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With private property, however, charges such as trespassing are among the risks.
So while guerilla gardening is slightly illegal, most gardeners like Bunnell and Martinez aren’t too worried about that.
“The thing with guerrilla gardening is that you’re gardening in a public space without permission. You kind of have to come from a place where you can take it in your own hands—which is what my permission is,” Martinez says. “I’m very active in my community and in my association. City projects take forever to get off the ground. I cannot wait for government, and I cannot wait for someone else to take care of something like this or landscape projects. By the time they approve a stupid tree to plant for me, I was going to take it in my own hands, and I’m going to do it.”
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Bunnell often receives inquiries from people across the country about starting their own guerrilla-gardening efforts. He shares that there are a few major tips to keep in mind: Avoid private, corporate-owned property—“There’s enough public land that needs help.” Second, choose non-invasive, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plants that are appropriate for your chosen location. And the last, most important tip: Garden at the right time of the year, and be prepared to follow up. Southern California summers make it difficult to get a fledgling garden going—remember, it’s not just getting the garden in the ground; you’ll also have to return to locations to water plants, clean up litter and even pull weeds.
“Some gardens I do have to return to maintain,” Bunnell says. “[The Whittier garden] not so much because a lot of the plants are so well-established [that] there’s not a lot of weeding to do. Weeding is always a big hassle; it’s a big problem that takes a long time to take care of.”
He shares that he comes by the Whittier garden to water the sapling trees and a handful of young plants too small to make it on their own, but that particular spot is mostly rainwater-only.
Bunnell also touts Reynolds’ GuerrillaGardening.org message boards as a great spot to troubleshoot and gather tips from other area gardeners.
Thanks to his fantastic propagation skills and knowledge of plants, Bunnell says, some years, he spends no money at all establishing new gardens, while other years, he can spend thousands.
Either way, there is definitely no shortage of seemingly forgotten locations needing a little bit of guerrilla gardening—and Bunnell has no plans to stop any time soon.
“Lots of people ask me all the time, ‘How do you find spots?’ It’s like, how do you miss them? They’re just everywhere. Between here and the beach, there are probably 50 spots just like this,” Bunnell says, pointing down the long concrete path running alongside the San Gabriel River. “They’re everywhere. Come back in 20 years, and I’ll have the whole riverbed done.”