Neshali's Blog

Everyone Guerilla Garden!

This planter in downtown Edmonton used to be empty with the exception of some cigarette butts

* This entry has a special place in my big, green heart.  I force all my friends to read my blog (thanks everyone! Did I ever mention how awesome you are?), however most of them don't own houses.  They live in urban centres, mostly in apartments, with little or no garden space.  Consequently, though they (are forced) to read my blog, a lot of the information does not apply to them.  So, I dedicate this entry to them and anyone else who is a non-garden gardener!

Even though Calgary has nowhere near the population, their geographical footprint is the same as that of New York. This is a ridiculous waste of space and the type of urban sprawl you can sadly see in cities across Canada.  We are growing out without filling in.  As a result, we are surrounded by empty spaces, trash-covered corners and land that looks like every other piece of land.

We have space, but no place.

Many people, myself included, hate the bland and monotonous feeling this type of land (mis)use creates, but we do nothing about it.  I'm here to say that there is something we can do! 

Let's keeping digging our gardens, but lets start digging our cities too.  Let's be guerilla gardeners!

What are guerilla gardeners, you ask?  Guerillas are non-violent, non-damaging gardeners that want to connect with their community, optimize the land around them and transform their neighbourhood in a positive way.  Because of these gardeners, passersby are able to appreciate nature, even in their downtowns.

So here is my challenge to you: Take some extra seeds and plant cuttings and put them to use in your downtown.  Once you have, celebrate your urban space victory by mentioning it on this blog.  Let us know how and where you have reclaimed land! 

Do a little, do a lot; just make sure you aren't just thinking about it - do it!

Below are 7 simple steps you can follow:

1. Find your orphaned piece of land

Whether it's a neglected flower bed full of litter, bare plots of mud that you pass by on your way to work...

Thumbnail image for Orphaned Land (

2. Gather your comrades

Let people know what you are doing and have them join in.  It's just more fun that way.

3. Use local plants

This isn't about spending money and buying new things.  It's about utilizing what's already there and giving back, so don't spend your money!  Sometimes garden centres will have spare plants to donate to the cause.  Or, go to your garden (or befriend a gardener... we are very nice people) and get some seeds, plant cuttings, etc.

4. Choose battle-worthy plants

Likely, you will be working with a small space that, initially, won't be recognized as a garden or plot for farming.  Therefore, you need to use plants that are hardy and low-maintenance (e.g. plants that don't need a lot of water, cold resistant, etc.)  Also, make sure to get noticed! Use plants that are colourful.

5. Don't forget to water

As you pass your reclaimed land to get to work, feed your flowers with some water from your water bottle.

6. Compost

Just like private gardens need help, drop by your spot with compost, coffee grounds, and egg shells.

7. Spread the Word!

Let people know! Put a marker in the soil, tape a poster nearby.


* Some great websites for inspiration:

Comments (7)

Hey everyone! Thanks for all the awesome comments! Check out this great video called Guerilla Gardens: Can you Dig it?

It's a 5-minute film with some cool things in it, like tips on building "seed bombs".

- Neshali

Neshali | June 23, 2009 at 11:40 AM

Thanks for the email Neshali, I love your blog! In particular, your most recent post on Guerrilla Gardening.

Not everyone knows it yet but there has been a little Guerrilla Gardening activity going on in Edmonton. Though only in our second year as an organized groups, Edmonton Guerrilla Gardeners have been involved in the reclamation of some of our unused public space. Like Calgary, Edmonton is quite sprawling with plenty of wasted land that could be put to better use; beautification, native habitat, biodiversity, and food security come to mind.

If you're interested in checking out the Edmonton Guerrilla Gardeners you can contact me at 780.432.6181, send an email to or visit us online at:

Dustin Bajer

Dustin | June 22, 2009 at 6:25 PM



I totally agree with you, and I love the idea of people getting together to create community gardens. I hope it becomes more popular because it's such a beatiful and useful way to use public space. Public space being used by the public. Makes sense to me!

Neshali replied to DSF | June 22, 2009 at 7:16 AM


Thanks for the really good ideas for getting in contact with garden guerilla groups.

This is a particularly good site if you are living in Edmonton and want to join in:

Neshali replied to Andrew | June 22, 2009 at 7:11 AM

What a fun, fantastic idea! Socializing for me will no longer be over coffee.

Can anyone suggest other hardy plants to use? Blackberries and respberries do sound delicious!

Camille | June 22, 2009 at 2:42 AM

Awesome blog! I've been guerilla gardening for two seasons so far, and it's a fun and easy way to improve the appearance of my neighborhood. There are also guerilla gardening groups you can get together that you can search for on something like facebook, or in your local "weekly freebie" newspapers.

Andrew | June 20, 2009 at 7:23 AM

I love this post, Neshali! My pathway to work is surrounded on each side by gardens, and where it isn't, nature takes over: ferns spring up and blackberry bushes appear. In empty city lots here blackberries take over. I had an idea to take an empty lot in Surrey once and promote turning it into a community garden, but I moved shortly after so it never materialised. There are some nice examples in Vancouver of streetside garden plots that I think are maintained by the nearest homeowner. It just doesn't make sense to have grass there when we could have flowers and edible things instead. Way to go! — Erika

DSF | June 19, 2009 at 10:31 AM