The streets of San Francisco are lined with pear, plum and apple trees thanks to ‘guerilla grafters’ secretly grafting fruit-bearing scions onto ornamental, non-fruit bearing trees making fresh fruit free and available to everyone who wishes to pick some.
'All you have to do is make a slit with a knife in a branch on the host tree, insert a branch from a fruit-bearing tree, and secure it with tape. Once it heals, it connects.” — Tara Hui started the movement and has been grafting fruit branches to city trees for two years now.
How great would it be to see free fruit from guerilla grafters growing in your city? Want to start a trend?
I want to be a guerilla grafted, or guerilla planter
! What do you think about this?
You’d have to know your botanicals! (ie. graft edible apples on to compatible flowering crab apples, graft edible cherries [or other prunus] onto compatible flowering cherries, graft compatible pears onto flowering quince, undsoweiter.)
I think if you know what you are doing, it could be ok, but people would need to remember to use healthy scion wood and clean equipment, because they could devastate a whole expensive, established boulevard with fungal diseases or pests if they don’t seal their grafts properly, or clean their equipment between uses.
I am also hesitant about it, simply because people tend to not like roadside food: it gets covered in car exhaust and particulate matter, there is significant heavy metal pollution (ie. lead, cadmium, chromium, copper, zinc) in the soil, people feel ashamed or embarrassed about having to get their food that way, and/or people simply don’t trust public food sources (if you grew up with the “razor blades in the apples” paranoia about Hallowe’en candy, you’ll understand). Moreover, I’ve met people who think the apples that grow in their yard or neighbourhood are “dirty” and they only trust the waxed, store-bought varieties: knowledge about food production, or the ability to identify what is food in the “wild” is rarer than you would think.
These sorts of things are much better situated with public parks that double as food forests, empty lots that have been given a bit of a soil makeover to remove bio-accumulative toxic metals, or dedicated community gardens.
In terms of what is good to plant along roadsides: flowers! Lots and lots of flowers! They will break down soil pollutants over time, and also help the bees. Plus, you can plant native flowers and help conserve your biome’s biodiversity, rather than planting a foreign apple that may not be the right foodstuffs for your local pollinators.
All in all, it’s an idea with good intentions, but it probably won’t have the desired effect. It’s a sort of condescending, impermanent solution to a structural problem. There are a number of people in the communities that are being “served” by these initiatives who also object to the idea.