Prevent Community Garden Theft
Protecting Your Season’s Bounty
Check out these great tips from the book Guerrilla Gardening on how to protect your community garden from theft.
1. More gardeners mean fewer opportunities for thieves. Think of ways to minimize times when you have no “eyes on the crops,” particularly during harvest season. Schedule events, coordinate visits, and get volunteers to keep watch. If your garden is in view of homes where neighbors might be able to keep an eye on things, make sure they know what’s going on.
2. Hide your prizes. Most thieves are opportunists. They aren’t likely to go digging through straw to uncover your champion pumpkin. Yellow tomatoes are as tasty but less tempting than red ones. Grow desirable and easily picked food (such as raspberries) behind less popular crops like parsnips or beets.
3. Figure out security/prevention strategies before problems come up. Work out a common strategy on questioning unfamiliar visitors. Would-be thieves hate a place where people talk to them, even if the questioners are friendly. “Can I help you find the plot you’re looking for?” Or “Would you like to sign our waiting list for a plot?” may be all you need to say to turn intruders away.
4. If a thief is spotted, make sure the gardeners know what to do. Most pilferers will slink away when confronted, muttering excuses so lame they’re embarrassed to air them at normal volume. Consider keeping a cheap throwaway camera nearby to use in gathering evidence. A picture is worth a thousand threats. One year we had a bad harvest season with vegetables disappearing almost daily throughout the grounds. We were convinced local crime rates had soared and were debating the effects of the various social trends behind it, when the real cause was spotted, a few streets away, selling our “fresh organic” vegetables. Once someone got a picture of him and posted it around the neighborhood, he wasn’t seen in the garden again.
5. Keep the plots in good condition. Fallen fruit, overripe vegetables and general disarray send the message that no one cares. A well-managed site is harder to steal from because it makes the crime more obvious.
6. Put up a sign. Do Not Steal is one option, but will the thieves get it? You might see better results with a message explaining who gardens in the area and why...and how anyone can join if interested. Or get creative. You could dust your ripening corn with a harmless white powder such as flour and then install a sign warning of some weird scientific test in progress. How about “Penile Reduction Powder — Sample at Own Risk”?
7. Grow more than you need in a variety of crops so one sack-toting robber won’t clean you out of an entire season’s bounty. With an extended harvest you’ll always be more successful than the grab-and-run criminal types. But if you do have things taken, try not to dwell on the missing goods. Don’t give in to dark visions of the culprit collapsing under the weight of the loot in the middle of traffic, no matter how delightful. Invent some better scenario where the stolen food somehow ends up in the stomachs of people who need it. Consider that in a future life, they may be growing things for you.