RESTON, VA — Reston residents working the two community garden plots last May at Hunters Woods Park saw thousands of dollars in plants and other materials stolen by late-night thieves. Now that it's harvest time and many of those same gardens have started to produce vegetables, the thieves have struck again.
"A lot of the tomatoes were gone," said Molly O'Boyle, a government contract employee who volunteers as the garden plot coordinator for the Reston Association. "A fellow over here, two of his full-grown squash were gone. I had peppers taken."
On Friday, the midday sun beat down hard on Hunters Woods garden plot 2, as O'Boyle walked along the paths separating the beds.
Molly O'Boyle, a government contract employee who volunteers as the garden plot coordinator for the Reston Association, stands next to her garden. (Michael O'Connell/Patch)
Back in May, late-night thieves scaled the 8-foot tall fence surrounding the gardens and walked away with new plantings, tools and even wooden boards used to line the beds.
It was a very different scene Friday compared to the spring, when most of the gardens showed freshly turned over dirt or new green plantings. Now tall sunflowers drooped under the weight of their seed-filled faces and rows of flowers flashed bright colors among the green.
Every once in a while, O'Boyle would bend down and pull back a leaf to reveal a tomato, squash, cucumber, or even a bitter lemon.
For more than two years, gardeners who pay an annual fee to Reston Association to work the community plots have seen the fruits of their labors stolen at night when no one else was around.
"We have scattered cameras throughout, trail cameras, that we've bought and installed ourselves," O'Boyle said. She had moved the camera to the post from the fence to monitor a neighboring garden bed. "She's the one who's had like $2,000 worth of stuff stolen. Last week, one of the things they stole was butternut squash."
News coverage about the thefts in the spring helped to raise awareness of the gardeners' plight in the community. RA had already installed 8-foot-high fencing around the gardens and it received approval from the Design Review Board to install flood lights with sensors at the gardens, according to O'Boyle.
The flood lights have helped, according to O'Boyle. She's driven by at night and seen the lights go on. But it hasn't stopped the thieves from stealing vegetables.
A representative from Weller Development Co., one the developers who owns the Reston National Golf Course, reached out to O'Doyle to offer assistance.
"He said his boss read the Patch article and wanted to see if there's some way they could help the gardeners," she said. "He goes, 'We don't really have plants like this, so we can't offer you guys plants, but could better security be helpful?' I'm like, 'Sure, if you want to work with RA, I'll help you.'"
Although O'Boyle hasn't heard anything more from Weller about security, they did offer to provide some leftover native plants for the gardeners to use.
"I think it's nice for the gardeners to know that somebody a business in the community is willing to say, 'Hey, we noticed. Is there something we can help with?'" she said.
As O'Boyle continued walking through the gardens, she shared stories about the different gardeners who had been victims of the late-night thieves.
"This lady, last year was her first year," she said. "She did dahlias around the whole outside and the dahlias are blooming now. Well, last year, sometime in September, somebody came, whacked them all, left the stems, took all the bulbs."