Vandalism is a common fear among community gardeners. However, the fear tends to be much greater than the actual incidents. Try these proven methods to deter vandalism:
- Make a sign for the garden. Let people know to whom the garden belongs and that it is a neighborhood project.
- Fences can be of almost any material. They serve as much to mark possession of a property as to discourage unauthorized entry. Short picket fences or turkey wire will keep out dogs and other animals.
- Create a shady meeting area in the garden and make your presence known.
- Invite everyone in the neighborhood to participate from the very beginning. Persons excluded from the garden are potential vandals.
- Invite the neighborhood children to learn how to garden. They can be the garden’s best protectors.
- Plant raspberries, roses, or other thorny plants along the fence as a barrier to fence climbers.
- Make friends with neighbors whose windows overlook the garden. Trade them flowers and vegetables for a protective eye.
- Harvest all ripe fruit and vegetables every day to discourage unauthorized access.
- 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.
- Plant a “vandal’s garden” at the entrance. Mark it with a sign: “If you must take food, please take it from here.”
Community gardens traditionally have a high turnover rate. People often sign up for plots and don’t follow through, or go on a vacation and never get back to the garden after they return. Remember, gardening is hard work for some people, especially in the heat of summer.
Be sure to have a clause in your gardener agreement that states gardeners forfeit their right to their plot if they don't plant within one month or if they don’t maintain it. While gardeners should be given every opportunity to follow through, if after several reminders (either by letter or phone) nothing changes, it is time for the club to reassign the plot.
It is also advisable that every year, the leadership conduct a renewed community outreach campaign by contacting churches and other groups in the neighborhood to let them know about the garden and that plots are available.
People Problems and Solutions
Angry neighbors and bad gardeners pose problems for a community garden. Usually the two are related. Neighbors complain to municipal governments about messy, unkempt gardens or rowdy behavior; most gardens can’t afford poor relations with neighbors, local politicians, or potential sponsors. Therefore, choose bylaws carefully so you have procedures to follow when members fail to keep their plots clean and up to code. A well-organized garden with strong leadership and committed members can overcome almost any obstacle.