Sunday, May 1

International sunflower guerrilla gardening day

Just along the road from my house is a very unloved flower bed. It sits in the middle of a small gyratory, next to the railway viaduct and a car mechanic's yard. It was obviously built with care; it is a large flower bed, surrounded by stone walls and taking a prominent position on the roundabout.

But years of neglect have left it far from its best. The few scrubby rose bushes that remain, fight for survival in the dry, compacted earth and the litter that surrounds them. I cycle past this rosebed every day and feel sad that it's not being maintained, so today I resolved to join international sunflower guerrilla gardening day and try to bring about a little change.

Guerrilla gardening is a movement which was set up about eight years ago by Richard Reynolds who lives not far from here, in south east London. He got fed up seeing unloved bits of ground like this one, covered in litter and with nothing growing in them, and resolved to do something to improve his immediate environment - regularly setting out with seeds, plants, tools and water to try and coax flowers to grow in the most unlikely places.

My daily cycle ride also passes some of the roadside beds tended by him and his team in SE1, and it's always an inspirational reminder that there are other people out there who care about these things too.

So I set out at 7.30am today - international sunflower guerrilla gardening day! - to do a bit of digging on stony ground. I took my trusty garden fork, two two-litre bottles of water, some fertiliser, a packet of sunflower seeds, and a fluorescent vest just to make me look a bit more official!

The ground was pretty solid and it took some effort to break it up. While I was doing the digging a couple of people passed by - one said hello and looked a bit quizzical but the other didn't say anything. After breaking up the top level I expected the soil below to be a bit easier. It wasn't!

So I contented myself with digging about a metre in diameter, breaking up the soil sufficiently to get the seeds in. I scattered some fertiliser over it and turned it into the ground, then planted the sunflower seeds randomly across the earth, and mostly in pairs. At one point a beautiful green parakeet watched me from a treetop - this was during the digging though. I do hope he didn't see the sunflower seeds going in and think it was lunchtime :-(

With the seeds planted, I watered the ground and took a few photos.

There is plenty more space on this flowerbed. If anyone in SE8 is out there reading this and is interested in getting this bed looking like a living feature rather than a depressing swathe of compacted soil, please get in touch via the comments! (and if you've got a mattock, so much the better!)


Anonymous said...

Well done! I would love to join you but am in SW19 so it would take me a while to ride there and back. This 1st May international sunflower day is a great idea but what if you miss it (like I did - for some reason I kept thinking it was Monday)? Are there other times upcoming?


knit nurse said...

I don't think a week or so either way matters - tomorrow is as good a day as any other to plant your sunflower seeds! Good luck!

colleen said...

Great stuff. Richard Reynolds came to speak to us at EEWI a while back and was really inspiring - and I'm sure there will be plenty more neglected spaces in the next couple of years that will benefit from some guerilla gardening. I ought to send the old man over to do some digging - he's used to making gardens out of rubbishy old land.

Hope we get at least a little rain to encourage your sunflowers to grow- everything is dry as a stick here.

londonslostgarden said...

Very well done, you! Sunflowers there would be such a great improvement! Although as Colleen said, in the current dry weather rain/watering is likely to be a bit of a problem. Do you live close enough to be able to water the bed?

I am also in SE8 but further north than you I think, and don't know the particular bed you've tended. I do have a mattock... although to be honest, I'm not an early riser! You'll find my email address on the "about" page of my blog.

Nicola said...

I had no idea that 1 May = International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day! What a brilliant idea though, hope the little seeds survived the attentions of any parakeets and come up lovely!

knit nurse said...

@londonslostgarden thanks for that, I have emailed you direct. In answer to your question, yes I live close enough to water the bed and tend it on an occasional basis, whether first thing in the morning or any other time of day.

Laura Parkinson said...

Love this idea. I have lots of wild flower seeds which I plan to plan somewhere suitable soon now!

Rowan said...

dwarf sunflowers, I hope, or you're going to have to go back and stick some support canes in there as well :)