A little over a week ago, the newspapers of Stratford reported on an unusual phenomenon taking place after dark on our very streets.
The July 1 edition of The Stratford Gazette reported:
"They operate under a cloak of darkness, sneaking into public spaces to do their work by moonlight."
According to the June 19 edition of The Beacon Herald these folks mean business:
"A vegetable garden beside the Erie Street parking lot is the first project by a secretive group called Stratford Guerrilla Gardeners. The garden of tomatoes, brussel sprouts, yellow beans, leeks and potatoes went in under cover of darkness one night last week."
Just yesterday, Tamara Harbar, in her spot-on Gazette column called "Going Green" in the paper's Earth Now section, celebrated Stratford's Guerrilla Gardeners as modern-day Johnny Appleseeds who are demonstrating opportunities for our city to maximize it's local food producing potential and reduce our collective global footprints:
"It’s hard for us to see the ecological damage cities cause. But maybe Stratford’s guerrilla gardeners will make it easier to see the good cities can do."
Today, I got an anonymous scoop on the sequel to the original "Master Plot" planted by Stratford's Guerrilla Gardeners beside the Erie Street parking lot. A spokesperson for the organization, who only wanted to be identified as "Mr. Potato Head", tipped me off on the group's latest installment just west of the corner of Huron and Mornington Streets. The once glorious site of the 7/11 has fallen into disrepair; to bring some life to what they deem a "brown space", the Guerrilla Gardeners of Stratford have planted a "Calabrese Salad" garden - consisting of tomatoes and basil - alongside the sidewalk. You saw it here first folks:
The mysterious Mr. Potato Head insisted he remain unidentified - he doesn't want to discourage any new members based on fears of their being outed in the media. But he did provide some informative insights into his subversive group, which consists of "four members and counting", and their urban veggie-growing mandate (others who seek to join are encouraged to e-mail email@example.com).
Artist's Rendition of Mr. Potato Head: Have you seen this man?
When asked what spawned the idea to plant vegetables on the Stratford urban landscape, Mr. PH relates the story of how one day the four members of the Guerrilla Gardening posse were marveling at all the landscaping that was performed all around Stratford. One member prompted a thought experiment, "What would it be like if every flower the city planted was a vegetable plant?". The rest, as they say, is history.
The Guerrilla Gardening movement is by no means restricted to Stratford. In fact, there is a global website linking Guerrilla Gardeners from places as diverse as Copenhagen, Berlin, Salt Lake City, and Montreal. In May, 6,000 guerrilla sunflower seeds were planted in urban landscapes all around the world!
Mr. Potato Head emphasizes the public ownership over the Guerrilla Gardens, "They belong to everyone!" He says that when the produce is ripe for the picking, people should just help themselves, "But do us a favour and wash everything well!" If there is any surplus produce, the Guerrilla Gardening crew is committed to distributing it to food banks or other sites that promote our city's food security.
As an avid gardener (stay tuned for updates on the McCully's Hill Farm Community Garden Co-op and the Stratford School Gardens project), I was particularly interested in finding out where the Guerrilla Gardeners got their starter plants and gardening gear. Mr. PH enthusiastically recommend Cozyn's Garden Gallery where they are currently selling starter veggies and herb plants at half price. He also mentioned that Anything Grows is a great place to get nifty growing paraphernalia.
Planting food in city spaces that were otherwise full of weeds? All I have to say is, this Mr. Potato Head and his Guerrilla Gardening crew are my kind of crazies!