Guerilla gardening is like every other kind of gardening I know–there is no end, it just keeps going on and on. Except that the garden is a lot bigger! This morning (mid April), my friend and I went out to our shared project, a spot we have been sheet mulching for some time because there are many square metres of it and it is charitable to say it’s weedy–it’s quite exciting to see weeds have started to sprout there because it means that something else could grow. But nothing other than weeds has been growing there in many years, and sometimes not even that.
We began with my cardboard stash, and added onto what we have previously done (my friend has added some to our shared efforts without me!) on top of that, our first few sacks of leaves from the nearby car park where E Leucoxylon is in full bloom, and the late dry heat of summer and autumn has led to plenty of fallen leaves. Then we went to the local guitar shop, where they put all the boxes outside and are happy for folks to take them. We stripped out staples and tape again and added on. Then more leaves!
Next we headed home to collect soil (our test hole shows a liberal layer of bricklayer’s sand and a lot of gravel), water and plants. We sang the tree planting blessing over the first tree ( E Scoparia), and added some ruby saltbush for good measure and protection.
While we were there, a woman pulled over on her bike. She is older than me, and I see her cycling in my area really often, always in a dress, frequently going at a very fast speed. What a role model! She said she had formed the impression that the two of us had taken responsibility for this area of the rail corridor and she was wondering if some ruby saltbush that are coming up at her place might be a good fit. Absolutely! We said. So it appears we are now a team of three (in a very loose sense). We hope that rain is coming, and I have lots of plants to put in. Meanwhile, yesterday a friend dropped by with a stack of pots from her day job, that will be perfect for propagating. Might be time for cuttings…
The last of autumn’s ruby saltbush went out into the world. I had in mind a spot where I would plant it, but rail infrastructure crews were busy right there. So I changed my mind.
I put some rooted but not potted Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes into the creekbed while I was out. They are likely to do better there than potted on at this time of year, I decided. Then it was veldt grass out (a more knowledgeable person has identified one of the awful weeds of our neighbourhood for me!) and ruby saltbush in, along a fence line where I have been progressively planting saltbush and nature has been progressively creating soil as more leaves are trapped in place and break down into new earth. Perfect.
I do follow people who do lovely mending. I read their books and follow their blogs or instagram accounts. I admire Tom of Holland. I appreciate Katrina Rodabaugh. I’ve enjoyed Jessica Marquez and Hikaru Noguchi. I love that mending is coming back into regular use, at least in some circles. But I am definitely not an upscale mender of my own clothing. My own clothing gets worn out in places I’d rather not show off. My gardening jeans get worn fulsomely, and because my back is a weak point, I kneel in the dirt to garden and dress accordingly.
It follows that you wont be getting styling advice from me!
On the left leg here, you can see indigo dyed thread (look closely) which was the first mend of the knees. The white thread is a second mend. And I seem to have taken this photo in the driveway as I set out guerilla gardening some months back, having recently completed a second mend on the right leg, because the fabric had worn through there.
I’m not entirely sure why I’ve stuck with these so long and mended them so much. I often decide that if I’m up for the job then I’ll do it and who cares why. These jeans are like a catalogue of my hand mending skills over a period of time (definite improvement, in case you are wondering). They are comfortable because they are stretch jeans, something I bought at the time and might not choose again. They are also a cotton polyester blend, which I remember being appalled at when I first washed them and realised–I had been too naive to read the label back then. So the longer they stay out of landfill the better–but the bottom end of my jeans drawer has plenty of contenders for gardening jeans in it. Just not quite yet. I am not yet ready to lose these.
And in this picture, a quiet celebration of guerilla gardening success. Ruby saltbush that has made it through a scorching 40C + heatwave, between a concrete path and a corrugated iron fence. Council have begun to trim it like a hedge, bless them. And bless you, ruby saltbush.
Autumn’s cuttings and seedlings are ready for planting around the neighbourhood.
One of my dear friends died recently, and on the day of her funeral I decided I’d go out and plant. Somehow it seemed right. Here they are ready to go.
I planted them along a corrugated iron fence, where some have lived, some have been poisoned, and some have been pulled out. Here’s hoping these make it! Then as usual, litter picking, weeding and home.
Well. A field, it certainly is not. But today I decided to hitch up my bicycle trailer and guerilla plant further from home. A couple of kilometres away, actually… a place by the tram line I sometimes run past and where there has been nothing but weeds growing for years.
I managed to get two bucket loads of plants in the trailer by putting the ground covers on the bottom layer and adding tools to keep the top bucket from crushing them.
One bed was empty except for the remains of weeds. I reassembled the edging on the bed where it had fallen or been pulled apart and began. I planted three acacia paradoxa seedlings in the bed beside it (also a pretty sad sight but with some native plantings still alive). I was feeling pretty pessimistic about their chances in life and questioning my decision to plant somewhere where I haven’t done as much observation as usual when a gentleman walked up and asked if I was planting. I wasn’t sure of the alternative interpretations at this stage, but soon we were chatting about what I was planting and his past in Trees for Life. I have grown for Trees for Life too, so we chatted on.
He said he’d do some weed management! He thought he could add some stakes! He’d considered planting native grasses in this area. He lived nearby. He used to have that same trailer (we had both bought them from the chap who used to make them himself, in the 1980s). The chances of these seedlings making it to any size at all have just risen immensely!
So–in went seaberry saltbush (rhagodia). I lost some water going over bumps and when bike and trailer were travelling at different speeds downhill, but most of it was still in the watering cans to give the new plantings a drink.
I also planted ruby saltbush… and picked up rubbish. In fact, I made several stops on the way home. I do find cups, plastic lids for cups and bottles, straws and such but a staggering amount of cable ties and gaffer tape too, and today I found those plastic soy sauce fish in two different locations. Go figure. Hoping next time I run past these little plants will be bigger!
I am sorry to say there was a considerable loss of the spring plantings from last year, and I lost a lot of seedlings this summer too. However: there is nothing to do but press on!
This week, after finally seeing some lovely rain, I started planting out once more. The first round was mostly ruby saltbush. It is tough and hardy and easy for me to propagate, and it forms a great pioneer planting, creating a context in which it can be safe enough for other plants to thrive. It stops fallen leaves being blown away and allows new soil to form. It creates habitat. And it protects other plants from passersby and dogs.
Most of the saltbush went up against a fence. I planted it previously with great success and then it was all poisoned! The second partial planting is a good size now so I’ve added more.
I also planted ‘wren bush’–the seed was given to me by a friend who doesn’t know its real name but observes that superb blue wrens love it. If I ever see a superb blue wren in my neighbourhood, I’ll need to start a festival in its honour. Some of these plants also have lemon scented gum (Corymbia Citriodora) seedlings in them, donated by my neighbour’s tree which showers our place in stamens and seeds.
I watered them in despite the rain and then picked up litter and walked home. Here is my wheelbarrow with some of the previous plantings in the background.
Another early morning foray into the streets. More dianella revoluta to add to a massed planting where so many plants were stolen in three separate events the week they went in.
Over several years I have planted saltbush into the gaps to keep the weeds down (now the saltbush is mounting a takeover bid!) and progressively propagated new plants to replace the ones that were stolen. This morning they went in like this, barey a spear shaped leaf above ground:
Some of those planted in the last two years look good:
And the original plantings are really successful.
Here is the mound of saltbush removed (half to the chooks and half to composting):
And at that point I decided it was prudent not to plant anything more and head home to deal with that pile of saltbush, recycle some rubbish and give the chooks something tastier. Dandelions, for example!
I have all kinds of plants that I planted as seed in spring that are waiting for cooler weather to go into the ground. Saltbush are the hardiest, and in a break in the summer heat I decided to plant these out.
They are mostly going into areas where other plants have died or been cut down–there was the loss of another dead tree recently and unfortunately it was carried out in such a way that not only did the dead tree get cut down, but its understorey was also lost. Council don;t re plant and by listening to their workers and asking questions I’ve understood that they won’t. So I’m planting these sections as things die or get killed, trying to protect the earth here and create an environment in which larger plants can go in.
Once I plant and water, I weed and collect rubbish. And then it’s time for breakfast and work!