|Dear Don, |
People steal. Don't feel particularly bad that it's happening in a garden - in the UK, for example, plant & tool theft are huge, if you believe the press reports, largely because gardening is so popular and people will buy up the swag, or plant a looted perennial that they've bought hot because it's cheap.
Yes, fences are essential. When we started the Clinton Community Garden in the heart of Hells Kitchen in 1979, we walked in on a Beirut-like urban moonscape with rubble, rusted cars, expended bullets and a dead junkie drawing flies. What we saved, we fenced, watched - kinda easy because there are tenements all around the garden, and worked to keep secure.
We still have theft - just last week someone stole some new patio chairs the same day they were donated, fer chrissakes, but we have managed to preserve our tools and stuff by following some basic procedures.
1) Fence the garden completely around it's perimeter if you don't have secure brick walls at least on a few sides.
2) Have a few rules but clear, and post the signage throughout the garden and up front. Let it be known among the garden rank-and-file that there have been thefts, they hurt the garden, and you'd really appreciate it if they have any ideas about how to make the garden more secure. And listen to what people say. And say that, "Heck, garden shears come home in my pocket too. But we have to remember to bring them back."
The idea is to get folks conscious and aware, without getting them paranoid. It's just learning to be being careful with garden property.
3) Let it be known to your neighbors that there have been thefts and let local law enforcement know about it too - The line, " And we're raising food for seniors, the homeless, etc.., " gets the idea across that there is some significance to what is being stolen. You're on the cop's beat, they should come by and say, "hi."
4) At night time, or when there are no gardeners in the gardener lock it. I'm an 8 foot fence fan - it takes effort to climb and eight foot fence and climbing one takes some effort and is pretty obvious.
5) At the Clinton Community Garden, we have a shed for tools, that is in the back locked garden area. There is an unlocked lean-to attached to the shed with the more replacable tools, and locked areas in the main shed where we keep beekeeping equipment, the chipper shredder and the more expensive tools. Access to these areas are on a "need to use" basis and is controlled by key.
6) All garden tools are marked with a hideous yellow paint, and have the legend, "Clinton Community Garden," permanently marked on them." There is no question that they are our tools.
7) Most imporantly, you have to foster a sense of real ownership of the garden in everyone who uses it - that the land, the tools, the plants are all owned in common and that theft really is an assault on everyone.
I'm sorry that the wands, gazing balls, a decorations have been stolen - and that someone is enjoying them in private, or has tried to sell them. You're not going to be able to stop theft completely, but by keeping stuff secure, marking tools and garden property, and creating a sense of ownership in all of your gardeners and partners, then you have a chance at keeping your garden from "walking away."
Clinton Community Garden
We're just starting to get theft. Small stuff -
watering wands, gazing balls and other garden
decorations, that kind of thing. No tools or hoses
taken - yet. We are partly fenced (a company has
offered to make us a nice 'real' fence, but there's
not a clear time frame), the site is on a busy road in
a farmer's field, surrounded by development but with
no residence close.
Anyone experienced something similar? Any ideas about
who the culprits might be, given the pattern of theft?
If we don't fence, what can we do? If we do get a
fence, any recommendation on type? Key protocols?