Guerilla Gardens and Food Forests

by Marisa Folse – Guardians Around The Earth

Ron Finley in his garden

South Central LA is growing food in a former food desert. Nearly ten years ago, Ron Finley inspired others into “guerilla gardening“, a pop-up style of bloom where your planted mentality. As a result of this and other guerilla gardeners, vast food deserts across the country shrank to patchworks of green with healthy food access. Alleys, back porches, vacant lots now hold vegetables in container gardens and grow boxes with hard-core volunteers to work the dirt. Taking care of the neighborhood has a more holistic meaning – growing community building from its roots.

Photo by Derek Harper of Dove Street Garden

Just in case you did not know, guerilla gardening is technically illegal. But this type of gardening has been around for awhile. Back in the day, gardeners cultivated at night and in secret. Currently, daytime trespassing activities of gardeners are rarely harassed. Articles and websites are dedicated to the greening and beautification efforts of hundreds of guerillas worldwide. That vacant lot or abandoned building in your ‘hood has been an eyesore forever. It would look amazing with a flowery, or better yet a vegetable, garden that your whole community can access. Go for it – cultivate culture and create a community food forest. But remember that land does belong to someone somewhere. That someone may one day decide to show up, claim it and all that is on it.

Photo by Uriel Mont on

Food forests are also options for those who have a legal rights to land. Residents in Venice, CA and other areas Around The Earth are creating amazing edible landscaping areas. Homeowners and renters alike take out grass lawns and plant fruit and vegetable gardens instead. A great blog post from Daily Harvest Designs lists 10 edible garden examples with photos. If your thinking about re-landscaping, or recreating a small space, or even just have upright wall garden space, check out this and similar posts.

I read in The Guardian News that over 70 food forests started across the US in 2021. (Granted this is not an actual statistic.) Even though the USDA food desert locator shows some improvement in the last decade, millions of Americans suffer from food shortages. Food insecurity and hunger around the globe has increased since the recent pandemic. I can name some folks in my neighborhood that are regularly hungry. Can you? This should not be a reality and yet it is.

Photo by Francesco Ungaro on

A food forest goal is minimal maintenance once established. As with wild forests there is no need to weed, till, fertilize or irrigate. It develops its own self sustaining ecosystem. Taller trees keep smaller plants shaded so they retain moisture. A food forest is not a good option for those calmest with order and linear crops. Vines grow up and about edible shrubs, chaos abounds in some forests. Yet, it offers ongoing sustenance. Get more info on Community Food Forests HERE the site offers ways to build your own.

Sustainability has become a buzz-word, thank goodness. Nearly everyone has heard about it and either understands its concept or is working toward making sustainable a part of their daily lives. Agroforestry is also a new norm and USDA offers resources toward its development and maintenance. At times agroforestry works with indigenous populations for damaged ecosystem improvement that sustains Ag production and forest habitat.

Photo by Maria Orlova on

What does all this mean and where is it going from here? As always, Guardians Around The Earth offers info and asks you to TAKE ACTION.

  • Be a part of the solution.
  • Create or add to existing food provision efforts.
  • Donate where funds or volunteers are needed.
  • Change your yard to edibles.
  • Invite neighbors to join you and share the bounty.
  • Tell a friend. Like our Facebook page. Be Better!

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