A wave of vandalism has struck the community garden in Hawthorne. The vandal, or vandals, has been turning

Jenneffer Kentz, University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension program specialist examines some cucumber plants at the Hawthorne community garden. In recent weeks the garden has been struck by vandals who turned off the water and stabbed the hoop houses. (C.W. Wilkinson photo)

A wave of vandalism has struck the community garden in Hawthorne.

The vandal, or vandals, has been turning off water that keeps the plants alive for the past few weeks said Stacie Emm, University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension educator.

“We have somebody that’s been shutting off our water,” Emm said. “The garden is on timers and they’re screwing down parts of the timers to shut the water off.”

The water supply at the garden is controlled by a number of Y-shaped connectors. The vandal has been turning off the valves on the connectors that water the plants.

So far the vandalism has taken the lives of an innocent row of tomato plants.

Emm said gardeners discovered the vandalism after some of the cucumbers in the garden had nutrient problems.

“We started treating them, and the cucumbers looked great, and then all of a sudden they started going down again, so we started looking ‘OK, what’s going on’, and we found that some of our timers had been screwed down,” Emm said.

Gardeners are baffled by the identity of the vandal.

“Normally if it was kids, it would be just the knobs [that control the timers] and stuff like that, but it was actually other areas that were turned off so that you wouldn’t actually notice it right away,” said Jennifer Kintz, UNCE program specialist. “So we had a couple of days there where things dried up, which causes problems with production and things like that.”

Kintz said the valves can be turned by hand, but some are stuck and extremely difficult to turn.

She also said it feels like vandals strike the garden every night.

“[The vandalism] will stunt back our plants,” Kintz said. “They’ll wilt and die back. We’ve had to completely replant some areas.”

But the water issues aren’t the only vandalism to hit the garden. About a month ago, someone stabbed the hoop houses several times with a knife, Kintz said.

It wasn’t clear how much it cost to repair the plastic that covers the house, but Emm said UNCE recently bought replacement plastic for $900.

Emm said the plastic cost so much because it needs to be high quality greenhouse plastic.

UNCE employees are asking Hawthornites and others who use the nearby Lion’s Park to keep an eye on the hoop houses.

“We’d like the community to keep a lookout for [the garden] too,” Emm said. “A lot of people walk around that park, so if they could just keep a lookout and see if there’s any unusual activity.”

The vandalism isn’t just destroying the hard work of a few gardeners.

Emm said the produce grown in the community garden goes to help feed about 70 seniors in Mineral County through the veggies for seniors program.

Veggies for seniors is a federally funded program to help seniors balance their diets, Emm said. The program provides a bag of vegetables, typically grown in Hawthorne or nearby, to seniors.

The program also helps educate seniors about the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.

The garden also gives elementary students a place to learn about growing plants through the veggies for kids program, Emm said.

“They plant their three sisters garden, and then watch the plants grow, and then they’re out of school,” said Emm.

Three sisters gardens involve growing corn, beans and squash together — sometimes called the three sisters of Indian agriculture.

“They are part of a companion gardening,” said Kellie Zuniga, UNCE program instructor. “We teach this to kids to talk about companion gardening.
“You plant the corn, and it grows big stalks. Then you plant your green beans—normally we use green beans that vine and not the bush style […]—and they grow up the stalk so corn supports the green beans, and then we plant summer squash, ones that are more trailing, so it creates shade for green beans and corn on the roots.”

Hoop houses are used for season extension, Emm said. While traditional greenhouses allow plants to grow all year, Emm said the Hawthorne hoop houses allow plants to grow until about November.
SNAP is the program formerly known as food stamps.