Environmental architects Kim Karlsrud and Daniel Phillips adopted the movement as a way to further their professional aspirations to beautify their community of Culver City in Los Angeles county. The pair founded Greenaid.co, developing seed bomb machines from used gumball machines. Since mid-2010, they’ve placed more than 50 seed bomb dispensing machines across the United States and in Canada, Mexico, and Italy. Their staff of two has hand-rolled more than 75,000 seed bombs, blending seeds with compost, fertilizer, and clay, stocking their machines as well as selling them in small packages made from cardboard paper towel rolls.
“We’re very interested as designers to encourage people to play a role in greening and beautifying their communities to take pride in their cities,” said Karlsrud. “L.A. is not the most beautiful place to live. It’s kind of gray and concrete. And this is a great way to dispense seed bombs to the masses.”
Phillips said they were “... surprised the other day to get a call from local redevelopment agency looking for transitional uses for several vacant lots until the economy picks up. We may install a seed bomb dispenser there to help get the community involved without having to dig up a bunch of earth to install a larger scale community garden. It’s something the community can get behind and generally a good thing to do.”
Wild displays of echinacea in the medians of downtown Chicago and of rosemary, lavender, and wild dill in Oakland, California are impressive. However, the idea is even getting traction in smaller towns across the country. For example, Alachua County, Florida, engaged with Florida Organic Growers to plant a community garden on the grounds of the county administration building in Gainesville last summer, recruiting more than 50 volunteers to plant fruit trees and vegetable plants in an effort to provide fresh, healthy food for the local community.
“As a pilot project the garden represents a commitment to building a resilient community and will feature educational events on rainwater collection, edible landscaping, composting, and local food year round,” County Manager Randall Reid told the local newspaper, the Gainesville Sun. “Harvested fruits and vegetables will be shared with local food banks and charitable organizations.”
Reid said that he hopes the new downtown garden serves as a launching point that will further interest the Gainesville community in sustainability and at the same time help bridge the gap between old and young people in the city.
Photo: Trish Riley
The evolution of community gardens includes plant offerings to local fauna and birdhouses to attract hungry winged friends. In Richmond, Virginia, birdhouses have been incorporated in the gardening effort to attract several area songbirds, such as wrens, bluebirds, and finches.
Karlsrud and Phillips are trying to spread the love with their seed ball machines. “It’s not only good for community, but local retailers and schools can use them as a lucrative fund-raising tool. We’re partnering with schools: they put an eco club in charge of finding a location, filling the machine with seed bombs, and distributing money back to the club.”
The guerrilla gardening movement is a stride toward sustainability as communities embrace the idea of sourcing local food and sidestepping the energy required to transport food over long distances, losing nutritional value along the way. Engaging with neighbors to provide sustenance down the street is the epitome of the 21st century.
Trish Riley is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Greening Your Business and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Green Living, publisher of www.gogreennation.org, and director of Cinema Verde (www.verdefest.org), an environmental film and arts festival.