Want to grow some food-producing perennials but don’t have the space?
Why not try guerilla gardening? This is the practice of growing a plant in an underused public area, usually without official permission. Such areas can be within the hedge rows of residential properties, within the flower beds in public green spaces, in the green islands of local cul de sacs, or amongst the trees and bushes that line public roadways. Areas like these are often neglected and have edges that are free from grass sod.
Using these areas to establish perennials not only allows you to grow things that you may not have room for in your own space, but will add more variety, beauty and biodiversity to what can be a drab, mostly unkempt flower bed, as well as bring in more pollinators, depending on what you choose to grow. If done artfully, even a rhubarb or asparagus plant can look like an intended foliage accent piece. Plus, it can aid in supplying you with additional food to supplement your grocery budget.
By choosing perennials over annuals for guerilla gardening, you are setting yourself up with less work year after year, as these plants will need less maintenance as you do your rounds of watering and harvesting. Sourcing these perennial plants can also be free; just ask someone in your neighbourhood for a stem or root cutting. They can also be acquired from other guerilla-grown plants, which you may stumble upon in your wanderings around the city. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities.
I have scouted a variety of plants in my neighbourhood that were either planted in this guerilla style or were deposited there via bird droppings. Hardy plants that I have seen garden in this way (and need little to no care surviving in isolated spots) are horseradish, asparagus, rhubarb, and raspberries. I feel this is only the most obvious of choices. Why not try raspberry’s cousins, blackberry or loganberry? Plants with edible flowers may be another option: Daylilies or columbine could also work.
Herbs could also be grown in this way. Any of the mint family can be hardy to zone 3; hyssop, catmint, and oregano are examples of these. These mints could be used for herbal teas. Sage, or creeping thyme, could also be squeezed into smaller areas. Chives or winter onions need little to no care and can be used in place of store-bought green onions as a savoury garnish. Caraway and hops are also great plants if you want to add unique flavours to baking and fermented drinks with their seeds.
For leafy greens, you could try a few varieties of sorrel, dock, or sea kale. These plants come up early in the Spring and can be easily made in salads or used as spinach replacements. They can be harvested all season long and are something to love forward to after a long dull winter.
While growing in guerilla style always has the risk of the plant being uprooted or harvested while your back is turned, it does have the reward of working out 5 times out of 10. If you spread out where you plant your guerilla gardens, you are bound to get something out of your efforts.
Summer is over, but fall is one of the best times to plant perennials for next spring. So try your hand at this unique growing style and see what comes of it!