3 questions to ask yourself before guerrilla gardening a tree pit

I was asked on Instagram by Liz Castro (@lizcastro9) “is there any hope for this spot?” accompanied by a photo of a tree pit in Barcelona.

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Liz Castro’s photo and request for advice on Instagram

I have three questions for you, Liz, before you start work on the 3 STEPS TO CREATING A GUERRILLA GARDEN IN A TREE PIT. I’m also presuming that you 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.

Question one – is your tree pit beyond hope?

One of the tree pits I guerrilla garden in August 2016.

At first glance, your tree pit looks a rather hopeless case: the bone dry soil has obviously been trodden flat by passersby, cigarette ends litter the surface and rainwater appears not to have reached it for months so that not even a weed is growing in it.

But the tree pits I guerrilla garden were often as bad, if not worse, thatn yours. So it is possible.

And the good news is that your tree pit is relatively large, the paving slabs and kerbstones are of a good quality and the circumference of the trunk does not take up much space.

And, most importantly, Liz, you are keen to tackle it

Question two – how committed are you?

A tree pit is like a dog. It is not just for Christmas, as we say in England about puppies given as presents for Christmas and then dumped beside motorways before New Year.

The same tree pit, now with borders, the soil fed and appropriate plants in June 2019.

I’m working towards creating more sustainable tree pits – see HOW WILL YOUR GARDEN BE IF YOU FELL UNDER A BUS. But, realistically, once you start a guerrilla garden, you cannot walk away from it, certainly in the first few days or months. Or even years.

Are you ready, Liz, to nurture your tree pit, remove the litter and dog foul, repair any damage/vandalism and give it a little water occasionally? And are you also prepared to grow not what you necessarily want but rather what will actually survive if not flourish? Are your ready to fight for it?

Question three – how resilient are you?

What will you reaction be when you have nurtured a favourite plant only to see it “disappear” overnight. Or find an empty beer bottle tossed in to your tree pit one morning, the bottle breaking off in its fall a flower you had waiting for so long?

The spring of the first full year was promising a glorious explosion of foliage and flowers, April 2017.

Or, as happened in the first, full summer of my first six tree pits in 2017. I went out one day, astonished by how amazing the hollyhocks, gernaniums, fennel, Aquilegia and Astrantia were coming on, many of them about to flower. But, on my return, every plant in every tree pit had begun to wilt.

It was not until the next day that I worked out the problem.

The same tree pit after being sprayed with glyphosphate by the Council’s subcontractor in May 2017.

Camden Council’s pavement weed eradication programme employed a subcontractor which sprayed both the paving slabs AND the tree pits with the weed killer glyphosphate.

Gardening has always been about resilience – facing the weather, wildlife and water head on. Guerrilla gardening is just more so.

Neighbours and friends turned up with plants for the tree pits, a practice that continues to this day.

After the plants in the tree pits had been sprayed and died, neighbours and friends were devastated. They gave me whatever plants they had spare – a practice they have done ever since. Some even went out to buy plants for me.

Camden even decided to spray stop spraying tree pits with glyphosphate across the borough.

Three months later, the same tree pit, August 2017.

So, as always in gardening, good came from tragedy.

And, finally..

So, Liz, if your answer is yes to all these questions, then you have every chance of helping to rewild the city by creating a beautiful guerrilla garden which attracts pollinators, nurtures worms and inspires others. If you want to know the 3 STEPS TO CREATING A GUERRILLA GARDEN IN A TREE PIT, read on.

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