Guerrilla Gardening
Answered by: Inge Poot and Richard Alan Miller
Question from: Kate M.
Posted on: November 10, 2009

I’m interested in planting a few guerrilla garden plots in my neighbourhood in Montreal. What seeds would you recommend for uncertain qualities of soil?

Ideally the result would not be too "weedy"- I see you have melilot seeds, for example, but that stuff grows all over the place all summer here and would be regarded as a weed, and people would feel justified in mowing it down.

I don’t think anyone would want to eat herbs or veg grown in the sorts of places I have in mind, either - possibly contaminated soil, dogs and general city crap. What I want is reasonably nice greenery and flowers that look kind of natural but kind of done on purpose, not like a weed patch.

Inge Poot Writes:

Try to use plants that used to grow in that area naturally. Of the herbs that come to mind echinacea is probably the showiest choice. But the European ox-eye daisy, wild oregano, also called pot marjoram, wild chicory, viper’s bugloss, in the background some bulbs of wild daylily (you can dig a bit up on lots of road-sides just out of the city and it will spread lustily!!). Great yellow flowers are yellow bedstraw and dyers chamomile. In the beginning of any guerrilla garden bed heartsease would do well too, but later the other flowers will crowd it out. New England aster is a must for fall and some of the more modest goldenrods are nice too. Just the large goldenrod tends to crowd out everything else and that means only two weeks of yellow flowers per year!

Richard Alan Miller writes:

Some of our best gardens are found in the middle of a "city," and it’s "crap." Honest. Just because it has plastic on it does not mean that plastic goes into the crop, just kidding. But, many cities are now including a "Community Supported Agriculture project in the centre of town. This includes Chicago and Scottsdale. So, why not in the city of Montreal? Think about that for a moment.

These new places are where neighbors get a chance to meet and get to know one another. It also "cleans up" the city, and acts like a local Grange. Much like the Farmer’s Market, the focus is on where food come from, and those involved with that part of a community. This concept will become ever more important over the next several years, as food becomes more scarce.

If you are concerned about the soils themselves, then fallow it during the Summer. Put Winter Wheat into it in Fall, for an early Spring mulch. You can also French Intensive smaller blocks, adding local pre-mix soils and amendments. That can even be certified organic within two years, staying on their program for how to do what with the soil building requirements - can’t use even such grass killers as Roundup (unfortunately).

Flowers, of course, grow in the very worst possible soils, and are not generally sold as COG.. And, the floral trade is always wanting something new and from local sources.

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