I’m an artist. Gardening is my graffiti. I grow my art. I use the garden soil like it’s a piece of cloth, and the plants and the trees, that’s my embellishment for that cloth. You’d be surprised what the soil can do if you let it be your canvas. – Ron Finley the Gangsta Gardener

Ron Finley also known as the LA gangsta gardener didn’t have a garden of his own and was sick of living in what he describes as a food desert.
He decided to plant some vegetables on the verge in front of his house. They started to grow and everything was going well until the city authorities knocked on his door and said you can’t do this and threatened him with fines and even jail time if he persisted.
He persisted and he fought back and got a neighbourhood petition together and got the law changed so that people can now grow their own food on municipal verges. It has transformed the area where he lives from a concrete jungle to an urban oasis. Finely says Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do … There are so many metaphors in that garden – we’re cultivating ourselves, we’re learning how to take care of things, we’re learning that nothing is instantaneous.

Photograph: Courtesy of The Ron Finley Project

We find this idea inspiring. So we’ve been getting a little hooked on gardening lately. We are also looking around us at the suburban environment in which we live wondering what we can do to extend our gardening into the wider community.

Our first foray out into the wider community has been through our own front garden. Along with some local kids we have planted a number of vegetables such as courgettes and tomatoes and peas and have shared some of the produce with our neighbours. We have also planted a fig tree and a pear tree in the front, this is an investment in the future and one which we hope we will be able to share with our neigbours. We have also planted a pumpkin patch on the grass verge between the footpath and the main road. This grass verge is owned by the council along with the street lamps and so on, but why not plant things there?

Pumplin patch on grass verge
Our first act of Guerilla gardening; planting a pumpkin patch on the council owned grass verge between our house and the public road on our estate

We happen to live in a typical Dublin suburb and there are lots of similiar housing estates with hundreds ( thousands and thousands if you include every suburb in the country) of these patches of council owned grass verges, wouldn’t it be lovely if they were all growing a mix of pollinator friendly flowers and vegetables and fruit trees that everyone could share.
There are so many benefits to growing your own, here are just a few:

  1. Being able to grow and eat your own free or cheaper renewable food sources on however small a scale is empowering.
  2. It helps create biodiversity especialy when we grow organic and plant native plants and crop varieties, this helps insects and pollinators that depend on plants and all the other organisms that make up the web of life including ourselves.
  3. It creates less dependency on future uncertain external food supply chains. It was not too long ago when most countries were pretty much self sufficient. In World War II people created Victory Gardens in their back yards to help with the war effort. Britain grew 40% of the nations vegetables in this way. We can do this again all over the world. Plus the more you grow the less money you need to spend, it makes you richer.
  4. Globalisation and mono cultural farming practices are working in the short term but are ultimately unsustainable and definitely not renewable because they work against nature and through tillage (the turning over of the soil in a field) pesticides and chemical fertilisers it is destroying the living bio-organisms in the soil which then release their stored CO2 into the atmosphere. Farming and gardening that allows for biodiversity creates nutrient rich, living soil that can act as a carbon sink, literally sucking out the excess CO2 from the atmosphere through plants and trees. Check out the excellent documentary Kiss the Ground narrated by Woody Harrleson on Netflix, it’s very informative and inspiring or visit the https://kisstheground.com for more information on how gardening and farming can reverse climate change within 30 years and transform the planet for the better for all it’s inhabitants.
  5. Gardening is a creative and defiant act. Growing things is a no brainer when it comes to benefiting our mental health and it is good for us spiritually.

We look forward to the Spring of 2021 when we intend to do some more gangsta gardening and sub/urban guerilla plantings.

Extra, Extra : Joseph Beuys was a Gangsta Gardener

Joseph Beuys was a founding member of the German Green Party and believed that artists could and should seek to effect society and the environment for the better.
His idea to plant 7000 oak trees in Kassel, Germany, was his biggest and to me most inspirational art project. It is still ongoing long after his death and certainly will be long after ours. It’s worth checking out the video here to gain further insight into his urban renewal, and social art work that involved a whole community in it’s conception and ultimate realisation