When I was in New York City a few weekends ago, I was browsing through Anthro (my affectionate nickname for Anthropologie) and I stumbled upon “Seed Bombs”. All of the flowers in our rooftop veggie garden are blossoming, or have already blossomed, and these looked like the lazy persons dream for having wildflowers in their life. The bag has been hanging around the apartment since then, mostly because I’ve been too busy (I can’t use the lazy excuse, huh?) but honestly because I just didn’t understand them. Do I plant them or do I throw them on top of the soil? Do they make friends nicely with my veggies, or do I have to spend hours researching which veggies grow best when complimented with a seed bomb? Whatever that was. Today I finally just threw the small Whoppers-candy size and color mud balls (which come packed with wildflower seeds, clay, some compost, and water) in the one planter that doesn’t have veggies growing. Of course, I dug them into the soil a bit because you never know. Maybe they did have to be planted.
Then I opened the Sunday Washington Post. Front cover was a picture of a city community garden with the heading “A growing form of social activism“. I read on and sure enough the first sentence was “Let’s throw some bombs” a young woman calls out… Apparently benign bombing is occurring in vacant lots throughout the city (although the article only has references to Shaw), and is part of a larger phenomenon called activist gardening that’s taking place throughout the country (and not just in the Portlands but in the Detroits and Baltimores as well). And it isn’t new. It dates back to the late-1960s (of course) in Berkeley (of course) when an abandoned land near UC Berkeley was co-opted by the community and turned into a public green space. This trend has already been existing internationally since then and has only recently rebounded here.
You can take seed-bomb making classes in DC (why wouldn’t you be able to?). E. Gran holds workshops at Old City Green garden center. Or, you can do-it-yourself with instructions from the guerrilla headquarters site. How successful are they? Well, I’ll have to tell you in a few weeks. But if they’re “launched” into a sunny space without too much vegetation, it has a 70% chance of blossoming into bachelor’s buttons, baby’s breath, forget-me-nots and marigolds. There are also herb and veggie bomb versions.
And with every guerrilla movement, there’s a counter movement. District police are unsure about this new territory but maintain that guerrilla gardening technically constitutes unlawful entry (imagine a misdemeanor on your record for “gardening”…prettyyy badass). Naysayers claim it is an example of “overly exuberant gentrifiers hoping to take over neighborhoods that may not want to change”. And those that may be for it are concerned about where its grown- vegetables grown in road pot holes (a popular place to throw the bombs apparently) with heavy traffic could be toxic.
You can learn more at guerrillagardening.org. May 1st is the International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day, instituted by a Brussels group that want people all over to engage in the illegal (?) act of planting wild flowers on abandoned land, and the DC group is planning their adventure.
Will you? If guerrilla tactics involving seed bombing in random abandoned plots isn’t your thing but you’re interested the urban community garden movement, City Blossoms works with DC public school students to beautify abandoned lots and grow vegetables, and Common Good City Farm is an education center that teachers low-income residents how to grow their own vegetables, among other initiatives.