Community gardens have an aura of back to the land neighborliness, and of mixing plant experts and experimenters with novices. When I say I have a plot in a community garden, people are always positive and often interested. I have long been a promoter of these plots and grateful to have one.
In Arlington, the county has plots at Harrison Street, South Four Mile Run Drive, near Rosslyn, on Barton Street and in a number of other places. People rent the plots, paying based on square footage, and split water and other costs with their gardening neighbors in the plot. It’s a good arrangement, where new gardeners can get advice from experienced ones and people can exchange plants and seeds and bug extermination methods.
Unfortunately, this year, our garden has had a rash of theft and vandalism. Whole crops have been stolen and pulled out, including corn, watermelon, tomatoes and squash. Sunflowers have been beheaded and stripped of leaves. I have had a zucchini stolen and a sunflower damaged. One of my neighboring gardeners has lost three watermelons and had her corn pulled out and stolen. Another gardener lost a huge crop of tomatoes.
For several years, we have had some vandalism along the fence. I noticed it with my sunflowers. Then a man who often stopped to talk with me about the garden and gardening in Nepal told me one day I should not plant sunflowers outside the fence. I had thought that I wouldn’t anymore, but asked him why. “Vulgar men,” he said, “break them off. I see them.”
It had been years since I had heard anyone use the word vulgar. On the other hand, it seems a genteel description given what has happened this year. Given the work and the investment of time and money we all put into our plots, it is deeply dispiriting, not to mention frustrating, to have the results stolen or destroyed.
We are looking into ways to augment our fencing, but I’m not sure that will help. One thing is sure, though. I won’t be planting any sunflowers next year.