Forum: Bringing community closer will yield better gardens

I read with concern The Straits Times' coverage of community garden thefts (Fruit of their labour lost to garden thieves, July 27).

My mother is an avid gardener and frequently encounters similar problems. Besides having entire plants uprooted or vandalised, she sometimes must contend with neighbours who pluck the fruits the moment they ripen, or even claim that it was they who planted the trees or vines.

Installing closed-circuit television cameras to keep an eye on community gardens is overkill; the plants are not worth enough to justify this expense.

Fences and locked gates may restrict the community's ability to freely enter and enjoy the community gardens.

We may identify better solutions from studying the root causes behind this troubling behaviour.

At the root of the problem plaguing community gardens is the absence of a real community - how many Housing Board flat dwellers know even a quarter of the households living in the same block?

When each HDB block is atomised, community gardeners and the saboteurs or potted-plant thieves would not know one another. Households may simply tend to their own plots, and not know or care about which other neighbours are tending to plants nearby.

If people in a community knew and spoke to one another, I imagine it would be more difficult for people to decide to steal or sabotage their neighbour's plants.

Rather than cater to a small, regular crowd, Residents' Committees must reach out to most if not all households of each block and engage them, so all residents take a keener interest in one another and in shared communal amenities and activities, such as growing useful spices in the community gardens.

Regular community gardeners could also be invited to impart knowledge to one another, or roster duties among themselves so one person a day tends to the garden plants, by spotting and removing pests or weeds, for instance.

Over time, increased mutual engagement and common efforts may shape better gardens and communities free of thieves and vandals.

Soon Hao Jing