provide unlimited opportunities, any free resource available to you should be considered. Oftentimes, the same things commonly thought of as only being found in high-end formal gardens can be available to the beggar who is willing to wait… Or willing to learn how to propagate plants… Which is the route I took… Now I can propagate just about anything…

An established guerrilla garden requires minimal maintenance. Occasional weeding and yearly mulch can keep a perennial guerrilla garden going for years. Guerrilla gardeners tend to be transient people, very few seem to stay in one location for very long and because of this vacant guerrilla gardens are becoming a normal occurrence. I find it funny that an activity that is commonly used as a protest against blight, could some day be considered a form of blight.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Perennials and Biennials

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“Tomato Soup” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Echinacea is a favorite of my girlfriend and I… I grow it everywhere I can… Available in a variety of bloom styles and colors… Drought tolerant once established… Often self seeds but the colors typically fade or completely revert to purple…

Perennials

This post is part of a larger body of work titled ”The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

Although some guerrilla gardens are intended to only last a year, some can last for a long time. Plant selection, coupled with continuing community support can make a community garden last for years with minimal maintenance.

A perennial is any plant that lives for three or more years, many live much longer. The garden flowers called perennials technically should be called herbaceous perennials because they lack the woody stems and branches of shrubs and trees, which are called woody perennials. Most herbaceous perennials die to the ground during winter, but their roots remain alive and send up new growth in spring. The tall tops of some perennials die in fall and the plant will develop ground-hugging rosettes of leaves that survive the winter. A few perennials, such as bergenia and epimedium, are herbaceous, but have evergreen or semi-evergreen leaves.

Most perennials bloom for two or three weeks at a specific time of the year, and their foliage remain till frost. Some cherished perennials, such as threadleaf coreopsis and fringed bleeding-heart, are long-blooming, producing flowers for 8 to 12 weeks. Others, such as garden phlox and delphinium, can be encouraged to rebloom after cutting back the first flush of flowers after the blooms fade and before they set seed. Many perennials with short bloom times have cool foliage that lasts well beyond the flowers, leaf color and shape should therefor be considered as well.

Many perennials spread, forming larger clumps every year. Some fast growing plants need to be dug up and divided periodically or the plants will become stunted. Aggressive spreaders must be continually hacked back or they will take over the garden. Some plants, like peony can grow for 50 years without ever needing divided.

Perennials are cold hardy to different degrees, some can’t survive winters north of Washington DC, others flourish in Minnesota and the Dakotas. Some thrive in the hot and humid summers of the south, while others will simply wilt and flop over in anything remotely hot.

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Living for only two years, biennials germinate from seed the first year and put all their energy into growing foliage and strong root systems. They often live through the winter as a rosette of ground-hugging leaves… The next growing season… They send up flowering shoots… Set new seed… And then die… But biennials can be unpredictable, not always sticking to the intended lifestyle. Some behave as short-lived perennials, flowering for two to three years before they die.

Many biennials, like foxglove and hollyhock, reseed themselves so successfully that they seem to be perennial in your garden… They will return year after year… Oftentimes perennial seeds will germinate the same year they fall to the ground, allowing it to germinate the following year. You can help this along by simply shaking the seed heads over the ground where you want the plant to grow.

Container grown plants can be put in the ground any time of the year they are available. To remove the plant from its container, first water it, then turn it upside down, holding your hand under the root ball so when it slides out you can easily catch it. If the plant won’t budge, whack the bottom and sides of the container until it does… As a last resort you can cut the container off…

Roots of container-grown plants frequently encircle the surface of the root ball. Unless you interfere, the roots may keep growing around and around in the hole. Lay the plant on its side on the ground, holding it at the top with one hand, firmly rake the entire surface of the root ball with a weeding claw. Cut into the root ball with the tines of the claw to loosen and sever the roots. The cut roots will eventually branch and grow out into the surrounding soil.

Dig your hole wider and deeper than the container the perennial came in, you should be able to comfortably fit the plant in the hole while in the pot. Fill the bottom of the hole with at least an inch of soil. Place the plant in the hole and adjust accordingly so the plants crown is level with the existing soil level. Refill the hole with soil, firm the soil, water it…

A good starter list when beginning your guerrilla garden perennial research, all of the following plants will grow relatively well without much human intervention – Yarrow, Hollyhock, Golden Marguerite, Columbine, Butterfly weed, Fall Asters, Astilbe, Indigo, Bergenia, Mountain Bluet, Bugbane, Turtlehead, Coreopsis, corydalis, Delphinium, Chrysanthemum, Bleeding Heart, Foxglove, Echinacea, Blanketflower, Hardy Geranium, Lenten Rose, Daylily, Heuchera, Rose Mallow, Hosta, Iris, Dead Nettle, Shasta Daisy, Blazing Star, Lilyturf, Lupine, Forget-Me-Not, Catmint, Evening Primrose, Peony, Oriental Poppy, Russian Sage, Phlox, Balloonflower, Lungwort, Salvia, Stonecrop, Goldenrod, Lambs Ear, Foamflower, Verbena, Speedwell, Viola.

Continuing care of herbaceous perennials varies from plant to plant. For my general article titled “caring for herbaceous perennials”, please click here

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Safety

BeautyAndBeast

“Beauty and the Beast” – Lamar Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be gardening here… I would have laughed…

Safety

This post is part of a larger body of work titled ”The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

I originally posted this post with the title “Safety in the Urban Jungle”, it was popular and fit this series so I am posting it again wearing a new edit and photos… Hope you enjoy!…

I like to think that I write about experience, experience tells me I need to write about safety! Most people probably don’t consider gardening a dangerous hobby, and it normally isn’t when performed on the safety of your own property. Technically speaking, the moment you step on to property that isn’t yours, you are guilty of trespassing, alter the property in any way, and now it’s vandalism, remove anything… and it’s burglary… Which is a felony in PA!

Most of the time what you are doing will be seen as a good thing, and you will find support from the neighbors. Occasionally your presence will not be accepted, and it’s time to do some serious soul-searching. As with any “wild” area like a severely blighted urban community, you will encounter hazards that will need to be dealt with. This post is to relate some of the safety lessons I have learned while guerrilla gardening in a blighted community.

I would like to mention that while a lot of people believe guerilla gardening is a new thing, it has been around for a long time. Contrary to popular belief, guerilla gardenings roots have nothing to do with food, and everything to do with drugs. The first “guerilla gardeners” were pot farmers, the term was coined by them for the obvious “renegade” aspect of what they were doing. Wikipedia claims it was coined in New York in 1973, the term was used much earlier than that though.

I think the most important rule that I could possibly write about is “know your surroundings”, I seriously can’t stress this enough. When you are doing “anything” in a sketchy area be aware of everything, and everyone around you. If you are about to walk through an area that you think is suspect, it doesn’t hurt to be preparing a mental plan on what you would do if something goes wrong.

I have been in several situations where I was obviously being followed for whatever reason, I don’t carry cash and only had garden tools on me. After identifying the situation I immediately made myself as visible as possible by walking in the street and heading for the closest, most occupied area I could. I know at least a few people on every street and was able to make it a friend’s house, the guy walked past the house and waited on the corner for me to leave. I was able to wait him out but this could have been so much worse, I am lucky to know someone in at least 50% of the neighborhoods in Wilkinsburg.

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“Miss Lorna’s Daf” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – When working near a street… Always face the street…

I think “keeping a low profile” is a logical rule, but just in case I’m going to cover it. Blending in with your surroundings can save your life, if you walk around looking like you have money… well… people will think you have money. Just the simple fact of looking “normal” can be the difference, skip the straw farmers hat! A great secret is to figure out what color shirts your local DPW wear, then purchase several shirts in that color, makes you look a little more “official”. Sometimes the situation will put you in regular contact with people, always say hello and speak if spoken to… remember that they are now your neighbors, and will play a huge part in the success or failure of your garden.

Sometimes it is acceptable to garden in plain sight, in the case of food production you should consider hiding it. I have found that allowing people to freely pick is not always a good thing, people damage plants and often take unripe, or way more than they could possibly personally use. Now when I have non-gardeners on my sites I always spend time educating on the “harvesting” aspect of gardening. Gardens used as a protest, memorial or beautification should obviously be visible, public guerilla gardening efforts have issues as well.

I pride myself on my ability to completely zone out while I garden, this was a tough one to break. If you have the ability to work as a team I would recommend a spotter, someone to have your back. Guerilla gardening requires you to be aware of everything around you, even while you work you should be aware of everything. I was taught this lesson by an 11-year-old boy, he was always trying to find me and sneak up on me. He got close enough to reach out and touch me on several occasions, one time I almost punched him in the face, this was a huge wake up call.

If someone can get close enough to touch you while you are gardening, then they are close enough to rob you. When you do get approached by a stranger, stand up immediately, face them head on and NEVER get caught with your pants down. Consider a 6′ perimeter around yourself “personal space” and do not let them in it, if they do break that perimeter let them know you want “personal space”, they will normally understand, if they don’t “SOMETHING IS NOT RIGHT”, act accordingly!

Things you may find can harm you as well, caution should be taken with anything that you come in contact with. Guns should always be considered loaded and lethal, age weakens components and can make it very dangerous. If you ever find a gun, leave it as you found it and immediately call the police, they will respond quickly.

Cookie

“C is for Cookie” – Taylor Way – Wilkinsburg, PA – I was out photographing an alley on the other side of Wilkinsburg when I came across this hat… As I was photographing this hat a man came out of a house and told me to “mind my business”… Which I did… It wasn’t until later that I realized this was a meeting point… Some things never change…

Drug dealers don’t keep their drugs and guns at home with them, they often stash them nearby in a vacant house or yard. If you ever find one of these stashes, “DO NOT TAKE ANYTHING!!!” 9 out of 10 times you ARE BEING WATCHED, they do not stray far from the stash. Your best chance of leaving this situation with your life is to walk away like you saw nothing, I would forget I ever saw it and if anything tell someone else what you saw and let them call the police. Basically I am saying if you ever find yourself in this situation the most important thing is to get as far away, as quickly as possible. What you do from that point forward is on you, but your physical safety should be considered.

Animals can also be a serious problem with dogs being the most common, and often the most dangerous. I have always had an unexplainable thing with animals and rarely have problems, but it does happen. Dogs are almost always curious animals that don’t want to hurt you, extreme home environments are the problem. Starvation, neglect, fighting, abuse and torture of dogs does happen, this can turn an otherwise friendly dog into a killing machine.

If you encounter an animal in this condition after you secure your own life you need to report it to the police, they can handle it. Mace can be a good dog deterrent, and is rather effective on humans as well. I was planting pumpkins in the backyard of the house across the street, I heard the barking before I even saw it. The biggest, scariest pit bull I have ever seen was hauling ass right towards me, I spent the next two hours chain-smoking cigarettes locked in the kitchen of an abandoned house.

Hypodermic needles can also be commonplace, with blight comes pain. Never ever touch a used needle, if you have to do it, wear protection. If finding needles becomes commonplace, talk to a doctor or hospital and acquire a used needle box with a safety lid. Paramedics and police will respond when called about a dirty needle, they have the equipment needed to recover used needles. Basically the safest thing you can do is dial “911″, they would rather pick up a needle than pick you up after stabbing yourself.

In closing I just want to stress how important being aware of your surroundings at all times is, this WILL save your life. The boy scouts have a motto “Always Be Prepared” that I think applies nicely here, keep your head up. Guerilla gardeners fight blight with beauty, wherever there is vacant land you will find us in one form or another.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Annuals

moonflower

“Moonflower” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Datura wrightii… Sacred Moonflower that was given as a gift a few years ago… Frost kills it to the ground… Depending on how harsh of a winter I have it typically sprouts again in spring… This plant also creates a ton of seeds making it a perfect plant for vacant lot gardening…

Annuals

This post is part of a larger body of work titled ”The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

Every guerrilla gardener dreams of a wall of color growing in place of litter and blight, nothing can match the flash and glitter of a profusion of flowering annuals when a statement is to be made.  When it comes to sheer flower power, no other plant matches up to these prolific bloomers.

Many garden annuals bloom practically nonstop from late spring or early summer, only stopping with the killing fall frost. By definition an annual plant lives for only one year, completing its entire growing season in one year. It germinates, develops into a mature plant, blooms, sets seed, and finally dies… All in a span of several months…

Some annuals, especially hardy ones such as sweet alyssum and larkspur, can reseed in your garden. They may come back the next year without even planting them. This can be a good thing, or a disastrous situation depending on what you are dealing with. Many self-seeders are borderline invasive if not full-blown invasive. Amaranth comes to mind, setting millions of seeds that seem to sprout legs and walk all over the neighborhood. Research and experience will help determine your problem plants, deadhead your flowers before the seeds fully develop.

Most annual plants die because of a hormonal trigger set off by seed formation or ripening. Gardeners can trick this natural phenomenon, at least for a time, by continuously removing the dead flowers… AKA Deadheading… By preventing seed formation, deadheading encourages the annual to continue blooming an a desperate attempt to set seed… Sometimes this will promote blooming in an overachiever… Some modern annuals are sterile and do not set seed, they typically bloom right up until frost without any human intervention.

Impatiens, petunias and marigolds are probably the most popular garden annuals sold today… Probably too popular because I see them everywhere… I swear to God I can tell you what annuals home depot stocks just by walking through a suburban neighborhood. I can also typically tell you who shops at privately owned nurseries… The world of available annuals is constantly expanding, though I recommend the standards for guerrilla gardening due to the issues associated with maintenance.

Not all annuals are created equal as far as temperament and growing requirements are concerned. Annuals can be classified into several broad categories, all with different characteristics. Knowing the specifics of the annual you are planting helps you understand the plants habits and needs.

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“Pineapple Sage” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Stunning pineapple-scented gold foliage covers this plant through the summer months… As fall approaches… Pineapple Sage begins stretching towards the low sun followed by a display of red flowers often unmatched in the autumn garden…

Tender Perennials – Many of the annuals sold at the typical garden center are actually tender perennials. These are long blooming perennials in their native habitats… But the cold of winter… Not their genetic makeup, kills them in the winter… So they behave like annuals when grown in the north…

Warm-Season Annuals – Flourishing in heat and blooming best in summer, warm-season annuals like zinnia, marigold, and cosmos cannot survive even a light frost. Freezing temperatures kill tender seedlings and sometimes seeds. Because plants take several months to mature and begin flowering, you may want to start your seeds indoors.

Cool-Season Annuals – Nasturtium, sweet alyssum, pot marigold, and other cool season annuals flower best during cool weather and wither or die in during summers heat. Freezing temperatures usually do not kill seeds, which often self-sow and overwinter in the garden, sprouting in spring or summer. In temperate regions, early planting provides the best show from cool-season annuals… Allowing them to bloom until the heat of summer…

Hardy Annuals – This type of cool-season annual withstands the most cold. Sow the seeds in spring before frost danger has passed or in late fall for spring germination. Hardy annuals include Iceland poppy, pot marigold and larkspur.

The following are annuals tolerant of guerrilla gardening conditions…

Snapdragon, Begonia, flowering kale, pot marigold, periwinkle, bachelor’s-button, cornflower, Cleome, coleus, larkspur, cosmos, annual dahlia, dianthus, California poppy, Annual Blanket Flower, Sunflower, Strawflower, Heliotrope, Impatiens, Lantana, Sweet Pea, Lobelia, sweet Alyssum, Flowering Tobacco, Corn poppy, shirley poppy, Flanders Poppy, Geranium, Perilla, Petunia, Annual Phlox, Moss Rose, Zinnia, Marigold, Nasturtium, Verbena, Pansy.

Planting should be done on a cool cloudy day, rain in the forecast can be a huge help whenever possible. Water the cell-packs so the plants slide right out. If they do not, push the bottom of the cell with your thumb, and the roots should pop right out. Well grown annuals will have a network of white roots growing around the soil ball.

A root bound plants roots should be broken apart before transplanting, this encourages the roots to grow out into the soil as opposed to continuing around in a circle. Gently split the matted root ball up the middle by pulling with both hands in opposite directions and untangling as many roots as possible.

Water immediately after planting… Because the plants are young with relatively tiny root systems, you may need to water every day for a few weeks until everything gets established. Annuals that are allowed to wilt at this stage of their life, often suffer for a considerable amount of time after.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Plant Selection

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“Heucherella” – I am including this photograph to illustrate a point… This was an empty pot when I got it… Tagless and destined for the dumpster… An inspection of the roots revealed life and a crown was clearly evident after some minor digging… I took a chance on it and several others…

Plant Selection

This post is part of a larger body of work titled ”The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

A tough subject to write about for the guerrilla gardener, often the deciding factors end up being cost and availability. Given the high likelihood that the garden will be destroyed faster than it was created, I recommend starting with the cheapest plants available. A garden that survives through the first or second year can then be considered for nicer plants, but only after passing the test of time. Trust me when I say that if someone really wants to mess with your garden, there is very little you can do other than use plants that can survive regular abuse.

Stick to the tried and true plants, do not choose the newest cultivars or craziest colors. Plants that are considered tough in their original “un bred” state, can become extremely finicky when you get into the special cultivars. An example of this is Echinacea, look through any catalog and you will find dozens of colors and bloom styles. Although the Native Echinacea purpurea is a “bomb proof” plant perfectly suited to the harshest conditions you can throw at it, almost all of the new cultivars are extremely finicky and have little resistance to all but the most controlled garden environments. These finicky cultivars should be avoided until you have a good idea of the space you are gardening, if some “old school” flowers survive and flourish in the location, then, and only then should you consider adding some flair.

Plant acquisition is a surprisingly straight forward task, step one is taking all of the plant magazines you receive in the mail and throw them straight in the garbage. Plant porn has no place here! Step two is being patient, greenhouses and box stores order much more stock than they could ever possibly get rid of. Given the recent surge in dumpster diving hipster trendiness, dumpsters are being padlocked or waste stored indoors until right before pick-up. My suggestion to you is to find a manager and ask if he would be willing to sell you any plants destined for the dumpster at a discounted rate. More often than not they will be happy to do this, and will typically let things go for pennies on the dollar. This method is typically most effective in the off-season, in the peak sales season discounts are much less due to demand.

SingleRed

“Single Red” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – With bulb planting season mistakenly thought of as being only the month of October… Discounts can be found anywhere that stocks them…

Guerrilla gardening often forces a gardener to perpetually study plants, in doing so we often learn tricks pertaining to specific plants and planting methods. Fruit trees for example can be bought for next to nothing anytime other than early spring, I am always asked if it is possible to plant a fruit tree in the middle of Summer… Of course you can… If the choice comes down to leaving a tree in a pot until spring or just planting it as soon as possible… The answer will always be plant it…

For my permaculture based article on rehabilitating discount plants click here

Seeds are another method of getting plants, about mid-summer the prices drop to next to nothing. Not many people realize it, but seed packets have expiration dates on them. A secret about that date is it is really only there to force the stores to buy new seeds each year, think of it as a sell by date. Although seeds lose viability with age, many are perfectly viable long after the expiration date.

The last source of plants I am going to quickly talk about is friends sharing. Gardeners are typically proud of what they have, many of us love our plants so much we won’t throw out our divisions. Those divisions often only cost the time it takes to tour a garden, an early lesson you will learn is people like to share plants. Trading can also be effective, always have a few divisions potted up just in case opportunity comes calling… A plant given away today often returns ten fold in the future…

The next few chapters will each deal with different types of plants and their uses in the guerrilla garden…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Water

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“Urban Rain Garden” – The Garden Table Urban Garden – Rebecca Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – Looking in the background you will notice a brick cutaway in the berm running along the abandoned house… I built that there because the gutters above leak profusely during rain events… The rain garden is my answer to the flooding that used to result because of this… Flooding that before this rain garden regularly covered 50% of the lot…

Water

This post is part of a larger body of work titled ”The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

Whiskey is worth drinking, but water’s worth fighting for. Water is the great garden equalizer, any guerrilla gardener will tell you lugging water 4 gallons at a time in the middle of a heat wave sucks. Did you know you have to do this, like, every couple of days? Vegetables require regular water for the first month, then periodic water depending on the amount of rain that falls. Ornamental plants also require water during the first month of establishment, perennials that make it through the first year may never need supplemental irrigation. Annuals will need water throughout the entire course of their life, regular in establishment and periodic after.

There are options other than lugging water, observation during rainfall is often the key to success. Leaky gutters, when coupled with a rain collection barrel is just one example of collection without physical contact or alteration… A screen placed over the top will keep leaves and debris out. Where a roof does not exist, create one. One inch of rain, falling on a 1000 square foot roof will produce 600 gallons of water. One inch of rain on a small shed sized roof will fill a small rain barrel.

Even a rain barrel has its limits, with most commercial models topping out at 50 gallons. The important thing to remember is without a downspout, even a thousand rain barrels won’t do you any good. The answer to this problem is often as simple as meeting the neighbors, you would be surprised how receptive someone can be to a rain barrel when it does not involve any money or work on their part. If saving the local stream does not seal the deal, offer vegetables.

Storm water run-off is a huge problem in urban areas, pavement is quick to shed water and storm drains quickly drain that water to the local stream. In a pollution, litter and chemical free world this would be a perfect system, but we are not any of these things and therefore our watershed suffer the consequences. Urban lots consisting of compacted fill often do not soak up rainfall. Depending on the grade of the lot, much of that water is allowed to run right off it into the street. Every effort should be made to keep this water in the garden, or slow it down enough to allow it time to absorb into the earth.

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“Grand Arrival” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – The sewers on our street our filled to ground level with litter and debris… This is the result of a Summer thunderstorm… As you can see by the photo not everyone thinks this is a problem…

Rain gardens and bioswales, when placed based on your observations of water flow, can effectively harness run-off for plant use. Water flowing down hill can be effectively stopped using a miniature bio-swale, excess water can then be routed to a central rain garden. Essentially this system is nothing more than small trenches dug perpendicular to the flow of water, the downhill side can be reinforced with a small dam made with the soil removed from the trench. This trench is then filled with loose organic materials, and covered in stones or wood mulch. This trench can then be routed to a central rain garden, with the garden beds radiating outwards from the collection garden in the center. My theory behind this is that the rain garden would distribute the collected water down the connected gardens, working essentially like a wick style irrigation system.

The plant-based answer I would give to the water problem is to use plants that don’t require supplemental water. Xeriscape plants like sedums, thyme and Echinacea often require no water beyond the time of planting. Any succulent will grow in the worst soil you can find, or the driest conditions you can throw at it. Some plants, like “Stella Dora” day lily are very common in parking lots, not only are they drought tolerant, they can be accidentally cut to the ground and still grow fast enough to continue blooming after a few short weeks. Native plants should be where your research begins, many of them have already adapted safety responses to the occasional drought or dry spell. Much more on plants later…

Properly amended soil holds more water than flat lifeless dirt, the amount of water your soil can hold has a direct relation to how much organic material it contains. Leaf mulch and grass clippings are often readily available in urban neighborhoods, these can be mixed into the soil, or layered on top to slowly decompose… You would be surprised how much organic material, when left on the surface of a garden, will be consumed and moved by the earthworms below… Learning about earthworms made me a lazy gardener… That’s right… I’m blaming it on the worms!..

Mulch is a material placed over the soil to reduce water loss through evaporation. Mulch is typically an organic material such as wood chips or hay, whatever is available locally is typically best. A mulch layer should be applied generously, keep in mind that water lost to evaporation only means you will have to replace that water later. When possible, a thick layer of mulch on top of your new topsoil layer will greatly increase the water holding capability of your garden.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Sunlight

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“First Rays of Sunlight” – Stone Cairn – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Another renegade activity I take part in… Natural sculptures made of stones found on site…

Sunlight

This post is part of a larger body of work titled ”The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook”. For the introduction and table of contents please click here

Urban environments can be thought of as a collection of microclimates, one of the greatest determining factors of these is the sun. Plants require sunlight to survive, so gardening often becomes a hunt for the best sunlight. Knowing a few little facts about the sun can help you determine where the best light in an area will be.

The earth spins around the sun in a counterclockwise motion. If the earth was straight up and down the sun would be 90 degrees to the earth at all times, the result of which would be no seasons. Because the earth tilts 23.5 degrees, in the winter we are tilted away from the sun, and in the summer we lean towards the sun. The sun rises in the eastern sky, and sets in the west. During the summer months, the sun passes directly overhead. During the winter months, the sun will be much lower in the sky and to the South. March 23rd and September 23rd are known as the vernal and Autumnal equinox, this is the day the vertical sun crosses the equator.

Walls that face to the south will act as heat traps, the reflected sunlight heats the ground, and in turn will heat the area at the foot of the wall. North facing walls on the other hand can experience nothing more than indirect light most of the year, this side of a building will stay frozen much longer than the south facing wall during the spring thaw. The effects of this can raise your USDA hardiness rating a zone or two on the south facing wall, and possibly lower it on the north wall. The reflection of solar energy is known as albedo and can be harnessed for use in the garden, this is a subject I have already explored in a previous post… You can find my post here- Albedo and Absorption of Solar Energy

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“Sunlight Through Pineapple Sage” – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – The first peaks of sunlight photographed through my pineapple sage… This salvia is photosensitive… Meaning it blooms only after we reach a certain amount of hours of sunlight… In this case around 12 hours of light and 12 of dark… AKA – Fall…

East and west facing walls are a little more complicated, even if both walls get the exact same amount of direct sunlight. The first thing you will notice through observation is that the soil at an east facing wall is always drier than the west. The wall to the east has the benefit of warming throughout the course of the entire morning, although the west wall is also warming, it is happening much slower. By the time the sun starts warming the west wall, the ambient temperature is up, and the east wall does not loose heat as fast as the west after nightfall. Because of this, you can often get away with plants typically suited for full sun on the east side of a building, and plants suited for full shade on the west.

I have published several other articles about shade gardening, for that reason I will not be writing about it now… Instead you can check them out from these two little links – Gardening in the Shade – Woodland Mimicry in the Urban Garden

Determining the type of sunlight you are working with will not take all day. Now that you understand how the sun moves across the sky relative to the current season, you will be able to map your gardens sunlight without even being on site. Just remember the sun rises in the east and sets to the west… The sun will be high in the sky in the summer… And low and to the south in the winter… Eastern sunlight is always better than west, and south facing walls create a warmer microclimate than walls facing other directions… Easy as pie…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This site… And all the photographs and information presented within are provided free of charge by the author… I am not affiliated with any product or business… Only myself… Writing this blog takes a ton of time… If you find any of this information helpful, please consider purchasing a print from my online store… It is obviously not a requirement… But it helps…

I sell prints of my photography here – http://www.society6.com/chriscondello Or you can contact me directly at c.condello@hotmail.com for commissions or locally/personally produced prints… Thank you for reading…

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.