Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla Gardening is the act of illegally gardening in spaces that are not technically yours to garden, to make subversive statements, protests, or as a form of direct action. The idea goes all the way back to 1973!

In other words, guerrilla gardeners take unloved or neglected land and assign it a new purpose – to make things pretty or useful. Cities are full of waste land and unused public spaces which people walk past every day without noticing. Spaces which would look a lot better if they were green!

Some guerrilla gardeners prefer to work at night when they can be more discreet. Others are activists who’ll do so in broad daylight, when everyone can see what they’re doing. Some choose to grow flowers to make places brighter. Others choose to grow fruit or vegetables (though care should be taken not to grow anything edible in places where plants might absorb toxins).

I don’t know why I haven’t posted any guerrilla gardening things on this blog yet, and I think I should change that. 

In the meantime, here are some links!

To reiterate others, when gardening make sure to keep accessibility, invasive species, and potential poisons in mind. 

Possible (and incomplete) list of things to keep in mind

1. Does it get it the way of paths or walkways? Consider what it would be like for someone walking, or with a wheelchair, stroller, white cane…

2. Check the species isn’t invasive in your area. If you’re in north america here’s a useful wikipedia page 

3. Try to avoid plants that have allergenic pollen. Here’s another list of plants to avoid

4. You might want to avoid poisonous plants. Of course, a lot of plants are poisonous in large quantities so this isn’t always of the utmost priority to completely avoid all of them. Here’s another list

5. Does the block access to or view of important information? For example, can people still read directions or access water fountains? Consider people at all different heights from little kids to tall people. 

Anything else people can think of?

Y’all are really great, you know that? @gayingupspace too, I saw your post.

Even while writing that, I was thinking about writing out some advice about how to be responsible about this, but it was late and I was tired. This is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind!

Anyone else have any thoughts?


China’s Surreal Urban Farms

As its leaders often remind the world, China has 22 percent of the world’s population, but less than 10 percent of its arable land (as much as one fifth of which, it was recently reported, is severely polluted). People find ways to make up for the shortfall. For centuries officials have complained of peasants cultivating marginal lands, and for just as long Chinese farmers have been geniuses of agricultural improvisation, making use of whatever land they could find when they needed it.

Today, the country is in the midst of a massive shift from countryside to city. Much of it has occurred at will, as ambitious migrants have left the fields to seek new jobs and new experiences in the factories of China’s booming cities. But many others do not move at will. Instead, they are expelled from their homes and into strange new lives as city folk as the fields they once tended give way to new roads and shopping malls or slip under the rising waters of newly risen dams. Still others fall somewhere in between. They may find themselves following their children to new lives and new status as members of an urban population that, for the first time, in 2011 exceeded the number of those remaining in the countryside. China’s leaders hope that 70 percent of the country will be urban by 2030.

In cities, old rhythms of life die hard, and even as more and more farmland on the outskirts of urban areas disappears, new transplants and old holdouts continue to find patches of ground to plant.

Tim Franco, a Shanghai-based photographer, has spent time on these “microfarms” in the heart of the megacity Chongqing, where the changes underway across the country appear especially stark. Some farmers grow food to feed their families, others to supplement their incomes, and some because, with the city closing in all around them, it’s the only thing that makes them feel at home. Please click on images to enlarge.


Here’s the problem: The
rapid expansion of cities is breaking the relationship that people have
with the food ecosystem. Although the problem is receiving attention by
some city officials, and they are adopting new sustainability programs
and policies, it is a time-consuming, top-down process with an uncertain
impact. What if with a bottom-up approach of small, local actions
citizens can engage with could have a massive impact? Cities are centers
of enormous energy and resources, and, by leveraging connections with
friends, families, neighbors, and local community groups, it’s possible
to create sustainable and affordable food systems.

Here’s how one organization is working on the problem: Back
in 2007, a woman in a small town called Todmorden, in the northern part
of England, dug up her prized rose garden. She planted vegetables,
knocked down the garden wall, and put up a sign saying, “Help

This small action grew into a movement that has transformed Todmorden
into a town in which citizens are reshaping their surroundings. The
incredible edible Todmorden movement has turned all the public spaces,
from the front yard of a police station to railway stations, into farms
filled with edible herbs and vegetables. Locals and tourists pluck
fruits and vegetables for free.

This novel idea, which is also called “open-source food,” promises a
future with food for all. The project shares a participatory vision of
“three plates” — community, education, and business. Schools grow food,
businesses donate goods and services, and shops sell planter boxes.


  • As a result of the huge success of the project, the Incredible Edible Network
    was set up in 2012 to attract grant funding and support the replication
    of the project globally. There are now 100 Incredible Edible groups
    across the U.K. More are popping up all the time around the globe.
  • The initiative has opened up a new marketplace for local farmers as well as the tourism industry.
  • The movement has also fostered a sense of community and
    responsibility among the local residents, interaction and bonding among
    the neighbors, and connections with spaces like police stations,
    cemeteries, and prisons.

Learn more from:

This case study is adapted from our latest book, “Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons.” Get a copy today.

Header image of the Incredible Edible Todmorden volunteer team gardening outside the housing residence in the city. Provided by:

Incredible Edible Todmorden team

Incredible Edible Todmorden gives free access to locally grown food to everyone



People often joke about “Fully Automated Luxury Communism” however we already have the technology required to produce one of the most foundational elements – Fully Automated Vertical Farming. 

Agriculture is not simply “A Means of Production” but possibly the single most important means of production in existence. An immediate structured transfer toward vertical farming would have the following effects.

1 – An immediate reduction in land requirement for plant growth, allowing for massive rewilding projects across the world. 

2 – A subsequent reduction in pesticide reliance, allowing for critical insect populations such as bees to begin repopulating and a reduction of soil toxicity. 

3 – An end to exploitive “under-the-table” work practices which pay children and immigrants significantly less than minimum wage. 

4 – A real solution to ending the phenomena of food deserts which primary affect impoverished and minority neighborhoods.

5 – A subsequent reduction in health problems relating to malnourishment and reliance upon fast food. 

6 – A real way for the veg*n community to directly address the problems of inaccessibility of plant-based diets. (Imagine the potential for volunteer veggie kitchens which provide premade nutritious meals with local ingredients for the local in-need population.)

These are just some of the positive benefits that could come from vertical farming. Obviously I haven’t even begun to touch on other subjects like the amount of jobs which could be created simply for creating the structures. 

And my personal favorite, high-yield farms in dense urban areas means food will barely need to be shipped – cutting like 10 percent of the carbon cost of keeping everyone fed!