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Guerilla Gardening (2015) (guerrillagardening.org)
217 points by jacquesm on Dec 22, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 40 comments

Another good resource that you guys might enjoy is "Tony Santoro's Guide to Illegal Tree-Planting"


Hey, you, the person reading this comment thread who just skimmed over the above comment without giving the video link a second thought.

I'm telling you, go back and watch the video, or any other video on Tony Santoro's channel. The man is a legend who deserves more press. He absolutely embodies the hacker ethos, if in his own unique way. Autodidactic, anti-authoritarian, fiercely intelligent, sharply witty and indefatigably individualistic.

Seconded, and his series in the Atacama is incredible.

Seriously, he's incredible.


Well. You guys sold me. I am not aware of Mr Santoro, but now I am very interested ! :)

I enjoyed this profile of him in Chicago local TV.


"For around the country mostly illegally riding freight trains" and "being exposed to a variety of ecosystems" piquing his knowledge, and reading science books in the libraries where he went, is quite refreshing.

Wrong link?

Here's the one they were referring to: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4BT8XHJaDm0

Hell yeah Crime Pays But Botany Doesn't is my favorite damn YouTube channel.

Like everyone else here, I sing high praise of Tony. His absolutely lovable one-in-a-million combative yet beautifully intelligent personality is perfect. I've developed a recent intense interest in revisiting my garden, which I attribute exclusively to stumbling upon his videos. Sometimes YouTube's Big Algorithm does something right. :)

Dot for later, wife sleeping so I can't watch video at this hour

Not really much of a guide, is it?

Is essential that the people doing this, either knows what is seeding, with name and surname, or stop doing it. Right now. Invasive species are not a joke.

Naive people could end doing a lot of damage after seeing a video from a project in the other coin of the planet. I can spot at least one invasive species in the images that must not be used in some parts of US, for example.

As somebody who has (and continues to) partook in their fair share of "guerilla" gardening, and who has seen many parts of their local ecosystems decimated by invasive species, I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment. However, I do think perhaps if you're making such powerful statement, you shouldn't perhaps go into more detail, and maybe spout some wisdom as to how people can avoid introducing said invasive species, etc?

Also, on another note - would you mind detailing which potentially invasive species you see in the photos, and in which regions it may be considered as such? I didn't see anything I noticed as to be particularly for my region.

I'm guessing it's the California Poppy picture, which according to USDA "can be weedy or invasive according to the authoritative sources noted below" (the source being [0]). In fact it is interesting that one of the commenters in other threads claimed to intentionally plan California Poppies wherever they go. They grow wild where I live in Japan, so it clearly is somewhat invasive, but I'm not sure what kind of damage (if any) they do to the environment.

I have to admit to being caught out by this myself. My wife and I lived in the UK for a few years and when we came back home to Japan, we collected seed from the garden to remind us of England. It's a stupid thing to do, but very easy. I think being aware of what species are local to you area and collecting those local seeds is probably a good way to stay safe.

[0] - http://www.tneppc.org/TNEPPC2004PlantList-8x11.pdf

Fun fact: poppies spread their seeds by literally exploding.

Nuisances are not exclusive to invasive species. Fruit trees and edible plants can attract pests and animals and allow them to thrive. Act carefully.

Hey, fair enough, spreading invasive species is bad. But how exactly do you imagine something like that happening?

In general, folks are going to buy plants @ Lowe’s/ Home Depot or their local nurseries. It’s not that easy to gain access to plants that are not compatible with your native biome.

I don’t think the chances are very high of someone buying seeds from a foreign seed company, germinating them at home, and planting a large scale public project like this.

That's true for the case of someone introducing an invasive species that is new to the region. But what about someone further spreading an invasive species that is already there?

My yard, for example, contains a mix of native plants and invasive plants. Some of the invasive plants produce pretty flowers, and if I hadn't looked them up it would not have even occurred to me that they were not native.

I could easily imagine someone with such an invasive but pretty plant in their own garden purposefully spreading it, not realizing that it is not native and the place they spread it had until then only native plants.

Actually it's super easy. Alot of those nice decorative plants at the big box store, especially when buying "wild flower seed" are not native, and highly invasive.

While I'm all for the principle and applaud people wanting to take actions like that, and don't doubt their intentions are good I came here to say the same, and one other thing.

Things like these are quite popular and people are for instance all 'for the bees!' while actually not knowing the basics of biology/biodiversity/habitat systems/... and they end up, unknowingly, doing more bad than good. Some of the before/after pictures raise my eyebrows because what was there first was something with a couple of native species and probably (hard to tell because I can't see pesticides being used, but doubt it) a vivid soil life. All providing food/shelter for the native chain of microscopic soil life to larger fauna. The picture after showed all grass/herbs gone and replaced with bare soil and a bunch of pretty-looking flowers. Now, you'd have to count to make sure, but the end result could very well be worse:

- digging is detrimental to soil life. It can straight out kill worms etc, destroys chains of fungi and so on. Yes it comes back, but it should be avoided unless really really needed.

- possible introduction of polluted/foreign particles when planting already grown plants

- many non-local (doesn't even have to be invasive) plants only provide food for generalist species (of which there's ample usually) and/or do not serve as host plants for many other species. I.e. you literally take away the home of fauna and replace it with a fast-food restaurant of which many don't like the taste.

- some of these (in some pictures, most I think) plants only live a year and need to set seed to start again the next year. Not a bad thing per se, but seeds don't thrive just everywhere. Ideally you have to select plants suitable for the specific soil conditions. Otherwise you have flowers one year, and the next year essentially nothing, and after a couple of years you're back to the start. Which could very well be better as I'm explaining, but essentially it's all wasted energy and a small setback which wouldn't have been needed. Altrnatively, people repeat the process because they want the same effect and the cycle starts again.

- possibly minor, but unless you're really lucky, already grown plants come in plastic containers and they have to be moved producing CO2 and so on

There's probably more things I'm forgetting but that's the gist of it. I understand the appeal of a wealth of colors and nice looking flowers but it is usually just not the best thing nature-wise. There are alternatives though, and apart from the really drastic things like 'change this forest to grassland'-style interventions, it's what the local nature conservation teams are doing:

- if you really want to throw seeds around, look around for what grows in the neighbourhood already and source them from there. After figuring out if it's a local species. These days the plant recognition from pictures is getting really good so you don't even have to learn all determmination aspects. Don't dig, just spread them out or stuff them in holes from mice etc.

- if there's patches which are getting wild and covered with only a couple of different species, mow them once or twice each year and get rid of the mowings. Look up when is the best time. Do get rid of the mowings, it's a key aspect to counter the abdundance of nitrous oxide. Takes some years, but grassland managed like that is sort of the summum of biodiversity (not considering other vegetation types that is)

- volunteer with your local nature conservation team, look, talk, learn, apply&spread knowledge

(last note: same goes for the rise in beekeeping which I see locally. Good intentions again, but often without enough thought. The honey bee species used most are generalists and meta-analysis of studies show that on average the effect on native single bees many of which are already endangered, is negative. Some studies showed no effect, none showed a good effect, and most showed a negative one. The local bees just cannot compete with the sudden introduction of a couple of thousand new mouths to feed.)

"One other thing"? :)

Erm yes I meant the biodiversity aspect, next to the original invasice species one. But then went on with some details :P

I've seed bombed all over LA, getting things growing in nearly unreachable spots that seem to be ignored by civic workers .. there is no greater feeling than coming back a few months later and seeing a thriving collection of plants where once there was a dusty patch of ignored dirt. Key thing though, is to use native plants and not get too invasive with the seed mix. For this, I suggest folks who want to do the same sort of thing, find a local seed business that deals with the native species.

And/or check with your local extension service.

Whats an extension service?


In rural areas, they do a lot of farmer education. In suburban and urban areas, they typically run hotlines where you can ask gardening questions and may run classes.

Ah, that is a very cool idea. Yeah, I imagine that there is a lot of great advice to come from such a resource.

One thing I wanted to do but never got around to, was research the butterfly-friendly native species of California, and then seed-bomb the living crap out of all the sterile gardens in the Hollywood Hills .. definitely a guerrilla action, but if successful one of immense value to say nothing of the beauty of it. Never got around to it though, and the country I currently live in is already quite a friend eco-sphere for native butterfly and insect species i.e. they kicked out Monsanto and already promote the propagation of native weeds and other non-agri species which the butterflies love..

No offense to this group, I'm sure they have the best intentions, but how many people would want to eat fruit from a street tree in a major city? For that matter, how much of that fruit will actually survive to the point where it is fully ripe and not be eaten first by rats and squirrels? My experience from downtown San Jose is that with the exception of citrus, very little.

Im not sure that it qualifies as a real city due to its low density, but plenty around me in Auckland do. I’ve seen Apples, Fijoas, olives mandarins and snap peas in the recent past.

I don't like gardening, but I'd love to donate to people, who would enjoy doing it in my city. Almost wish there would be a per-patch donation box.

I do, through local taxes. The county in turn makes sure my nature-rich neighbourhood is well maintained, they leave strips of foresty area to grow fairly wild whilst mowing the lawn areas monthly, dredging up the ponds and canals (? very narrow natural looking ones) at the end of the year (outside of bird breeding seasons), etc.

You can also see if there's some permaculture association / food forest in your city. (for example, Seattle has the beacon hill food forest which accepts donations)

You can also ask if it has to be done in your city, per se. Would you be happy donating if it were done somewhere else and served other needs (e.g. reforestation)?

I've been meaning to plant a tree in Manhattan for a while http://joshuaspodek.com/how-to-plant-a-tree-in-new-york-city.

If anyone here wants to do it with me, email me and let's do it. I have zero experience in it.

Adorable. I'm going to join.

Does anyone know if any regulations may limit these actions in the US?

That depends (almost) entirely on whether the land is public or private, and whether it is local municipal, state or federally owned land, and whether that land has special protections or not.

For example, planting things (or disturbing existing things) on private land or state or national parks is generally illegal and enforced (assuming you get caught, of course).

Planting anything on a controlled list (such that it is considered invasive or otherwise dangerous) is also generally prohibited and enforced.

If it's not one of those things, then it's generally going to be ignored as harmless. If something were to grow to a height such that it obstructs important views (i.e. of a pedestrian crosswalk), or poses a risk of falling on something (a poorly managed tree leaning over a road) then the city or state would likely tear it out. By that point, though, it's not too likely that you'll get the blame for planting it in the first place if you're acting as an individual.

All of this, of course, is just speculation based on assumptions about the potential hypothetical circumstances. IANAL and you would certainly want to think carefully about what you do to property that isn't your own.

Buddy, it's called "Guerilla Gardening"....

I'm not from the U.S but the answer is of course yes, and they would vary wildly per council/municipality

There are many species able to create damages by several millions of dollars (Not, I'm not joking).

Genetic contamination of endangered native plants with hybrids that are almost identical (or had being genetically modified), would be also a huge mistake

Sure? In practice, you're most likely to get in trouble for any initial trespassing.

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