garden thieves

On Dealing with Garden Thieves

Garden thieves are a problem for gardeners in certain circumstances. Stealing plants and produce is a common problem for those who garden in community gardens, but it can be a problem for anyone, especially if their garden is close to a road or to other homes. Dealing with thievery can be a complicated matter.

I remember an anecdote about an old farmer who noticed that someone was stealing watermelons from his patch at night. He decided to remedy the problem by posting a sign which read, “One of the watermelons in this patch has been poisoned.” He thought he had the problem solved, but the next morning, when he went to check on the watermelon patch, he found a second sign, next to the first. It read, “Now there are two.”

So, what can a person do about this problem? A lot depends on your specific circumstances. For instance, if you have a good sized back yard and someone is coming on your property, there are options which might not be available if you are gardening in a community garden.

Four Principles for Dealing with Garden Thieves

  • Do no harm to anyone. Whatever you do, you don’t want to hurt anyone. Really, it’s not worth it.
  • Stay legal. Don’t do anything illegal or stupid. This means, for instance, that shooting the thief is off limits.
  • Don’t escalate the situation. You really don’t want to be “at war” with a neighbor. Honestly, you don’t. I’ve known of people who lost all their animals, because they offended the neighbor, who then retaliated. Things got so bad, someone had to move.
  • People are more important than property. I know there are circumstances when one has to defend themselves or their property, but remember, even the thief is a valuable person. And, in my book (the Bible) Jesus Christ has died for them.

Having said that, let’s explore some options.

  • Consider a fence, or a better fence. In some cases, a low voltage electric wire, along the top of the fence might help.
  • Move the garden closer to your house, if this be an option. Thieves generally wish to avoid detection. Along this line…
  • Consider getting a “yappy dog,” something which will tell the whole world when an intruder enters the yard.
  • Plant things whose harvests are underground (potatoes, carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, etc.) or things a thief may not recognize (spices, etc.).
  • Set up cameras. Game cameras capture the image of who is doing it. Motion activated security cameras can be configured to an app on ones smartphone, to alert right when an intruder crosses the perimeter.
  • A motion activated sprinkler system might help. These are commonly used to deter deer and rodents. Such a gizmo might work to deter a two legged thief as well. I really like this one, as it is harmless, yet it would likely drive away an intruder.

  • Finally, consider planting a “pillagers’ garden.” No, I don’t mean a garden full of poison ivy! Consider planting some goodies outside the fence or within easy reach. I would think some cherry tomatoes, Tabasco peppers, even a trellis of cucumbers might work. The idea is to leave something within easy reach, so that the thieves don’t bother to go any further. You might even put up a little sign saying “Sharing Garden.” You never know, maybe one of those thieves might become a friend and you could help them learn how to garden for themselves!

Have any suggestions? Have any garden thief stories to share with us? We’d love to hear from you in the area for comments, below.

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