You’re keen to turn the dustbowl around the tree outside yur front door into a wildlife oasis.
You’ve checked that you have the long-term commitment with 3 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE GUERRILLA GARDENING A TREE PIT and you also consider the wellbeing of the tree above the pit paramount so you will follow the 3 DOS AND DON’TS WHILE GUERRILLA GARDENING THE A TREE PIT.
Step one – create a border
You can nurture a guerrilla garden in a tree pit without a border. But passersby – children on scooters, adults with shopping trolleys – will continually be bashing into the plants or walking on it, particularly the pedestrian side. So a border of some kind is a good idea.
But check the regulations of your local authority before you build anything.
Our inspiration, Liz, for the height and shape of the edging came the photo of a tree pit nearby in a Tweet by Camden Council. It reminded people to tie green ribbons round trees they guerrilla garden to alert subcontractors who might be working on weed clerance or tree husbandry. So we set to.
We buy wood, paid for by the neighbours, cut to size by the wood merchant and stain it ourselves. We then dig out a little trench and fix the corners with L-shaped, metal brackets.
It takes a lot longer than you imagine but the edging protects the tree pit from the passersby and encourages the dogs and litter to go elsewhere. It also creates a micro-climate for the plants, reducing the wind which dries out the soil, stopping the water from running out on to the street and even shading the soil a little.
Step two – feed the soil
Now you have the borders, you can start enriching the soil to benefit the guerrilla garden and, of course, the tree. Whatever you do, do not cover the base of the trunk also known as the root flare (see here).
Think about how your might do so without buying stuff in plastic bags or delivered in big lorries. I go to the local city farm and carry home plastic bags of rotted manure in my shopping trolley, donating £2 per bag. I use leaf fall in the autumn, scooping it up in gloves from nearby gutters.
Your aim is zero-waste.
You’re also trying to feed the soil here rather than the plants, creating a layer under which the worms and funghi will thrive, shaded from the sun and thriving on the moisture. They will do the work of creating a fantastic growing environment for the plants and breaking up that beaten soil so much better than any human.
Step three – choose your plants
In the meantime, spend some time walking the streets of your city.
What plants already grow in guerilla gardens and particularly tree pits. You want to find tree pits that have been planted and then ignored, noticing what plants have survived such neglect. This is the plant palette from which you will develop your own.
They might not have the colour or the shape you desired but rewilding the city is finding out the plants that want to grow in your tree pit rather than buying expensive but unsuitable plants from nurseries, using water to keep them alive and probably not attracting polinators.
So, forage the plants. I knock on the doors of people close to the tree pit and ask whether I can did up a root of something in theirs. People are delighted to be asked and even happier to say yes. Or take a shoot of something you’ve seen and nurse it to a size to be planted out.
Or grow it from seed. Experiment with what annuals grow with zero waste by avoiding trays of plants from nurseries in plastic pots. Choose ones that encourage pollinators and re-seed year after year.
Then, water. Even a good summer thunder storm rarely reaches a tree pit. So water any new plant in. But, once it gets going, reduce water down to a minimum. If it looks unhappy, have you made the right choice?
Then, step back and enjoy. I reckon that every leaf that grows and every flower that opens in a tree pit is worth ten times the same achievement in a private garden. And work out which tree pit you will start guerilla gardening next. Remember rewilding the city is creating corridors for wildlife, partcularly pollinators. How might you connect yours to someone else’s?