Veggies stolen? Tools disappear? Don’t just get mad, help us get stronger!
I don’t want to write this piece. I want all of our gardens to be little areas of tranquility, peace, butterflies and bees, flowers and healthy veggies and stuff like that.
I don’t want to see cut locks on sheds, plants ripped out or eggplants ripped off! But it happens and we’ve got to talk about it, so here goes.
Let’s start with the worst: somebody steals your finally ripe watermelons that you’ve been watching ripen for a month or your eggplants just now ready to turn into some killer baba ganoush. The worst because it usually means these items were grabbed by someone who could get into the garden-a fellow gardener or guest!
Solution? Strengthen the garden community, help each other with plant and pest issues, share crops with your fellow gardeners who had a theft or failure (whether it was their fault or not), and talk it out. You’ll likely never know who took your harvest, but hopefully connecting with everyone in the garden will prevent a rerun. This tactic means you have to know your gardening neighbors, means coming to garden meetings and sharing wins and losses. Each garden is different and helping new gardeners or those with “victim” or failing gardens will make the garden stronger…and less likely to be the scene of disappearing veggies.
Want to hear a weird idea another gardener proposed? Dust your veggies with wood ashes or flour to make them less attractive! (No report on edibility impacts on this one!) Or grow strange or ugly plants fewer folks would want to steal-purple carrots, black or yellow tomatoes, white baby eggplants, giant Armenian cukes, black garbanzos, etc.
Another weird one: grow more than you need! Figure on giving away part of your crop to the Community Food Bank or a local church. Then if some of your crop disappears, think of it as another form of donation. (It has been suggested that this idea came from the Dalai Lama. No information on that.)
OK, how about the next worst: somebody steals your tools or equipment from the shed or cuts your fence. Here’s where we may need to use technology to find the culprit, who is likely to be a stranger to the garden. Many of our gardens already have video security cameras, needed unfortunately because of past problems. Perhaps we need more and maybe motion detector lights? I am not an advocate of taller or electrified fences or concertina wire. This is a garden for heck sakes, not a detention center!!!
We do need to inventory all of our tools and mark them in a permanent way so they can’t be easily hocked or sold at garage sales. Can we all help with this? We should report thefts, especially of major equipment like tillers, to the police, for what it’s worth. And consider different insurance coverage for big things. And use “theft-proof” pain in the butt locks on our sheds too. And chain lock our picnic tables, and ????
Knowing the garden’s neighbors; the homes, school, church-whoever is nearby. Just like Neighborhood Watch, the more eyes on the garden during the most hours of the day (and night) and a connection between the neighbors and the garden will reduce all sorts of unwanted actions. A gift of fresh veggies might grease the wheels there too!!
Finally, don’t let it get to you too much. Urban gardening is, well, urban! That means there are lots of people around, some to help, some to join, some to mess with us. But if we are smart and resilient, the crops, the gardens and our psyches will survive….
If you have other suggestions for deterring theft or damage in our gardens, please pass any ideas, no matter how strange, on to your site coordinator or to any Board member. Thanks!!!
PS If you do believe that another gardener is taking veggies or otherwise consciously damaging the garden (leaving a hose running on purpose, not locking gates, obnoxious behavior in the garden, etc) please discuss this with your site coordinator. We have in the past (but rarely) had to kick out gardeners for various problems. This is a solution if such activities are clear.