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VANISHING VEGGIES VEXING VIRGINIANS

Community gardeners beware: Somebody's been pilfering the peppers, purloining the peas and pinching the potatoes.

After several thefts from community gardens in this Washington, D.C., suburb, the plots of green have turned into fields of paranoia.Now, mesh fences previously used to keep animals out have been boosted to human height. Stronger chains have been added, and gardeners have been warned not to pick vegetables from plots other than their own.

Last summer, Pat Grebe tried to catch thieves stealing vegetables from her plot at Baron Cameron Park. While hiding in the bushes, she snapped pictures of a fellow gardener helping herself to someone else's mint.

Despite her efforts, Grebe's garden was raided again in the fall.

"They dug up my dahlias," she said. "They dug up my herb plants. They even dug up someone's rosebushes.

"This year, instead of a fence, I wanted to put land mines in," she said.