Excuse me, are you listening?
Sunday, August 21, 2016

 Dear Readers,

Gardening is one of my favorite hobbies.  My mother had a garden at our home on Long Island.  It was one of her many projects after leaving the concrete and asphalt of Brooklyn, NY.
I actually disliked gardening as a child.  We just knew that weeding interfered with our play time.  It was also very difficult to have a garden due to the sandy soil.  I will never forget my mother going through the process of preparing the soil for planting.  It was a lot of work.
One of the main issues about gardening that concerns me is vandalism.  The threat is real for those who want to try community gardening.
Vandalism was one thing that we did not have to worry about on Long Island.  Currently,  the only vandalism that I have to worry about are the squirrels, hares and other animals that live in the city.  My garden is about 8 x 8 feet, which is enough to give excess vegetables to neighbors, family and friends.  
However, my neighbors at times are not so lucky.  They have had to deal with  people taking the liberty to pick tomatoes out of their container gardens.
There are many community gardens in Lansing started with the help of the Great Lansing Foodbank Garden Projects.  A few of my plants were obtained from them.  This year my garden is the most diverse it has ever been.  From April  to July of 2016, they gave out seed packets and vegetable plants.  The day I went, I only got watermelon, basil, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and cucumbers. It was an easy process.  Thank you Patti Akley for telling me about them. 
I received an email from them regarding  plant theft and thought that they were worth sharing with those who grow vegetables and/or flowers.
Here are some Common Sense Precautions to Follow Regarding Vandalism from the Greater Lansing Food Bank:
Build Community –
Know who belongs to the garden and who doesn’t. Exchange names and phone numbers. Pass out membership cards or buttons, or come up with some other method  of easily and discreetly identifying gardeners.
Make a sign for the garden. Let people know to whom the garden belongs and that it is a neighborhood project. Also offer information on how to participate.
Don’t use barbed wire or razor wire fences. It’s bad for community relations, looks awful, and may be illegal to install without a permit.
Create a shady meeting area in the garden and spend time there. 
Invite everyone in the neighborhood participate from the very beginning. Persons excluded from the garden are potential vandals.
Involve the neighborhood children in gardening. They can be the garden’s best protectors.
Make friends with neighbors whose windows overlook the garden. Trade flowers and vegetables for a protective eye.
Maintain -
Keep the garden maintained to show that you care about the space.
If the garden has a locked gate or storage bin, keep careful record of the keys. If you use a combination lock, remind gardeners to keep the combination to themselves.
Repair damage immediately to send a strong message that the gardeners are in control of the garden, not the vandals.
If you identify a culprit and feel confident and safe, you can confront him or her on the spot. This is better left to daytime hours and done with a partner.
Report theft or vandalism to gardeners, police, and the neighborhood watch.
Harvest all ripe fruit and vegetables on a daily basis, especially during peak season. Red tomatoes falling from the vines invite trouble. If some gardeners will be away during harvest time, arrange to have someone else harvest the plots. The less temptation, the better.
Get Creative! -
Plant roses, barberry, raspberries, or other thorn-enhanced plants along your fence for extra protection. 
Plant potatoes, other root crops, or a less popular vegetable such as kohlrabi along the sidewalk or fence.
Plant the purple varieties of cauliflower and beans or the white eggplant to confuse a vandal.
Dust plants with flour or wood ashes—thieves may avoid plants covered in an unknown substance.
Plant a “Vandal’s Garden” near the entrance. Add a sign saying, “If you need vegetables, please join our community garden. If you need food today, then please pick from this plot only” or “If you must take food, please take it from here.”
I could not have said it better!  
Rina Risper  
Printed in the August 21, 2016 - September 3, 2016 edition

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