Vegetable Thief Master Class

    And then there were none.

    How many freaking watermelons does one thief need?  FIVE.  The answer is FIVE.

    What chafes me most is that the stuff wasn’t ripe!  Stealing vegetables is tacky and unethical, but at least you should know what you are doing!  I could live in denial about the tomatoes.  But the watermelon?   Maybe somebody will start a special gardening class for thieves so they can get a ripe one the first time!

    This is just what Preppers say will happen to my vegetables when THE APOCALYPSE IS COMING! It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.  At least R.E.M. feels fine.

    No one was harmed in the making of this photo.
    No one was harmed in the making of this photo.

    Vegetable theft is such a common problem, Google auto-fills the search box as you type it– a sure sign the topic has been searched before.  Like my garden.

    It’s not deer.  Deer don’t leave a pile of reject tomatoes by the driveway.

    A few years back, I awoke to a basil stub and a parsley stub.  This was at my house in the ‘burbs, not the farm.  There are no deer in the ‘hood.  Wracking my diminishing brain for what could have happened, I kept going back to look at the half-inch stick that used to be my basil.  Realization dawned, slower than a first cup of coffee at noon.  It just seems impossible, even years later, that someone would know how to cook with basil and not know how to harvest it.  Herbatheft in the ‘burbs.

    I’m going to start growing all radishes.  Nobody ever steals radishes.

    If you are one of the harvest-challenged, you are not alone.

    I poo you not, when I sold garlic starts, the first sentence of my explanation about how to grow them started with, “Plant it pointy side up.”  Genuine surprise stared back about 25% of the time.  Some of the roots are still on it when you buy it at the store!  Did they think the roots grew on top?

    So if you are that cucumburglar, here’s the easy test: If the fruit comes off the plant easily, it is ready.  If the branch/vine/plant breaks, the loot is NOT ready.  STOP PULLING when the plant starts to come with you.

    Ha Ha!  The last one was rotten.
    Ha Ha! The last one was rotten.

    Here’s a link to a Cornell article on how to recognize finished vegetables, so you don’t have to take so many to get some good ones.

    Another clue: If there is only one watermelon left in the field, it probably wasn’t left as a gift for you.  It is probably rotten.  Don’t throw it into my neighbor’s yard on your way out.  Check to see if there is a big rotten crack in it BEFORE YOU TAKE IT!  Ha ha!  Gunk’s on you!

    “The robbed that smiles steals something from the thief.” ~William Shakespeare

    Rebecca Caley started selling plants as a child and opened her first garden center in coastal South Carolina at age 23 – just last year! (Give or take a couple decades.)  She now lives outside of Atlanta.  She has twin boys, 3 cats, 8 chickens and an 8 foot black rat snake, but it’s just squatting.


    1. Among the blessings of the little Hudson Valley village where I garden is that my vegetables — extensive, and exposed — have never yet been pilfered. Even though I am often obviously absent all week. Thank you, neighbors!

    2. Well that just beats all – the great watermelon thief!!!

      Maybe you could dig a moat around your patch? Or get CCTV to get a picture and then post it all round the area and shame them.

      Anyway I hope you solve the mystery soon!


    3. Still, it’s a tough call whether I’d rather have my produce stolen by a human thief or the furred variety. I’m presuming that humans don’t leave poop in their wake, so maybe that’s my preference if I have to choose.

    4. I have a fairly regular flower thief who has tromped through the roadside vegetable garden, smashing seedlings to get to the sunflowers. At least my flower thief uses clippers unlike the one at a client’s garden who just breaks things and pulls the flowers off.

      Do the box turtles who eat all my strawberries count as thieves?

    5. Motion-activated lights and cameras, great deterrent! Someone once stole a freshly planted rosebush from my front yard two days before Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day! Your child is a thief!

      • Sorry, I am catching up and this is a rant I can get into, since I have had things disappear from my yard. One time kids came into my yard and broke some large branches on my apple tree.

        I live near a large public university, where the neighborhood immediately north of it has some fraternities, sororities and large houses with rooms for students. Just north of that is a very nice neighborhood on the same Olmsted designed boulevard.

        Several years ago someone came out of his house and saw several of his shrubs were missing, just pulled out of the ground. What was left was a trail of soil that allowed the police to arrest the college students who were using the plants as decoration for a party.

        A few years later some young men from a fraternity cut down a tree from center island where one those boulevards intersected another, much to the dismay of the neighbors and Parks Department. Again a trail of pine needles led the culprits, and they had to cough up the more than a thousand dollars to replace that large tree. That turned out to be a very expensive Christmas tree.

    6. My husband once pulled into the driveway of our suburban corner lot home one afternoon and did a double-take. Two “lovely” ladies armed with straw hats and clippers were strolling through my cutting garden with the makings of bouquets in their hands. When he walked up and politely asked them how I knew them they replied, “Oh, we were on a garden tour here a couple of years ago and the flowers are so beautiful. We were sure your wife wouldn’t mind sharing, so we come to pick every now and then!” What??!

    7. When I had a very large garden, all the neighbourhood children knew they had permission to pick the flowers. I would let them know if I had a flower show coming up and what not to pick, but usually they were welcome to decorate my shrubs with flowers and take home bouquets. But I never had strangers steal my flowers. I do know people that have had them vandalized and stolen. So sad. You try to beautify your world, and share that, and people destroy it.

      • I have a gorgeous red rose right beside my front door. I mean right beside. Twenty feet from the street. And still, people will come and take one of the blooms. Some even come armed with clippers (I should be grateful for small favors, I know), which just baffle me. You planned on picking a rose and came prepared to do so, but you couldn’t bother to knock and ask permission?

        • And there’s the rub! I’ve been known to keep a shovel by the door when my Campanula glomerata are in bloom as I get so many inquiries about them. After a stern warning about their wandering tendencies I’ll offer a spadefull to whomever inquires. Not a bit selfish about sharing, but really? My yard is not a public park.

    8. I steal fruit that overhangs the sidewalk, and sometimes flowers that do the same, but that’s rare. I grew up in Florida and consider any citrus I have to avoid hitting my head when walking around the block as fair game. However when the neighborhood association lawn guys would trim the sound-barrier trees behind our house (we lived backed-up to a reasonably busy road), they would pick every single mango on my back-yard tree. That really sucked, the mangoes were still green. Luckily my neighbor three houses down, who had four huge trees, would give me bags of her mangoes since her dad was Columbian and would chat with/threaten the workers in Spanish.

      • Thats funny, I sometimes came home to find people picking up pecans from the sidewalk in front of my house. I didn’t mind since I’m allergic to them anyway, but you are right– if its a public walkway, its fair game!

        Rebecca, I’ve got all kinds of recommendations for some cool spy cams for the garden. I love capturing deer, raccoon, foxes, etc on the outdoor cam at my house. Maybe you could capture some pics of the veggieburglars…

        • Certainly have that on the list. I bought a bunch of Spy Gear toys when they were on sale, just haven’t put them out. We also have a cordless webcam we bougth to find out which cat was pooing int hte dining room and when. 😉

      • In one of my college courses they said whateer hangs overee the property line is fair game. DOn’t know if it’s still true. The farm driveway is quite long. Nobody accidentally hit their head on these.

    9. When I was still living in the (San Francisco) Bay area, folks started having problems with bonsai and similarly-trained potted plants walking off overnight. I like to think it was one or two unscrupulous housing developers or even a single nursery rather than multiple bonsai artists and gardeners.

      Vegetables and cut (or torn!) flowers are probably not for resale and are being …harvested by the consumer. Or in a few cases by bratty or thoughtless children.

      I live in a small suburban lot, and two sides of the yard are bounded by neighbor-purchased fences. I am thinking about getting the other side and the front borders fenced. I think (hope) that folks will be shyer about entering a fenced yard to take stuff. No problems, yet, however.

    10. You all have certainly created some comradery about thieved greenery. FYI: In the 10 years I owned the garden center, we only had 6 bounced checks and only one on purpose. I think most folks, especially gardeners, are honest.

    11. Would you believe someone (or something) stole a carved pumpkin from my front porch? I’d suspect deer, but it was awfully large, and there’s no sign of it all – not a munch here and drop there – nothing!

    12. Watermelon can be called more than a thirst quencher. With so many benefits lined up in its name it is not coincidence that it is stated as one of the favorite fruits for many people. It has been used in many forms such as fresh juices, smoothies, as well as pickles depending on your taste. As it is rich in fat and protein it is widely used as a favorite snack.


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