Root of the Problem: Fenway Gardens see Plant Theft

Gardens are meant to be enjoyed by young and old alike, but the hard work that’s put into maintaining a garden can easily be ruined by thieves. And that’s the risk urban gardeners have to be willing to take, says Fenway Victory Gardens President Elizabeth Bertolozzi.

Bertolozzi said that a total of eight gardeners have filed police reports this season, which ranged from a couple of plants stolen to, in one case, a dozen or more. The plants do vary in size, she added, saying that a single bulb would be counted as one plant.

“It seemed to me that the scale it was done was not necessarily for personal use; someone was giving them to someone else to use or sell,” Bertolozzi said. “I just know the scope of it was much larger than someone taking a few Lillies for their backyard.”

The Fenway Victory Gardens sit directly across the street from Fenway Park with 500 gardens on 7.5 acres. The public can come through and learn about gardening and see what tips and tricks they might be able to transfer to their own gardens, Bertolozzi said.

But while this open space provides so many positive things, it’s also unfortunately susceptible to theft. Bertolozzi said that the parks department, park rangers, and the police department have stepped up their patrols in the area and reach out to the Victory Gardens on a regular basis. She also said that they have not had any reports for a couple of weeks.

“The best we can do is be incredibly responsive to reports,” Bertolozzi said.

With a group of 480 gardeners, communication is key. Bertolozzi said that this year, the Board “decided that safety and security was at the heart of us being able to enjoy our community and share it with the rest of the neighborhood and visitors.”

She said that the guidelines and the regulations for maintaining a garden in the Fenway Victory Gardens set out the maximum height of fencing and gates in accordance with park rules. “To the extend that people are following the recommended height and material requirements, that’s the best we can do to secure the gardens,” Bertolozzi said.

She also said that Tom Keller, a former board member, has created videos about how to build fences and gates and put them on YouTube so the gardeners can learn the proper way to secure their garden.

If a fence or gate is vandalized or stolen, it is up to that gardener to secure their garden, and they are also responsible for replacing any plants that are stolen.

Since the Victory Gardens are in an historic area, the members have to abide by certain requirements so they are unable to put up a big fence or a moat.

“We also unfortunately see a rash of people who take ripe vegetables once it’s harvest time,” Bertolozzi said.

She said the board is considering a program that garden members could choose to participate in where they would place any excess vegetables in a container that would be available to the public for taking. She hopes that this would alleviate the temptation to go into people’s gardens and taking things.

Bertolozzi said plants from her own garden were stolen her first year as a gardener in Fenway. She had bought a bunch of flowers a few days before Mother’s Day and brought them to her garden with the intention of plating them the next weekend, but they were gone before she could do so.

Bertolozzi said that they encourage members to file reports if they see that something is missing or vandalized. The appropriate individuals can then be contacted and city staff can be engaged.

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