Last year we went to an event organised by Waltham Forest Friends of the Earth called the Big Buzz. The event took place in Chingford and focused on the challenges facing the bee population in the UK, there were also other environmental groups there, and a make your own bee hotel workshop took place in the garden. One of the speakers at the event talked about planting in tree pits, the space at the bottom of street trees. At first I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, I hadn’t really considered that the little patch of earth at the bottom of a tree would have a name. As we listened though, the idea of making those small squares of land look better, and helping wildlife at the same time seemed like a really good idea. When we left the event, we made sure we picked up some free packets of seed that Friends of the Earth were giving away, with the aim of planting them around the tree outside. In reality what we actually did was get home, put the seeds in a cupboard and then forgot about them.
Towards the end of the year whilst frantically trying to find my passport, which once again I had miss placed, we found the packet of seeds lurking behind a can of vimto. It was completely the wrong time of year to sew them, but one Saturday morning on the way out of the house we sprinkled the seeds around the base of the tree, headed up the high street. We were pretty sure the seeds wouldn’t grow and didn’t really give them a second thought, so it came as a surprise earlier this year when we noticed lots of seedlings springing up at the bottom of the tree. Before long we could tell we had lots of wild flowers springing up, including daisy’s and poppies. Suddenly we felt very protective of the tree pit that we had barely noticed before. My other half stuck notices up asking for the flowers not to be cut down, and watered them whenever they were getting dry. Sadly, just as the plants were starting to flower, the street cleaning team chopped them all down, turning the tree pit back in to a mini unloved piece of waste land.
Determined not to be beat, we decided to try again, but this time with the added fortification of log roll. There are a few trees on Orford Road that have log roll around the bottom to contain planting, these tree pits seem to have been left alone, so off we trooped to B&Q on Lea Bridge Road to get the log roll and some new plants. We put the log roll around the tree and lined it wit a bin bag to stop the compost coming out. With fingers crossed, we set the new plants and hoped for the best. This time the plants have been left alone, and we have even noticed our next door neighbors have been popping out on hot days to water them.
According to Wikipedia, the definition of guerrilla gardening is “The act of gardening on land that the gardeners do not have the legal rights to utilize” That makes planting a geranium under a tree sound far more exciting and risky than it actually is. OK, I take that back, I think this is exciting, the concept of guerrilla gardening is a really interesting idea. I wonder how many tree pits or forgotten pieces of land there are in Walthamstow? How brilliant would streets look if every tree pit was planted? I know there are others in E17 doing the same or similar things, Friends of the Earth have organised wild flower planting sessions in Queens Road Cemetery and Kitchener Park, there are beautiful community flower beds dotted around the place, and I have seen a few other tree pits and road side gardens in Walthamstow. I’ve been reading various articles online and some people have even cultivated crops in street gardens, runner beans, cucumbers growing up trees and tomato plants, it seems the possibilities are endless. So come on E17, grab a trowel and your left over bedding plants or unwanted packs of seeds, and join me for a bit of bee friendly guerrilla gardening.