John Reinhardt is an urban planner, writer, photographer, and urban gardener. An avid cook, John is interested in the intersection of urban design, sustainability, and food systems planning. He currently resides in Washington DC and works for the American Planning Association. He currently writes Grown in the City, a blog about urban gardening and food systems planning.
Guerrilla gardening is one of my favorite urban gardening topics, and something I am constantly learning all about. According to some accounts, the term was coined by in the early 1970s by activist gardeners in New York City, but the practice of guerrilla gardening has been going on since recorded history – remember the story of Johnny Appleseed? By its simplest definition, guerrilla gardening is gardening on land (public or private) that doesn’t belong to you. Richard Reynolds, one of the most visible members of this movement, has a fantastic website about the topic at Guerrilla Gardening that I highly recommend.
Some people guerrilla garden for food, some to make a political statement, some to beautify an area, and others to make people smile. There are many in Washington DC, if you keep your eyes open. Some gardeners do their work anonymously, often at night, throwing seed bombs or planting flowers in tree wells. Others actively care for their public gardens, encouraging others to tend to the garden and share the bounty.
The Dupont neighborhood has quite a few guerrilla gardens. There is a sunflower garden in the planting strip on the northwest side of 16th and P and in the past I’ve spotted one at 18th and Church, in front of St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church. There’s also a full-fledged vegetable, herb, and flower garden cared for by two guys name Steve and Phil located right on the circle.
Once your eyes are open to guerrilla gardening, you can’t help but see places – everywhere – that could be transformed into edible or ornamental landscapes.