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How to do Clandestine Planting and Forestry?

 
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There are so many open spaces around that are neglected and needing of love.  They may be owned by the State or private.  And, plots and forests are many times obvious that no one cares what is going on. Or, that if there is improvement it would be appreciated, but no one has the time or inclination to improve things.  

What are some things that can first be done that are not intrusive, but can greatly help if you leave it alone afterward?  

What are some things that can nurture a healthy eco-system that favors a forest garden to develop and thrive on its own?

Clearing, chipping even minor burning?
 
gardener
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there was an awesome video shared here recently from Tony Santoro (Santana? Botany Doesn't Pay but Crime Does) where he talked about stealth planting on a greenway type thing where non-native plants were just dying a slow death.
Simple as it seems, his big thing was sneaking in native plants that don't need watering and can thrive in the (dry) climate he was in (CA). He went on a walk showing the original landscaped plants and the ones he had inserted in and it was remarkable- his were thriving and the originals were on death's door.
 
steward
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I would put clearing, chipping and burning pretty low on the list of things to try to do in a clandestine manner.

Seed bombs and broadcasting seeds seems pretty high on the list.  Transplanting in plants is pretty good if you can legally set foot on the property.  Removing invasives as well.  Maybe grafting onto some existing trees with improved cultivars
 
pollinator
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Andrew Rule wrote:... or private.  And, plots and forests are many times obvious that no one cares what is going on. Or, that if there is improvement it would be appreciated, but no one has the time or inclination to improve things.  



Clearing, chipping even minor burning?



I won't speak to state land, but I have posted before about planting on private land.  In my mind, it takes a pretty tremendous ego for someone to think they know better about how my land should be treated than I do.  That field that no one cares about?  Maybe I'm establishing native flowers.  Maybe I have a plan for that land you just don't know about.  Maybe I noticed a species of butterfly there that is protected, or I want to protect and I want it left alone.  Maybe I just like areas that I prefer to let nature develop instead of having humans tromping around on it "fixing things".  It's a simple matter to ask the owner if they would like some trees planted.

As far as clearing, chipping, or minor burning?  At best, you're trespassing, and if you do anything of those things, it's called destruction of property.  I would sue someone's ass off if they did any of those things on my land.
 
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Location: Ozark County, Missouri
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i'm with tereza. i think starting off planting no fuss useful plants is a great start. for me what comes to mind is things that have done well here without much care on our part. aronia melanocarpa is an all-star. highly nutritious berries, not too much of a deer attractant, beautiful foliage (could be a landscaping plant). start with the no fuss plants/ natives that you value and move from there.
 
pollinator
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Trace Oswald wrote:

As far as clearing, chipping, or minor burning?  At best, you're trespassing, and if you do anything of those things, it's called destruction of property.  I would sue someone's ass off if they did any of those things on my land.



Ditto, although there may also be a bit of "running them off with a shotgun" involved.

Seriously, don't mess with my property.
 
Tereza Okava
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I'd like to add here that when I read this post I was thinking specifically about derelict/abandoned land in my urban setting, and perhaps semi-abandoned public land like the one shown in the video mentioned. The former is commonly used for urban community gardens where I live (there are laws that owned land has to be fenced, and so it is easy to tell whether the land is owned or not). The last thing that comes to mind for me in this situation is "improving" someone else's property against their will.
 
gardener
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Tereza, you make a really good point.

About 20 years ago I lived in a newly established subdivision.  Directly adjacent to me was a lot that was essentially unbuildable.  Most of the land was so low that it was frequently below the water table during rainy times.  But there was a small portion that sat up high and was right next to my property.  I grew a garden there for about 3 years.  I figured that the worst thing that could possibly happen was someone would buy the land and bulldoze my garden.  I never felt like I was trespassing.

Now had that land been owned by an actual homeowner, that would have been a different matter entirely.

Eric
 
pollinator
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I'm beginning a guerilla food forest in the greenbelt behind my dad's house in the city.  This area is technically a "flood control channel" and is almost completely neglected, grown up with invasive Chinese privet, and full of trash.  Because the city isn't maintaining it, I figure they don't care, so I'm thinning the Privet and plan to plant things that should require no care once established.  A couple Loquat trees are already growing there, and wild Grapes.

I'm leaving a twelve-foot-wide clear path for city vehicles if they need to drive up the easement.

Eventually I would like to clean the trash all the way up the channel, but I fear this is too great a task for one person. So my more reasonable goal is to clean the channel behind my dad's house and his immediate neighbors' houses, especially the neighbor upstream, who can see a lot of the trash from her back deck. :(
future-food-forest.jpg
no food yet
no food yet
 
Eric Hanson
gardener
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Nice idea Tyler!

This is a perfect sort of guerrilla garden—no one person owns the land, nothing and no-one is being displaced and it in general beautifies the area.

Nice job!

Eric
 
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I second clearing trash.

Couple of reasons beyond the immediate aesthetic improvement: First - people are more inclined the litter in a littered area and leave a pristine one clear, so you have an impact after you've left. Second - from observation of a local estate - clearing trash encourages diverse wild flowers and fungi and wildlife to flourish more than I would have expected.

Further down the road, if you want to approach a land owner to develop a site it's helpful to have before and after photos of your work on other areas and getting rid of rubbish is something that is universally understood to be a good thing.
 
pollinator
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Location: Zone 7a, 42", Fairfax VA Piedmont (clay, acidic, shady)
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Daffodil bulbs work well in public forested lands - I've put in a few, and there are other clusters here and there in the neighborhood that others have introduced.  This fall I think I'll try to place several hundred across several acres, with the hope that they'll slowly spread.

I may also try to transplant ferns into the woods or plant paw-paws.  See if I can get any kind of under-story plant to grow in a forest.

I also roam about a lot in the closed-canopy public lands near my house picking up trash.  Interesting to observe how plants grow in various levels of filtered light.  Almost nothing grows under the dense shade of beeches (maples also kill much life), but oaks and hickories grow much thinner, allowing other plants to flourish.  I've experimented with some small-scale pollarding, and it's interesting to see how many plants will naturalize once light levels increase.
 
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Actually, oaks shed toxins that inhibit other plants. Native scrub oaks seem to be the worst for this -- nothing grows under them at all, whether it gets sun or not. I used to live on a place that was about equal parts weeds and oaks, and it was really amazing how the ground under the oaks stayed bare dirt.
 
pollinator
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I do often mess with other peoples land, especially the state owned land near me. One thing I do is each fall I go to the little towns nearby and gather buckets full of pecans and walnuts, especially pecans. They are easy to find and collect off the sidewalks and for the most part and would otherwise be sucked up by the leaf collectors.  I pack them up and go for walks across the back (rarely visited) parts of my neighbors wooded areas to the state land planting them all along the way, especially near the trunks of dead ash trees. I commonly walk or drive along the back roads throwing out seeds of things such as Columbine, Rudebecia and Butterfly Weed. I plant grape vines and blackberries along the back roads in my neighborhood, along old fence lines, just out of reach of the mowing machines. I would never cut, clear or burn on others land, even the state's but I view my activities as neighborhood improvement, I doubt anyone would mind.

I guess though I do have a bit of a double standard as I really don't want anyone else messing with my land unless maybe they were doing something similar.  
 
master pollinator
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Location: Canadian Prairies - Zone 3b
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I dig up evergreens (spruce, pine) that have naturally seeded under high voltage electrical lines and move them elsewhere. They end up on my property or somewhere where they will thrive. Otherwise they will eventually be sprayed or mulched so they don't interfere with the lines.

It doesn't count as clandestine, though it does feel pleasantly sneaky.
 
pollinator
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I'd have to agree that the State owned property versus private property is the biggest distinction.

On some level "the State is us", but it is also "everyone else" too, so I'd consider what others might also think about a "project on public land".
I think "gardening/planting" is different from "building fairy houses" for example. I think the line is "someone else has been here." The plants could've grown on their own, but not the fairy house.
I'm fine with trash/litter picking, even to some extent on private land (like picking bottles and cans to collect deposits, or other trash within steps of the roadside...but not further). In my area, there's usually one day a year for volunteers to do a town-wide cleanup, sanctioned by and facilitated by the town (town collects bags left on roadside).
I'm fine with wildcrafting, including maintaining an area for such, but keeping it "natural" (not staking and trellising). Might include a little pruning, or clearing sticks from a trail, or maybe blocking a trail with sticks...
If a fallen tree "disappeared in the night", I'm not sure I'd care.

I might care however, if that tree was sawn into logs and piled up in the woods rather than leaving it whole to naturally decompose (exceptions: a log cut out to clear a trail, or Andy Goldsworthy)
I'm not sure why, but encountering a patch of tulips in the forest would give me the same feeling as finding a coffee cup in the same spot, like someone was messing things up, but if the tulips were in the highway median it would make me happy.
Definitely a double-standard, hard to justify, and everyone else would draw their lines in different places...

That makes for a very blurry Venn diagram, where "litter cleanup" is in the overlap of "safe" and "private land", but "berry picking" and "private land" falls under "Verboten!"... etc...
So, bring along a trash bag for litter, and gloves to hide your berry stained fingers...
 
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