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How to Protect Your Guerrilla Gardening Projects

Friend of GOOD Andy Hume emailed to describe his clever stratagem for protecting urban tree planting projects:

My love of tree planting began in the Midwestern backyard of my childhood, planting seeds and nuts and transplanting “volunteer” trees in the tiny nursery behind my grandmother’s house. In my adult life I try to take initiative to reclaim green space in city recreational areas and unused urban spaces cum parks. My work can be seen in Los Angeles’s Elysian Park, Chicago’s abandoned train tracks, and the sidewalk medians of Seattle.

Unfortunately, many of the trees are destroyed, be it purposefully by property owners or unintentionally by park employees’ lawn mowers. So I’ve come up with a simple solution: makeshift plaques.

First, you’ll need the tree. You can order tiny ones cheaply from the Arbor Day Foundation or just buy one from any local nursery. Make sure you get the proper trees for your climate zone and plant them the appropriate time of year—usually spring or fall. Next, cut out the “plaque” from this page and fill in your friend’s information. I’ve used the coat of arms of Romania as the Urban Tree Initiative’s logo to add an air of official endorsement.

I originally planted trees “In Memory” of friends, as it seems they would be less likely to be screwed with if planted for a dead person. However, it is perhaps a touch macabre to pronounce the death of a friend, so the one on this page serves to honor a living person. Feel free to make your own. I live on the Southside of Chicago, so plaques that name my friends as union organizers, helpful preachers and blues musicians seem more likely to remain in place. My four-year-old niece discovered the polio vaccine, by the way.

Next, get the plaque laminated. Leave enough plastic around the borders, so the paper won’t be exposed to the elements. Poke a hole through either side and fashion a coat hanger through the holes for a stake. You’re now an Urban Tree Initiative operative, and we plant our trees by cover of night. Use an iPhone to get the GPS coordinates, so your friend can visit his/her tree for years to come or view the location on Google Earth. Cut out the accompanying postcard and send it out. Find someone nearby to pat you on the back, earth warrior.


Here's a shot of the printout he uses. The top half goes to the honoree. The bottom half goes on the tree.

Here's a picture of the plaque in situ:

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