When I first stumbled on the idea of guerrilla gardening, I remember feeling so frustrated that there wasn't a straightforward, comprehensive guide out there to help me get started. I felt overwhelmed, under-informed and was convinced it was far too complicated for a novice like me to do.
Now that Dream Green exists, that problem is solved! Dream Green is dedicated to educating and equipping anyone, anywhere to become a guerrilla gardener. You'll find loads of information and inspiration here, all specifically relevant to guerrilla gardening.
This guide, though, is the ultimate one stop shop. If you read nothing else, this alone will help you get started as a guerrilla gardener. All it takes is these 5 steps (and, to be honest, you can often skip some out!)
TIP: Write an action plan, including the dates by when you want to complete each step. Aim for regular progress (not perfection!)
Find a Site
It's best to start with finding a spot, because you can then pick your plants based on the site. Matching plants to a site's conditions (in terms of space, light, soil condition and so on) will make things way easier and your garden will be much more likely to thrive.
While you can always dream up an idea for a guerrilla garden first, it's pretty hard to chance across a public, neglected spot that just so happens to meet all the criteria that your chosen plants will need.
The First Step
Go for a walk around your neighbourhood and look out for bare, neglected patches of dirt that are going to waste as opportunities for planting.
Bare street tree beds, roadside verges, forgotten planters, plots of wasteland... Once you start looking, you'll be amazed how many unloved spots of soil there are! Pick one and appoint yourself its gardening angel.
Grow in Your Zone
Choosing a near home will make it much easier to plan, take action (especially if you're carrying soil and water – they're heavy!), and keep an eye on afterwards.
Plan(t) for the People
One of the beauties of guerrilla greening is that it gives us the power to inject nature into the places where it's most needed. Places where residents don't have the luxury of their own gardens, and where public or shared green space is underfunded, stark and lifeless.
Take a second to think about who your project can benefit (and, if you're confident, get these communities involved!)
A few prime spots in my local area. Which would you pick?
So, this is what "dream green" means! This is the part where you imagine how this grey, bare, lifeless spot could be packed with vibrant, green plant life.
The most important thing is to keep in mind your why. Why are you creating this pocket of plant life? Guerrilla gardening is planting in public with purpose, so whether it's for biodiversity, mental health, bringing the community together, making a statement about land use, or something else, remember what your dream outcome is.
TIP: A sketch, mood board or mock-up of your 'After' result is a great way to drum up support for your project, if you want it!
Guerrilla gardening is a creative process with infinite possibilities! If you'd like total creative freedom, scroll on! Otherwise, here's a few ideas to get you started:
Street tree beds ❊ Turn a bare street tree bed into a miniature garden! If you do this, make sure to choose plants that don't need lots of water and won't climb up the tree (more info here) and be careful not to sever the tree's roots or pile up soil.
Rewild a roadside ❊ Roadsides and pavement edges are often places where soil and grass has been laid down but biodiversity is lacking. Check out The Good Verge Guide for loads of detail on rewilding road verges.
Guerrilla planters ❊ Planters allow you to grow in spaces where there isn't already soil. You can buy planters, but it's also easy to make your own! You can repurpose so many things – from tin cans to car tyres – or get DIY with a discarded wooden pallet. This article has loads of ideas to get started.
Create a green wall ❊ Is there a random bit of chicken wire near you that could be covered in climbers? Or a wooden fence that's looking lifeless? You could train things to grow up it, use bamboo stakes, or hang planters from it.
Front gardens ❊ One of my favourite guerrilla gardening ideas is doing up incapacitated neighbours' front gardens. Some old school guerrilla gardeners won't count this because it's not done "without permission" but, in my books at least, guerrilla gardening is about grassroots, people powered greening for community good, not about wanting to feel rebellious (yawn!)
When it comes to deciding what plants to use, you need ones that can really make a difference, for as much of the year as possible. So think hardy and impactful. Lavender, nasturtiums, sunflowers, euphorbia, native wildflowers and shrubs are some of my favourites, which tick these boxes nicely!
Poppy Okotcha has put together three amazing guides on how to choose your plants, complete with her recommendations, so definitely check them out if you're looking for ideas.
And remember that different things like to be planted at different times of year, so check to see what you can do at the time you want to act.
Can I Grow Food?
If you're thinking of growing anything edible – clean, healthy soil is vital. The last thing you want is poison anyone! (Well, I assume not anyway!)
So, unless you're certain that the soil is uncontaminated, start with flowers. This'll help you understand the soil quality (whether they thrive or die!) and it won't matter if they do absorb toxins, because no one's going to decide to eat them (again, I assume not, but you never know.)
Get a Group
Two heads are better than one, and many hands make light work! Working as a team means you can dream up bigger, bolder greening projects, and make them a reality by bringing together a wider range of skillsets.
Depending on the scale of your ambition, you may or may not want to get some people to help you. I sometimes prefer the speed and flexibility of going solo, other times I'll get a crew together (especially when it comes to jobs like clearing a waste-filled site!)
I LOVE Nextdoor. It's a great way to connect directly to community-minded people in your neighbourhood, and from there the net will spread wider and wider as they introduce you to other local people and organisations.
Start a local group
We want to start a network of Dream Green guerrilla gardening communities across the nation. If you're interested in connecting to others and starting, joining or helping build an action group in your area, let us know! Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll give you all the support you need.
Get the Bits
Aside from the plants, there's a few other bits and pieces you'll need to take action, like tools, compost and water. Think through everything you'll need for the Big Day (or days). Then, make a plan for how you'll get them.
Be a Borrower
The first step is to think about how many of these things you can borrow. There's almost always someone who's happy to lend you their tools for the day! Borrowing (rather than buying) reduces waste and saves money.
Salvation in Donations
Once you get chatting to passionate local people, you might be surprised how many kind and generous offers of seeds, plants and supplies you receive!
You may even want to start at this point, and let the donations you receive from your supporters lead your greening creative vision and the site you choose.
If you're not able to borrow or be donated everything you need, and don't want to (or can't afford to) buy these things yourself, check out the step on fundraising below.
If costs are a bit higher than the groups' purses can stretch, start a GoFundMe or a project page on Spacehive to crowdfund money from friends, family, and people in your area who may want to support your idea.
Make sure to showcase the bleak 'before' situation and your green vision for 'after'!
This year, Dream Green are giving away ten £100 grants to help people carry out guerrilla gardening projects! Check it out
You've got the plan, the people and the plants – now it's time to get greening.
This part is probably the easiest and – in my opinion at least – the most fun!
Specific instructions here will depend on what seeds you're sowing or plants you're planting, so I actually can't give much input here. I would say, just make sure that whatever you're doing is enhancing the local environment for both people and wild nature, rather than destroying or detracting.
I'll defer again to Poppy's expertise on eco-friendly practices: her do's and don'ts guide is *chef's kiss*.
Stick some signs up to let people know what you've done. This not only spreads the word about guerrilla gardening, it can also stop council chem-sprayers from killing your seedlings (by mistaking them for weeds).
I really can't do keepy uppies (or even spell it?) but I do always make sure to keep up the guerrilla gardens I plant. Which is less impressive at barbecues but still pretty cool.
Once you've planted everything in, pop back to your garden when you can, even if it's just once a month, to keep an eye on things. Otherwise all that hard work could go to nothing.
If your garden falls into disrepair, it's just playing into what the Powers That Be want to think about grassroots greening: that it's not to be trusted and that people don't really care enough to maintain the things they've planted. We can't let that happen!
Growing a guerrilla garden is truly is the most peaceful, creative, constructive, positive radical thing you can do. (Not that I'm at all biased).
That's all folks!
... Guys. That's it. That's really all you need to do.
Easy right? Told you.
The final word is: take these as guidelines, not rules. If the circumstances you're in mean it's better to do things totally differently – do it! Whatever works best. How you choose to guerrilla garden is up to you.
If you want support or you have any questions, reach out to me on Instagram @wedreamgreen. Happy greening!