Complementary Gardening – The Energy of a Vacant Lot

© chriscondello 2013

“Clover Sunset” – Summer 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA

So… I am in the process of writing a book… The name of which is yet to be determined… I actually like that… Yet to be determined… The book is a gardening book… It will include original photography… Poetry… And artwork… Though I see all my gardens as art… I guess my goal in writing this book is to make you see like that… You can be the judge… This is a piece of a chapter… It is currently unedited… This is just a preview… I may post another tomorrow…

Life and the events surrounding it create energy fields that accompany those who live it. These energy fields are a physical manifestation of the metaphysical realm that are commonly misinterpreted. The overall tone of this energy is a variable based on many factors, but is typically a snapshot of an individual’s emotions and spirit in life. Many people believe that this energy goes with you whenever you die. I personally believe just the opposite. I believe the energy remains here on earth. It is never destroyed and therefore has a continuing role in the lives of those left behind.

Soil, is a product of nature and death. Living organisms must be sacrificed to make it rich in nutrients. Metaphysical energy is similar in that it needs to be created by life. It requires a human to store it within themselves, and ultimately transfer it to something else. In its most basic form, the transfer of DNA into the soil when we are working with it is a physical connection from our bodies to the earth. When a human being touches a plant, a transfer occurs that not many people even think of. Our skin wears off onto the plant, and the plant rubs off on our skin. This direct connection is only scraping the outer layer of the concept, the depths of which are only limited by your beliefs.

Vacant urban lots are interesting in that they very often contained a house at one time. A home is an energy magnet, and most people immediately feel it upon entering a home. The energy that is found is a direct result of past events and emotions. A home that is one-hundred years old has built up a massive amount of energy. When a home is demolished, the energy remaining does not go the way of the house, it is rooted in the lot. This energy cannot be destroyed, and I don’t believe it has the ability to travel. So the energy just waits for someone to come along and do something with it, and that someone is you.

To facilitate rapid population booms, our urban centers developed rather quickly. Lots that were originally intended to include one house, were quickly sub-divided and often had four houses built instead of the intended single. Neighborhoods were eventually built so tightly, green space became almost non-existent. Flash forward to today and you will notice that although many of these urban neighborhoods still exist. You will still see the scars of past bad memories dotting the landscape. A home burning down, or a bank foreclosure are not happy experiences, therefore the energy created is rarely positive. This is not a reason for despair, negative energy can always be converted into positive energy through gardening.

Urban gardening is just one method of achieving this energy change. In my own experiences, this energy change has the ability to help people forget the events that lead to the bad energy in the first place. Abandoned homes and vacant lots often sit unused for years. These monuments of negativity are a part of the reason many of these neighborhoods can’t get out of the rut they are in. Blight and abandonment carry very negative energy. A home does not become abandoned for good reasons. Likewise, an empty urban lot often has a story to tell as well… And that story is never a good one…

Gardening is one of the few positive influences an individual can have on the negative energy created by blight. Though much of the general population believes the only way to change a blighted neighborhood is through demolition and rebuilding, or remodeling. One of the most important aspects of permaculture, is the inclusion of all species. Humans always seem to feel that they are the primary element, when in fact we are just a tiny part of the system as a whole. The empty spaces that pop up in our urban landscapes are there for a reason. This reason will vary, but in most cases over-crowding is evident. When a space does open up, it is of paramount importance that we claim it for nature.

When an abandoned house is demolished, the second and third floors are stripped and thrown in a dumpster. The remaining structure is crushed into the basement, and then covered over with cheap fill. For this reason a vacant lot is something of a graveyard. The memories and energy from the original structure have not left. Although the physical material has been buried, over time it is distributed through leaching and dust settlement. A vacant lot is sacred ground, and should therefore be treated as such.

When we walk on the remains of a home, we are walking on the residual energy of everyone who has lived there. At the very least, remnants of their DNA are present in the house. Therefore by extension, you are practically walking on a grave. Now, I’m not trying to say that it should be treated with the same respect as an actual graveyard what I am saying is that one needs to consider this to understand the true magnitude of what urban gardening can be. When you take the time to look at all of the individual connections, both physical and metaphysical the true meaning of gardening will become apparent.

The nutrients required to sustain life come from the decomposition of living organisms. Although soil can be created by the weathering of objects like rocks, the soil never truly becomes rich in nutrients unless decomposing organic material is added. This occurs naturally, and over time can turn even the most inhospitable soils into healthy loam.

Vacant lots are similar in that the soil used for fill is commonly the cheapest material available. The plants that do initially grow, are designed to thrive in inhospitable conditions. Many of these weeds flourish in recently disturbed clay soils. These plants are typically extremely fast growers, and although they are perennial almost always die back in the winter. The resulting plant material decomposes, and the following year the process repeats until enough nutrients have built up to allow a different cycle of vegetation to take its course. This process can take years, and if left to its own devices will eventually culminate in a forest… A small forest… But forest none the less…

As gardeners we can interrupt this cycle at any point. Although it is possible, I personally believe the best results are attained by letting a lot rest for a number of years before any kind of gardening is concerned. Any time food is to be grown, a settling out period of a minimum of ten years is what I recommend; followed by a rigorous round of soil tests and the proper remediation. If your intention is to grow only ornamental plants, you could probably skip the settling period and go straight to planting beneficial plants and trees.

It is very important to take note of what stage a lot is in before you begin working. Oftentimes, if you are working immediately after a demolition, the soil will be very hard and compacted from being run over by heavy equipment. You see, it takes time for nature to work through this type of soil. Although we can quickly power through it given the right tools and money, it can be done with a lot less effort if we just let nature do its thing.

Time or the availability of vacant lots will not always allow us the ability to wait for nature. In which case we just have to roll up our sleeves, and dig right in. If organic material is not available on site, then you will have to bring it on site from elsewhere. Leaves, grass clipping, kitchen scraps, hell even newspaper can be utilized to begin adding organic material. The bad energy created by a vacant lot wont ever go away, but it can be changed. This change always begins in the soil, in order to heal the energy of the lot we must first heal the soil. Everything that grows in this lot will grow from the soil, it should be treated as you would treat your own home.

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Vandalism

Vandalism

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

Vandalism is inevitable in all urban areas. Oftentimes, what the guerrilla gardener sees as vandalism is seen as clean-up by the unaware individual. Over zealous children with lawnmowers or weed eaters, though good intentioned can often be the end of a garden. It can take everything you have not to freak out in the moment… Remember this is not a time to scold… It is a time to educate…

Intentional vandalism never seems to be considered until it happens. Vandalism should be expected, at least when you expect it, you won’t be so surprised… And subsequently discouraged… When it happens… Never use expensive plants where this is an issue, use plants tolerant of a wide variety of conditions. Mints, once established, can be yanked, pulled, cut, even blown up with fireworks and still make a comeback. Mint, when in bloom is really a stunning plant that attracts a plethora of beneficial insects. Caution should always be taken when gardening with mint due to its invasive tendencies, but in this case we can make those tendencies work for us instead of against us.

Efforts at growing food in guerrilla plots more often than not will lead to theft. If you are growing food out in the open on a vacant lot, there is nothing you can legally do to a garden thief, consider this before your next move. What you can do is catch the garden thief in the act, not always possible, but definitely the most effective. The actor will almost always exclaim that given the fact that it was growing in a vacant lot, they figured it was “wild” food free for anyone to take. It really doesn’t matter if it is growing in perfectly cultivated raised beds on caged plants… This is the go to excuse. What you do next is of the utmost importance. Explain your intentions nicely, adding in the fact that you paid for the plants and put a lot of time and effort into the garden. Then as a peace-offering you should offer to share some of the extras when they are available… 9 out of 10 times this will resolve the issue while still maintaining a level of friendship…

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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The Guerrilla Gardening Guidebook – Seed Bombs

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“I Hijacked this Photo” – The seed bomb… This one is cleverly crafted to look like a grenade… I wouldn’t waste my money on these… The equivalent spent on loose seeds will go much farther than these ever could…

Seed Bombs

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

Seed bombs, though a novel idea, I personally find to be pretty impractical. I am aware of the slack I may receive for this, but I am personally unimpressed with this trend. I say trend because the internet is full of articles and instructional videos on how to make them, and once something is available in a vending machine… It is officially trendy…

The idea behind the seed bomb, in my mind is more or less urban folklore. Situations that require one to have to throw seeds more than a few feet are the exception, not the rule. I find it is much easier to simply carry your seeds and a small garden shovel in a bag and just work some soil and plant your seeds. A bag full of seeds is jokingly lighter than a bag full of the equivalent amount of seeds formed into balls of clay… Or essentially a big bag of rocks… To this trend I say, get real!

A seed bomb is a combination of seeds, soil and fertilizer bonded together with some type of local clay. Some of the trendy new “store-bought” seed bombs are made of paper mache, intended to melt away in the rain before germination. A quick Google Images search for “seed bomb” returns thousands of photos, but if you look through them you won’t find even a single photograph of a mature garden created by a seed bomb. The closest thing I was able to find are photos of plants growing places the seed bomb was not actually needed.

Although some seeds will germinate on the surface of the soil, most do not. Seeds typically require uninterrupted levels of moisture and absolute darkness to properly sprout, any disruption in this process will ultimately kill the seeds. Scenarios where the seed bomb would actually apply, such as high fences and abandoned industrial sites, are not suitable for what is essentially a broadcast style of seed dispersal. Conditions would have to be perfect with cloudy skies and daily rain for the better part of two weeks for germination to take place.

Now that is not to say that there aren’t exceptions to this, many plants can be sown by simply broadcasting them over the soil. Many annuals disperse their seeds via wind, these could theoretically work well in a seed bomb. Many perennial plants often require stratification, and even after they require specific conditions to induce germination, for this reason they are typically not suitable.

The idea of throwing a bunch of “green grenades” is dreamy, and I understand the allure. But it all comes back to the whole idea of no work gardening, there is just no such thing. Weeds often grow faster than any seed in a seed bomb. A truly unmaintained area will quickly outgrow most of what you can pack into a seed bomb… In my experience the seed bomb always loses to weeds…

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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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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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.

PinkWhiteColumbine

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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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…

Creative Commons License
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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“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…

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