|Apologies to Grant Wood's American Gothic|
Guerrilla gardens have been gaining momentum and publicity across the world. Whether for comestible, aesthetic or political purposes, gardeners are challenging the constraints of private and tightly controlled 'public' properties. Land considered marginal or 'wasteland' is being made to bloom without license.
For nomads and others underway, without a legal foothold on the land, our guerrilla gardens will have a particular character. They will be diffuse plantings of enhanced wild and hardy domestic varieties. They will be designed to thrive with little attention and offer something at most any season.
The following interview, while focusing on SE Alaska, presents possibilities and attitude which may be applied anywhere. Gardening is easier almost anywhere than here. So long as one works with their environment, guerrilla gardens can concentrate and supplement the food resources of any area.
Southeast Alaska has thousands of micro-climates across it's approximately 200 mile length and seventy mile width. What varies is amount of snow pack, days of snow and freezing conditions, amounts of rain, maximum and minimum temperatures (summer and fall), and altitude.
What is constant across the region is the long summer daylight hours, the short winter daylight hours, and the effect upon plants of the rapidly increasing light in spring and the rapidly diminishing light in fall.
Due to the maritime influence, gardens at sea level often have months longer frost free dates than do many esteemed areas much farther south, extending our growing season. Yet Southeast is a boreal rainforest; its 'shoulder seasons' tend to be cool and rainy, with somewhat drier weather and long summer daylight hours between. Amounts of rain vary a bit from north to south, coast to mountains, and behind rain shadows such as those provided by the combination of Baranof and Kuiu Island acting in concert.
Soils are generally acidic, except for those in river drainages and limestone deposit areas. The low angle of the sun means soils are generally cold due to most of the energy skipping off the surface and back into the atmosphere as a result of the oblique angle of solar incidence.
It is often true that our soils are short on nitrogen, but not always, since there are great reservoirs of humus in certain locals. Unfortunately, except in the alder woods and salmon/thimbleberry patches, the benefit of that humus is limited by extreme acidity.
James-David Sneed has gardened and farmed from Homer to Prince of Wales, and in the Pacific Northwest for several decades. He specializes in seed production and research that enables homestead gardeners to produce real food security in their own yards and neighborhoods, as local as food can be. He envisions our gardens to be a compliment to gathering our food from the wild with a reverence and respect for Nature's abundance. His emphasis is on rediscovering the simple, low-cost tools, methods, and attitudes that sustained humans for thousands of years before the industrialization of agriculture.
DZ: Guerrilla gardens are sometimes also referred to as outlaw gardens. What is their legal status?
DZ: What might one do to lower a guerrilla garden's profile?
DZ: What would you look for in a garden site?
DZ: What might be done to enhance the site?
DZ: Would you do anything to enhance the soil?
DZ: Are there any cautions to altering a wild site?
DZ: How does one propagate wild species?
DZ: What do you look for in a hardy domestic?
DZ: Is it possible to arrange a 'rolling' yield', so that a nomad might find something ready for harvest throughout the season?
DZ: How much attention is required by guerrilla gardens?
DZ: What would the curve of diminishing returns look like?
DZ: Are you aware of any nuts or other oil producing plants that could be raised here?
DZ: This is sparse gardening; Is diversity a consideration? I'm thinking of the Irish Potato Blight in which a single variety was vulnerable to a single pest.
As mentioned, guerrilla gardens have no legal standing, and are positively proscribed in many situations.
Local laws regulate any given patch of land, public or private, but may be more or less ambiguous regarding the exact latitude allowed. Knowing the laws pertaining to your selected site is always a plus.
Low profile guerrilla gardens - virtually invisible to the casual observer - hedge your bets in questionable situations. Multiple sites not only spread the availability of harvest across a region, but also risk of crop failure, animal or human pests or legal foreclosure.
In other words, while all this is interesting stuff, it's NOT meant to be put into practice. Don't try this at home, kids!
|I mean it!|