Nobody said we could plant sunflowers around the toxic brown space, but no one said couldn't either. So, last May, six Riverwest families, all of whom were responding to an e-mail, showed up with shovels, ready to guerrilla garden.
My friend and I planned this for a long time. The idea was to covertly plant sunflowers in the bleakest areas of our neighborhood. With our kids, spouses, neighbors and friends, we planted seeds in dirt on boulevards, next to bus stops and in alley gardens, but the majority of our efforts were focused on 2.8 acres of fenced-in, toxic grassland that looked harmless, but is unusable space where a battery factory once stood.
Our plan was to plant sunflowers outside of the fence, which is topped with barbed wire. However, we were concerned that the city would mow down the plants because workers cut the grass about every three weeks.
It was a plumber friend's idea to slice PVC tubes into three-inch chunks and plant the seeds inside the plastic circles to protect the future sprouts from the power mowers. Turns out, this was the million-dollar idea. The one that made everything possible. The final "she loves me" petal of the whole plan.
After planting hundreds of sunflower seeds around the large, vacant grass patch, we went home to eat dinner and for the next few weeks, waited to find out if anything sprouted. And sprout they did.
We typed "guerrilla gardener" updates on Facebook that got lots of little thumbs-up icons, but we knew the real hurdle to clear was the mowers. A friend weed-wacked around the containers to, hopefully, stop the mowers from mowing too close to the containers with sprouts, and it worked.
A few days later, the landscape crew came, gave the grass a fresh cut and left the white plastic containers unharmed.
We tried to imagine why the city workers took the time to mow around the containers. Maybe they thought they were planted by the city. Maybe they didn’t think about it at all, and j…Read more...